Outlook 2006: Innovation Will Help Overcome a Potpourri of Issues

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The outlook for the list industry is bright. The economy remains strong despite oil prices and the global political climate. More businesses are discovering direct marketing and looking for ways to compete using our methods. We are uniquely qualified to give advice, build customer bases and help these new mailers find success. The Web continues to help dramatically - and with our expertise and the sophistication of technology, I think we're in a great spot.

There really isn't one pressing issue because so many factors affect the list industry. Paper costs over the next two years are a concern. Is this more pressing than the continuing scrutiny by well-meaning but ill-informed legislators? Certainly energy costs affect our clients and will have to be dealt with. The consumer is unhappy about shipping costs, and they will go higher. Another problem is the influx of new mailers who are trying to re-invent the wheel without the help of the industry association and those of us who know how to stay on the right side of consumer advocates. The list business always faces tough issues. We survive and prosper because, for the most part, we are innovative and proactive and find ways to turn issues into opportunities.

At Direct Media, 2005 was a better-than-average year, and I've heard the same thing from some of my colleagues at other companies. The level of testing was higher, which bodes well for the coming months. Mailers are growing more sophisticated, and our business has an energy that's been absent for a long time.

New Entrants Offer Opportunities

The best opportunities right now come from the new entrants into direct marketing. Our client base has always been diversified. Now with retailers and online retailers entering our world, the diversification is even greater, and the opportunities are tremendous. I loved the list business from my earliest days because if I could think of a better way to do something (something innovative and different) and if I could explain it and get clearance, my mailer could try it. If it didn't work, we could analyze and adjust it and try again.

The same is true today. Though the media are greater, and the offers are exploding, we still have that option. I guess my tip is never to dismiss anything without thinking about it. There is still much to be learned and perfected.

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