NCDM Exhibitors Are Bullish on '04

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ORLANDO, FL -- Exhibitors at the Winter 2003 National Center for Database Marketing Conference here see an increase in business as companies seem more willing to invest in new projects and technology.

"I'm seeing the business climate slowly changing for the better," said Jennifer Cooley, vice president, Analytic Innovations LLC, a Chicago database marketing solutions provider. "I called prospects eight to 10 months ago, and they are now starting to call me back and seem to be more comfortable about starting new projects."

Carol Meyers, vice president of marketing at Unica, a CRM vendor in Waltham, MA, was cautiously optimistic.

"Business hasn't been crazy busy, but it's been good," she said. "We've seen a steady uptick in business over the past few months."

Meyers noted much interest from international customers and from the publishing industry.

Lansing Chew, group product manager at Experian, Orange, CA, discussed the economy and its effect on the industry at a session last week. When he asked audience members about their spending plans in the year ahead, "most people were going to remain steady or increase their spending," he said. "No one said they were going to decrease their spending."

Richard N. Tooker, vice president, solutions architect at KnowledgeBase Marketing, Richardson, TX, was very optimistic.

"Business is ramping up pretty well," he said. "There is more activity at this time this year versus a year ago. In general, people are hiring, buying and investing in new marketing programs."

Kurt Ruf, partner at Ruf Strategic Solutions, Olathe, KS, also was upbeat, saying that his company has had an increase in inquiries in recent months. Matt Hussey, director of strategic account development at Ruf, said that companies also are willing to test new techniques.

"We are finding that our financial services clients are testing with lifestyle data, which is different for many of them," he said.

Hussey and most vendors said that the show traffic, while slow, has been good and resulted in quality leads.

Another sign that bodes well for 2004 was that many people discussed using database marketing for prospecting and acquisition rather than retention.

"I've noticed that the subject of prospecting is coming up more and more, which is different from the last few years, when the focus was on retention," Chew said. "This is a good sign. More prospecting means more people will need to buy more lists and more technology to handle the new data."

Another sign: People are getting calls from headhunters for new jobs. There was even a sign on the message board here from Frequency Marketing announcing that the company was hiring statisticians and other database marketing employees.

This year, 48 vendors exhibited at the show, versus 50 last year. In October, the Direct Marketing Association was forced to change the dates for the show because of a scheduling conflict.


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