DMers Offer Way to Create Closer 1-to-1 Relationships

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NEW YORK -- Throughout the keynote speeches and sessions and at the awards luncheon honoring Don Peppers and Martha Rogers as Direct Marketers of the Year, keeping customers was the overriding theme at last week's DM Days here.

Whether it was called one-to-one marketing, relationship marketing or loyalty marketing, the process of turning one-time customers into lifetime ones was touted as the key to success in the next century. As Tony Alessandra said in his witty keynote address about the Platinum Rule, it's easy to make sales but not so easy to make customers.

"People don't want to feel sold," said Alessandra, an applied behavioral scientist, marketing strategist and president of Alessandra & Associates, New York.

Marketing, selling and service will turn prospects into customers, but to make them apostles requires the often-ignored ability to build relationships, he said. Alessandra, who started out selling cookware door-to-door, said half of all customers never hear from the seller again and urged attendees to increase the quantity and quality of customer contact.

Alessandra likened the buyer-seller relationship to a marriage, the less communication the weaker the bond. Marketers should strive to develop relationships for life with their customers similar to that between grandparents and their grandchildren. Grandparents follow what Alessandra calls the Platinum Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Daniel Burrus predicted that marketing in the next century will be about listening and learning from customers rather than telling and selling them. Burrus, a leading technology forecaster and futurist, who 1993 laid out a road map to create what became, drew a similar map for direct marketers in his keynote address, Technotrends: Using Technology to Go Beyond Your Competition.

"Technology will allow you to do things you thought were impossible," said Burrus, president of Burrus Research Associates, Milwaukee.

To become 21st-century marketers, he said actionable knowledge and wisdom, rather than simple data and information, must be gathered and dispensed. By getting to know your customers through the Web and other interactive technologies, they will tell you what they want. Companies won't compete on price but on how they change the customer experience and give them back valuable time.

Burrus suggested combining the technical knowledge of younger workers with the marketing wisdom of veterans and giving people jobs that fit their personalities.

While guest speaker Tim Russert, moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press," spoke frankly on the President Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, his description of the White House in paralysis and its inability to address the pressing issues of the day such as the nuclear crisis in India and Pakistan is applicable to direct marketers. Those stuck finding and selling customers are failing to embrace their most profitable ones.

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