Marketers Discuss BTB Challenges

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PHILADELPHIA -- As a result of the cancellation of Wednesday's keynote speech at the Direct Marketing to Business show, the opening event was changed to a panel discussion on the issues facing business-to-business marketers.


The originally scheduled speaker, Ken Hawk, founder of iGO, had a family emergency.


The panel discussion, which was moderated by Russell Kern, president of Kern Direct, in Woodland Hills, CA, included participants such as Ruth Stevens, Bob Hacker, John Coe and Judy Kincaid. The panel discussed what effect the terrorist attacks would have on their clients' businesses.


"As long as the world is upset, responses to campaigns are going to be down," said Hacker, CEO of the Hacker Group. "But Americans have a tendency to heal quickly, so things will be awful this week, bad next week and will start to get back to normal in a month or so. I would expect a complete bounce-back within six months. It all depends on what the government does and if they go to war."


Hacker said he would advise his clients to "slow down" their campaigns but not suspend them altogether. After the panel discussion, Kern said the attacks will cause uncertainty for a few weeks and there will be a natural hesitation among people about making purchases.


"There will be a shock and a jolt that will have a negative effect for a few weeks, but I would instruct my clients to continue with their campaigns," Kern said.


Other topics addressed by the panel for the almost 100 attendees included customer relationship management, integration and e-marketing.


Regarding e-marketing, the panel agreed that as long as marketers provide relevant and timely information, business customers will not see frequent e-mail contacts as spam. The panel agreed that BTB marketers worry too much about frequency and not the relevancy of the messages they are sending. They said the bottom line is buyers need information from vendors and as long as that information provides businesses with value, people will be happy to receive it.


Hacker closed the discussion by saying response rates for direct mail campaigns are as good as they have always been, "just as long as the people conducting them know what they are doing."


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