Marketers Work DMB Into Miami CRM Machine

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MIAMI -- Balancing new technologies with sound marketing principles that keep good business customers coming back was a deafening theme here this week at the Direct Marketing Association's Direct Marketing to Business conference, which lured nearly 1,000 attendees.

The focus of the three-day event was clearly on customer relationship management, or CRM, the industry buzzword that apparently is no longer the exclusive domain of consumer marketing. Indeed, more than 25 sessions, presentations and round tables zeroed in on understanding exactly what CRM is for the business-to-business marketer, who does it and why it's the leading topic for so many industry leaders in all sectors, large and small.

Discussing CRM on a worldwide scale, Frederick W. Reid, chief marketing officer for Delta Air Lines, explained to a packed audience how his company's foray into CRM foreshadows the future of airline travel in a global market "where practical issues trump theory each day."

In the exhibit hall, Bert Blevins, president of Janeva Interactive, Las Vegas, a small Web graphics consulting firm, said his business is all about CRM and that his new "satellite" Web site concepts will provide lead generations by category to businesses that are looking to capture new users without incurring prohibitive acquisition costs.

"We're providing front doors for people who talk and speak the language of specific industries -- and we're speaking to them right off the bat, touching their businesses in a way they understand," he said. "That's the whole CRM approach."

Getting customers to the front door -- whether it's a bricks-and-mortar entrance or a unique Web venue -- is only half the battle, Blevins said. The news and information they receive have to move beyond relevance.

"You have to remember, those customers are also looking for an immediate benefit," he said.

Albert M. Nardslico, president of Systems Made Simple Inc., Syracuse, NY, a company that markets eBound, a business management solution characterized as an "e-commerce engine," said 75 percent of his business is delivered via a Web-based platform because it makes the management of the customer's relationship more accessible.

"Talking about CRM mostly comes from our own customers, who want to tighten the bond and relationship with their customers," Nardslico said. "It's something we've been hearing more of the past couple of years. But enhancing relationships is about a number of different things. It's about catering specific products to what you know those customers are interested in."

Sandy Stoker, vice president of information marketing at Dun & Bradstreet, Murray Hill, NJ, said CRM is a real concept, not just fashionable jargon on everyone's lips.

"One of the things it's related to is the increased focus businesses have on driving revenue," Stoker said. "Tools and products that can help drive additional revenue are very important. I would say CRM is the hottest thing right now in this sector. You also have to remember that acquisition costs for reaching new customers are now much higher. But the key is to find ways to maximize your relationships. It's about being proactive with your customers."

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