**Marketers Lead the Way Online

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BOSTON -- After gushing about the growth of the Internet, complete with slides showing exploding volcanoes and the latest statistics from Jupiter Communications, Direct Marketing Association President/CEO H. Robert Wientzen said yesterday that the leaders on the Internet are direct marketers, not the major retailers or flashy Internet pure plays.

Wientzen took the opportunity, during the DMA's Net.Marketing fall conference and exhibition keynote address to preach to the choir. A full ballroom of conference attendees, who -- judging from traffic the night before -- were all exhibitors, listened intently.

Wientzen revealed the findings from the DMA's State of the Interactive eCommerce Marketing Industry Report: 2000, complete with a pitch to attendees to buy one for $500-plus in the lobby.

Some of the top-line results positioned direct marketers as trailblazers. For example, 97 percent of DMA members use the Web in their business operations, up from 90 percent last year. Forty-four percent of these companies conduct sales online.

Some 69 percent of the respondents claimed to have profitable online sales in 2000, compared with 49 percent in 1999.

"From our vantage point, a lot of traditional direct marketers who are staking out their online claims in fact are making money," Wientzen said.

This is happening because traditional direct marketers are "doing something right in the e-marketplace," he said. "It is not about the fancy site and the bells and whistles. ... Increasingly it is about consumer customer service, it's about trust, and it's about satisfaction."

Tried-and-true direct marketing practices are winning, he said, because "we are already experts at some mundane skills, perhaps: sophisticated order taking, fulfillment, customer service processes and systems that develop effective lifetime relationships."

Direct marketers will be the teachers for the future because "five years ago, we were employing database technology information to offer and develop one-to-one marketing," he said. "[We were exploring] collaborative filtering. Customer lifetime value was being talked about, and we were doing data warehousing and working with relationship marketing concepts. None of this is flashy or glamorous. ... However, if something works and makes money -- flash and glamour are not exactly a major concern."

Survey respondents said the benefits realized by their Web presence are greater visibility (76 percent); cost savings (56 percent); new business opportunities (56 percent); time savings (52 percent) and increased revenue (46 percent).

The top online promotional methods are search engine optimization (66 percent) and e-mail marketing (54 percent). Respondents rated search engine buys as "somewhat effective" and e-mail as "most effective."

Other findings: 91 percent of respondents maintain inhouse e-mail lists, and 92 percent do not send unsolicited e-mail.

Catalogs are the "most effective and frequently used traditional direct marketing technique," he said. "Telemarketing, radio and TV were all found to generate only mediocre return on investment."

Wientzen then cut the lovefest short by making a direct plea to attendees to create privacy policies with "guts and muscle" or they would all likely suffer when the government inevitably steps in to take control.

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