DMB Attendees Split Focus Between Show, War; Luncheon Opens With 'Salute to All Americans'

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ORLANDO, FL -- The bombing of Baghdad and the various developments in the U.S.-Iraq war provided strong competition for the attention of direct marketers here yesterday at the Direct Marketing to Business conference.


More than a dozen attendees gathered at one point late yesterday afternoon in front of each of two TV screens at the Caribe Royale watching CNN and CNN Headline News for the latest war news. One monitor was near the rooms where sessions were taking place while the other was just outside the exhibit hall.


The attention paid to world events was not lost on Felipe Portocarrero, vice president of sales & marketing at The Broadcast Team Inc., Ormond Beach, FL. It is his, and his company's, first appearance at the event.


"More people are watching TV outside the exhibit hall than are in the hall at times," he said. "I'm one of them, too. It means less traffic for us and less opportunity to see new prospects.


"We developed our product to expand into B2B."


He said world events didn't factor into the decision to attend.


"Attendees will be in the hall for 15 minutes or so and then go back to watching TV or maybe go to a session," he said. "Bad timing, I guess, is all it comes down to. But it only takes one new client to make a successful show. I'm hopeful that I will get a new client."


Lita Patton, sales and marketing director at Penton Lists, Cleveland, said she has attended the show for at least a decade. The event is down "20 to 30 percent" in terms of exhibitors and attendees, she said.


"I had a customer that said, 'It was too expensive to be here,' " she said. "He was here a few years ago as an exhibitor."


She suggested that "a few complimentary passes" be provided to exhibitors, who could give them to their clients.


Patton cited three factors that she thought limited attendance: the economy; too many DM shows; and the threat of war leading up to the conference.


"We're here because we're always here," she said. "If we weren't here, it might stir up some controversy and people might say, 'Penton is not doing well.' At this show, I'm anticipating very little new business."


She was asked where the value is in being at the event.


"That's a very good question," was her immediate reply. "I see a lot of exhibitors talking to each other."


Kerry Graham, a sales rep with Cross Country Computer Corp., Hauppauge, NY, a database analytical service bureau, had a matter-of-fact outlook.


"Attendees are preoccupied by the war, and rightfully so," he said. "Their full attention is not on the show. A lot of people are watching TV outside the hall.


"You've got to go to the shows. People have to see you and your booth. If you miss too many, people won't think of you. Whether the shows are good or bad, you've got to be at them."


But, he said, the show goes on.


"People are still coming into the hall, and all it takes is one contact to make a successful show," he said.


Meanwhile, thoughts of the U.S.-Iraq war were evident during yesterday's keynote luncheon.


Michael Faulkner, the Direct Marketing Association's senior vice president of segments and affiliates, opened the session by introducing a three-minute video presentation "to salute all Americans." The song "I'm Proud to Be an American" played throughout the presentation, which received applause from those in attendance afterward.


"[World events] can create distractions and concerns that could have made it very easy for you not to have attended," he said, leading into the presentation, "and it can be very easy to lessen your attention to the speakers and to the activities at this event. We appreciate your appearance here and your attention to the activities at this event."


Keynote speaker Joel J. Kocher, CEO of Web hosting service Interland, discussed ways companies can promote their Web sites.


"More than 70 percent of all Internet users utilize a search engine as part of their pre-buying research," he said. "It's therefore imperative that you crack the code on what the right mix is with this. It's one of those things that you have to constantly adjust. There are numerous options for search, but my strong recommendation to you is that you put a lot of emphasis on this -- now!"


He also said e-couponing is what's "hot" today.


"It is incredibly cheap," he said. "It's almost cheap to the point where you feel like apologizing for it."


Kocher recalled six months ago when he spent a week talking to business owners and marketers who had responsibility for demand generation and for overall operations and customer satisfaction.


"Probably the vast majority of folks that I found that had a Web site or had an online presence felt that the 'great golden promise of becoming global in a week' was baloney," Kocher said. "They [had] found other reasons why this Web site and this online presence made sense. One of the most pervasive ones I found was the notion of lowering costs."


Also at the luncheon, AlloyRed president/CEO Richard Rosen received the first Business-to-Business Marketer of the Year Award.


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