Zlaté Stránky's managing director, Peter Metrus.
Courtesy of Zlaté Stránky
Zlaté Stránky Mediatel (Golden Pages) knows that well. The company was established as a joint venture in Slovakia in 1993 between Herold Business Data GMBh,Wien, and NYNEX corporation, a company that serves large portion of the U.S. telecommunications market.
NYNEX, originally created by AT&T, doesn't exist anymore. A few months ago it was taken over by Bell Atlantic, a telecom leader who operates 40 million telephone lines and serves another 5,5 million wireless customers all over the world.
That was good news for Mediatel, for Bell Atlantic is a huge company, with 1996 revenue of $29 billion and employing more than 141,000 people worldwide. According to Bell Atlantic representatives, the firm is not only the market leader in providing phone connections, but is also the world's largest publisher of directory information.
Handling the information at Bell Atlantic is its global directory services division. The division has 1,300 employees and publishes 7.5 million copies of 81 directories in western Europe. The network's scope as well as its level of market coverage gives a daughter company like Mediatel numerous advantages.
"One of our main strengths [compared to our competitors] is our highly professional staff," said Peter Mertus, managing director of Mediatel, the company that manages the "Zlaté Stránky" phone directories. "Our people are all employed full-time, and they all get extensive training."
Mediatel employs 130 sales representatives, who do the "customer hunt" in each of Slovakia's four regions, one area at a time.
Right now, Mediatel is busily acquiring clients in central Slovakia. After a contact has been made, the customer's data are immediately put into the system and processed, waiting to appear in the following year's issue of Golden Pages.
The company also runs telemarketing units in Bratislava, Košice and Banská Bystrica. "The expenditures on marketing and advertising services are quite high," Mertus said. "It is the price of staying on the market where we are. Our marketing costs amount to 11 percent of our overall expenses on average."
Because of the boom in Internet users, businesses advertising in a phone directory may appear less than golden for Mediatel. But Mertus disagreed. "Most of the people here in Slovakia still prefer to open a thick phone directory than to switch on the computer," he said.
Despite people's preferences, Mertus said Mediatel was preparing for a shift in attitude.
"By the end of this year, anyone on the net will be able to access free of charge not only our home page, but also the Internet search service, covering all the yellow pages from Slovakia," he said. "[It is easy to] switch to the Czech Republic directory and to the Bell Atlantic search service covering nearly the whole rest of the world."
The market for Slovak Golden Pages is quite easy to define - it's any individual or company who wants to promote its services or products. The advantages are numerous - even people who dislike advertising need to find information or a contact every now and then, and the thick yellow book lying next to the phone is usually the best way, Mertus contends.
Latest market research revealed that 97 percent of the telephone owners had knowledge of the directory and, more importantly, around 87 percent confirmed its usage, Metrus said.
"The market acceptance is still pretty high here," Mertus added. "We are already used by 30 percent of the Slovak population, and the phone network is still growing." The market , however, is full of local directories and advertising sheets which, those producers claim, can reach the customer at a lower price. But they lack reliability and know-how, Mertus said. "To operate successfully in advertising, you need quite high investments and experience," Mertus explained.
The Slovak Mediatel has an older sister in the Czech Republic, the Prague-based company Mediatel s.r.o., which produced its seventh phone book this year, reaching nearly 99 percent of telephone network users - 2 percent more than in Slovakia.
Mediatel's mother company uses the same logo and marketing tools in many countries, which in other groups often causes problems when adapting to the local markets. "Despite uniform marketing and advertising policy within the group, we are able to spot slight differences in the Slovak market and react flexibly," Mertus claimed.
"Of course, the know-how and stimulating ideas from the mother are nothing else but a clear advantage," he added.
Zlaté Stránky Mediatel At a Glance
(Financial figures were not made available by the company for "competitive reasons." As a limited liability firm, it is not required to do so.)
No. of employees: 160
No. of published business contacts: 145,000
Average usage among telephone owners: 78.3 percent
No. of published copies in 1996: 1.3 million
9. Oct 1997 at 0:00 | Eva Dubovská