Continuity Marketers Discuss Solutions Over Breakfast

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ATLANTA -- The Direct Marketing Association's List & Database Council seems to have a knack for getting marketers up early in the morning, as evidenced by the attendance of about 200 people at a 7:30 a.m. breakfast here yesterday at DMA·05.

The event was an encore of a continuity breakfast held at the DMA fall show in Orlando, FL, two years ago that drew about 150 people.

The panel discussion focused on changes in continuity marketing and tactics that marketers are using to deal with challenges.

The first topic involved business challenges over the past two years. Several panelists cited customer pay-up.

"Payments are flat over previous years," said Helen Gunn Meyer of International Masters Publishers.

IMP is testing ways to get consumers to pay upfront with credit cards rather than on the back end, she added.

While agreeing that payments are a challenge, Matthias Epp, senior vice president of media and Internet at Bookspan, said that the payment quality online was parallel to that of direct mail club members.

Each company represented on the panel is adding new products, especially for niche markets, to try to gain new customers.

To combat a decrease in the number of people wearing pantyhose regularly, hosiery marketer HCI Direct added several product lines including socks, tights and shapewear, said Karen Abegast, the company's vice president of marketing and customer service. HCI Direct just launched Silkies Enrich, an anti-aging moisturizer.

E-Scholastic is using its experience in the educational market to develop cross-over products for the consumer market.

"We are launching a consumer version of Scholastic Phonics based on the success of that product in the educational market," said Seth D. Radwell, president of e-Scholastic and executive vice president of Scholastic.

Epp said that Bookspan has had success adding niche book clubs in the African-American and Hispanic markets. IMP also has expanded into the Hispanic market, Gunn Meyer said, as well as into the Canadian market.

BMG Columbia House has seen changing demographics in its clubs in the past few years, said Selene Yuen, senior director of acquisition marketing.

"Two years ago the average age for our music club was 37, and today it is 41, so we are adapting to serve those members," she said.

The Internet is also a major part of the transformation of the continuity marketing model, the panelists said. They agreed that customers are receptive to the online subscription model of continuity offers allowing them control over how much product they get, what they get and when they get it.

Karen Mayhew of Direct Media moderated the panel. Following the discussion, representatives from several list companies gave short presentations on their continuity list rental files.

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