DMA Tries Viral E-Mail, Palm Offer for Fall Annual

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The Direct Marketing Association has unleashed new direct marketing tactics, including a viral e-mail campaign and an offer of a half-price Palm Pilot, in its promotions for next month's DMA Annual Conference & Exhibition.

The moves are not a sign that the DMA fears that the fall show, set for Oct. 20-22 at Moscone Center in San Francisco, will be a repeat of last year, the association said. For the 2001 fall annual, the DMA offered free air and train fare to entice prospective attendees in the shadow of the Sept. 11 attacks. Despite the promotions, attendance was down from previous years.

Rather, the association said, the tactics reflect a new focus on direct marketing for its conferences brought about since the DMA hired David M. Smith, former chief marketing officer at Prefer Network, as its senior vice president of marketing and business development last year.

"It has to do with us being aggressive marketers," Smith said. "It's the way I've been my whole career, and I'm not going to stop now."

On Aug. 22, the DMA e-mailed a letter signed by president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen to its file of about 2,000 supplier members. The e-mail urged suppliers to post two attached banner ads for the fall annual to their Web sites and to send an e-mail prepared by the DMA to their clients.

"Think about it. If every DMA supplier member participates, imagine how many more people will attend the conference, which means a more educated market, more people walking the exhibit hall floors, and more business for you," the e-mail to the suppliers read. "This is the goal of The DMA, to help grow the industry."

This marks the DMA's first use of viral marketing for its fall show and is an attempt to use its contacts with direct marketing service agencies, Smith said. The association has "the best file on the planet for service companies," he said.

Another new piece of the DMA's marketing package for its fall annual is an offer of a Palm m515, which lists for $399 according to the DMA, for $199 to every individual who registers for the show on or before Sept. 16. The Palm Pilots will be distributed during registration at the show and will come loaded with a conference planner, including schedule, speaker and event information.

The DMA's catalog for the show, which contains schedule and session information, will carry the Palm Pilot offer. The catalogs, sent to DMA members and past show attendees, dropped around the time the e-mail blast was sent and were expected to reach member mailboxes in late August.

One other change is that the DMA began its marketing for this year's fall annual several days later than usual. For the past four or five shows, pre-registration has lagged several weeks prior to DMA events but surged and sometimes exceeded expectations in the days immediately prior to the show, Smith said.

"It's the reality of the conference world these days," he said.

In mid-September, the DMA plans to roll out a mail campaign using digital printing technology. The technology allows for heightened personalization in mail pieces, Smith said.

For example, prospects who did not attend the 2001 DMA fall annual can be sent a mail piece urging them not to miss another one, while new DMA members could receive a piece reminding them that discounts on convention registration fees are one reason they joined the association. Digital print technology lets marketers customize mail to individuals based on personal data, Smith said.

The digital print mailers will be sent to the DMA's house file of members and past event attendees. The mailers will be four-color and "bigger than a postcard and smaller than a catalog," Smith said. Further details were unavailable because the mailers are still in development.

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