Customer service still reigns at Direct Media Co-op

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WHITE PLAINS - The 33rd Direct Media Client Conference and Co-op proved that although the industry continues to change, what has stayed the same is successful businesses do whatever it takes to keep the consumer happy.

The event, held at the Renaissance Westchester hotel, hosted representatives from organizations such as May Development Services, Pink Magazine, National Geographic Society, TV Guide, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and United Spinal Association.

"The sessions were very informative," said Daamon Speller, senior media specialist at National Geographic Society, Washington. "They bring out the wrinkles that we all need to be aware of."

The sessions covered publishing, fundraising, consumer creative and merchandising, e-commerce, continuity, consumer catalog, business to business and creative for branding.

One really impressive panel focused on properly serving consumers. Epicenter executives stressed the importance of observing and knowing customers and their needs. The Epicenter Collection, which develops small stores in malls, recently came up with a new plan to give today's consumers the shopping experience they want.

However, some people thought that the sessions were not educational enough and that they were too pitchy. No one was willing to go on the record.

Marcus Wilhelm, chairman of the Direct Marketing Association, delivered the keynote on the first day of the conference on what challenges the industry is facing and will face in the future.

Mr. Wilhelm discussed postal rates, search marketing and all other aspects of direct marketing. He talked about the changes they have experienced and how marketers need to be prepared.

"I thought Marcus carried a strong message for all to get involved in keeping the mailbox open," said Ann Finn, Magazine Publisher's Association consumer marketing vice president.

The conference stressed the importance of knowing your customer and accepting the notion that consumers are armed with the Internet, making them more demanding and more informed.

"This conference is a great opportunity to learn and share with friends and competitors," said Heidi Vincent, vice president of sales at National Geographic, Washington.

Most attendees have been coming to the co-op for years and so the event was also a reunion for list professionals.

Brian Kurtz, executive vice president of newsletter and book publisher Boardroom, delivered a speech at the event's luncheon. He gave tips on life, business and direct marketing.

His speech closed the event and left attendees thinking about life, business and direct marketing.

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