It’s been five years since ACCUCOMS’ last white paper on “Selling to Libraries in Central and Eastern Europe (2009), and we have decided to dedicate this month’s discussion to current opportunities and challenges in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) academic and corporate library market. With 20 publishers represented in Europe, ACCUCOMS stands out one of the leading providers of services for publishers in the region. No better person could be of help explaining how ACCUCOMS can facilitate the access of academic and professional publishers in CEE. this than Paola Formica, Sales Representative for Southern, Central, and Eastern Europe at ACCUCOMS.
Simon Boisseau, Director of Sales at Accucoms also added; ‘There are currently good opportunities for publishers across the CEE region; however, it remains crucial to be close to the market to react quickly to sales opportunities. Local languages are still important when communicating with the library market, together with an increased importance of local partnerships.’
We shall shortly be updating our white paper on Central and Eastern European countries, but in this interview we briefly discuss the way ACCUCOMS approaches new businesses, budget expectations for the upcoming years, consortia policy and which countries are considered as the most promising in library expenses.
What are the opportunities for publishers planning on expanding their businesses in Central and Eastern Europe, and what is the role of ACCUCOMS in creating and chasing these opportunities?
PF: Based on my experience so far, academic and corporate libraries in central and eastern European countries show an ever-increasing interest in “new” contents from different publishers. However, most of the libraries do still subscribe only to the collections of big commercial publishers, without looking out for other products which might better suit the needs of their researchers. For this reason, I have started approaching libraries in CEE with a series of trial campaigns aimed at educating librarians and end-users on to the publishers ACCUCOMS represents and their products. That to Offering trials also seemed the most logical way to start, considering that 90% of my leads asked me to get a free trial in order to evaluate the interest of their researchers. I am running trial campaigns for each publisher we represent in the region, focusing on warm leads. Conference attendance and site visits are also important and offer the chance to I attended one conference as well where I get the opportunity to meet some people, listening to their needs, establish relationships and discover the trends. After that I will starting visiting these leads to establish a strong relationship like I have with my customer in other territories.
In 2009 ACCUCOMS released a paper titled “Selling to Libraries in Central and Eastern Europe”. At the time the majority of the librarians surveyed were not expecting any changes in library budgets, and some even believed that library budgets were to increase. After five years, did librarians in Eastern European countries meet their expectations? And what has changed in the way academic and corporate libraries allocate their finances?
PF: True, four years ago librarians in CEE felt confident about their financial resources, but things didn’t go as expected. The current economic recession also didn’t truly spare this area of Europe. Having said that, I do strongly believe it’s just a matter of educating librarians on how to better allocate their budgets, the choices available and the possibility of redirecting part of their funds to differentiate their collections. Flexibility is key to increasing sales in Central and Eastern Europe. The publishers ACCUCOMS represents do not confine their customers to multi-year contracts or big collections, and this flexibility is really the secret for a profitable and long-lasting relationship with librarians.
As for what has changed in the way academic/corporate libraries allocate their finances, it can be said that finally librarians in CEE are discarding print in favor of online resources (journals); however, only a very little segment of these budgets is allocated for e-books.
What is the role of consortia and subscription agents in CEE? Central and Eastern European countries are still considered by many as a cultural “block” regardless of the cultural diversity characterizing different national markets. What is your approach to new sales and how does it change from country to country?
PF: Consortia prefer to deal with us only when the market penetration of the publisher amongst their members is already high. There is not a single consortia ready to pay for a new resource if this is not strongly recommended by their members. For instance, in Poland WBN suggested to start offering discounted rates to their members using an opt-in formula. This strategy is meant, on the one hand, to educate members on new products and subscription solutions, and, on the other hand, to understand the selling potential of these products. Eventually, when most of the members of a consortium become a subscriber, it is easier for ACCUCOMS to negotiate for a national subscription paid by the Ministry of Education.
Agents are playing a very important role. This is due to several of factors, the most important of these being their micro-knowledge of local markets; their widespread presence (we shouldn’t forget that we are talking about 20 different countries, with different background and cultural diversity); and the possibility agents have to pay publishers in advance on behalf of the libraries they represent. On the other hand, agents may push to sell their own preferred collections or aggregated databases in which some of our publsihers content are present with embargo or limitation of access.
I’m trying to establish a trusted relationship with the main institutions, make them understand ACCUCOMS’ role, explain to them that we are not agents and we can work with their agent if they want to keep one. I understood they like the idea of having a “neutral” referent such as ACCUCOMS which is able to advise them on a different solutions.
How are you coping with the different languages spoken in CEE? Do you have a team supporting your sales activities?
PF: English is widely spoken by librarians in CEE. When English is not enough, I am supported by my inside sales representative colleagues who are fluent in several different Central and Eastern European languages. This helps in email and on the phone conversations.
Can you please list some of ACCUCOMS significant successes in the region in the past years?
PF: Even though ACCUCOMS has been covering this region for many years, I personally started my activities in CEE in January 2013 when many of the decisions had already been made for 2013 subscriptions. Nevertheless in these first six months we closed a five year deal with an important Czech research institute for one of the publishers we represent and set up 20 trials for 4 different publishers. There are great possibilities to close more deals for 2014, especially as we follow up on previous successful deals to Polish medical universities and research institutes specialized in biomedicine, Bulgarian pediatrics hospitals, and Croatian universities who purchased the products of the publishers ACCUCOMS represents.