DMA Strategy Envisions Future of Consumer-Marketer Harmony

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NEW YORK -- The Direct Marketing Association called yesterday for better branding of the industry and more aggressive ethics enforcement as part of a new strategy that envisions a future in which the interests of marketers, consumers and regulators coincide more often than not.


At a press briefing at DMA headquarters here, association president/CEO John A. Greco Jr. unveiled the DMA 2005 Strategic Plan. It outlines the organization's goals and will be instrumental in DMA policy decisions, he said.


The DMA last issued such a strategic plan in 1997. However, unlike that document, the 2005 plan goes beyond organizational changes and sets broad objectives and principles for making policy.


"We felt it was time to create a sort of prism that we could look through and evaluate the decisions we were making," he said.


Under the plan, the DMA will balance the interests of consumers and regulators with those of the industry when setting policy, Greco said. The aim is to expand the convergence of those interests and to build mutually beneficial relationships with the world outside the industry so that discord between the industry and the public on issues becomes the exception, not the rule.


The plan sets five goals for the DMA:


· Increasing the quality of direct marketing.


· Enhancing consumer trust and choice.


· Increasing the use of DM channels throughout all verticals.


· Expanding the awareness of the benefits of direct marketing.


· Increasing the share of revenue derived from direct marketing by companies that are not primarily DM businesses.


One thing members want the DMA to do is improve the industry's overall brand, Greco said. Direct marketing's public perception problems have more to do with image than with industry practices, he said.


"I truly believe there is a tremendous misunderstanding of the good things we're already doing," he said. "The real challenge is to take the very good things we're doing and the best practices we have in place and communicate the value that direct marketing and direct marketing practices bring to consumers."


Greco said enforcement of the DMA's ethics guidelines would be key to improving consumer trust, and he promised heightened activity in this area. He cited his promotion of Patricia Kachura to senior vice president of ethics and consumer affairs as evidence of his commitment to ethics enforcement.


"There's been great focus there already," he said. "We're going to ratchet it up even more."


The DMA wants to work with members to get their help in executing the plan, Greco said. The association is interested in feedback from members to ensure they receive the maximum value from their membership.


Another aim of the strategic plan is to increase participation in the DMA by direct marketing companies, particularly among those for which DM is a secondary channel, Greco said. The DMA has conducted research to determine the needs of companies that use direct marketing, and can shape its offerings accordingly.


For example, "pure" DM companies -- those that derive 90 percent to 100 percent of revenue from direct marketing -- want the DMA to provide political representation and branding for the industry. Companies that get 50 percent to 89 percent of revenue from DM tend to seek education and network opportunities, while those that get less than half their revenue from direct marketing primarily want research.


Greco said the effort to bring new participants to the DMA is part of his "big-tent" policy to ensure that all segments of the industry get representation. However, in cases where building a consensus in the industry proves impossible, the DMA will look to supporting the long-term interests of the entire DM community with an eye toward securing consumer trust, he said.


The DMA's next step is to set even more concrete goals than the broad objective currently set and to develop metrics by which to measure programs, Greco said. The association also will form tactical policies to implement the plan and build a budget for 2006, aided by the new guidelines.


Work on the DMA's strategic planning process began in January 2004. Greco said he was glad to see work well under way when he arrived at the DMA in August, replacing H. Robert Wientzen, and also was glad he could help guide the process.


The board of directors saw a draft of the plan at the DMA's annual show in October and approved the plan last week. Greco previewed parts of the plan at a meeting of the Direct Marketing Club of New York this month.


Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing, and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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