Charter Links With Yellow Book

Charter Communications plans to distribute co-branded phone books with Yellow Book USA.

The venture is designed to help drive Charter’s digital-telephone service into small businesses, while also providing the operator with a book for residential customers which doesn’t serve as an advertising vehicle for the incumbent competitor.

“This seems so logical for us,” said Ted Schremp, senior vice president and general manager of Charter Telephone.

As sales representatives have tried to sell services to small businesses with up to three phone lines, “invariably, the issue of Yellow Page ads” came up in the discussion. Schremp said the lack of a phone book deal has not been a barrier to sales, but complicated the transaction because small businessmen feared they’d somehow lose their Yellow Pages ad if they switched providers. They are commonly billed for their ads in the local dominant phone book on their monthly telephone bill.

Yellow Book USA asserts it is the top independent publishers of print and online yellow pages in the country. Last year, it published 1,000 versions nationally with a circulation of 123 million. The company also has an ad-sales force of 6,000. Salesmen in Charter markets will help sell the operator’s business-telephone services.

Schremp said he believes this is the first directory partnership of its kind. The two companies tested the co-branding arrangement over the last two months in Charter’s systems in Asheville and Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C.

“The partnership plays out well for both partners: We all want into the small business market.”

Small businesses that buy service from Charter Telephone will be rewarded with a free, in-column display ad in the local Yellow Book, an $80 per month value, Schremp said. Yellow Book sales representatives, when they close the advertising sale, will have the opportunity to upsell the small business to a larger ad, he added.

The partnership also provides Charter with its own co-branded directory to supply to residential phone customers. Currently, Charter phone customers still have their numbers listed in the white pages of the directory created by the dominant incumbent local-exchange carrier. Charter said it also gets 2,000 to 3,000 requests a month for a replacement directory in systems that have launched phone service.

As such, Charter would purchase branded copies from its competitor to satisfy consumers. The co-branded version will have prominent advertisements for each of Charter’s products.

The operator has launched telephone service in markets serving 7.3 million customers to date. The Yellow Book should be available to nearly all Charter’s 11 million homes by the end of the year, according to the company.