Dex Media Banks on ‘Trusted Advisor’ Role

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Dex Media, the newly minted company that was once SuperMedia and Dex One, is counting on a strategy of serving as the “outsourced marketing partner for small-businesses” as they wade into the complex and confusing world of digital media.

That was a key message from this mornings investor call to reveal the Q1 results of predecessor companies, as well as talk about what the future holds for the new company.

The company’s CFO also suggested that the wave of consolidation in the North American directories industry may not yet be over.

In response to a question about any additional consolidation on the horizon, CFO Dee Jones replied, “We have always been an advocate for consolidation….This is a little premature. Right now we are focused on getting this one integrated, but we are always looking at opportunities.”

This statement may fuel speculation that some further combination may eventually be in the offing. In addition to Dex Media, possible players in any future M&A wave might include YP Holdings (majority owned by Cerberus), Yellow Media (Canada), Yellowbook (Hibu’s U.S. operation) and possibly smaller players like Berry.

Dex Media CEO Peter McDonald acknowledged that Q1 results were “below expectations.” The company reported the two predecessor results individually, with ad sales dropping by 17 percent and 16 percent at Super Media and Dex One respectively.

Looking ahead, McDonald sees Dex Media taking advantage of marketplace confusion, where SMBs need help wading through the myriad local media choices they face. Complexity drives outsourcing, McDonald contends, summarizing Dex Media’s opportunity. He added that Dex Media is “agnostic about how we drive leads” which he believes gives the media company credibility with local advertisers.

McDonald emphasized the need for Dex Media to sell more new products to existing customers (retention is much higher among customers buying more than one product), and to do more to bring in new clients. On the latter point, McDonald described three programs aimed at attracting new customers. The first, which he called “Get Started,” involves a team dedicated to converting inbound leads into new business. McDonald also cited “Encore,” the company’s pay per call initiative and text marketing as key drivers of new customer acquisition.

McDonald said 70 percent of Dex Media’s text marketing clients are new customers, all of which are offered additional Dex Media products. The company is in the process of rolling out text marketing in stages.

“We get more from add on products than from text marketing itself,” McDonald said.

During questions and answers, McDonald refused to bite when asked if his print business would still be around in five years. He countered that research (presumably from the Local Search Association) shows print usage is still significant among those 45 and older, suggesting there is longevity remaining in the traditional product.  He also noted the financial incentive to support print.

“Print is still a strong cash-flow machine for us.”

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