Speakers Discuss Key DM Issues at HVDMA Luncheon

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RYE, NY -- Using data to maximize results is becoming crucial to success for direct marketers, Ralph Drybrough told attendees at the Hudson Valley Direct Marketing Association's "Meet the Presidents III" luncheon yesterday at Manursing Island Club here.

"It's ... increasingly becoming about the data and the way that the data can be manipulated to improve response rates on every possible level," said Drybrough, CEO at MeritDirect, White Plains, NY.

He then discussed a report prepared for a client recently.

"I decided to count the number of discrete attributes or data elements that we are able to overlay on business records, and it's nearly 200 discrete data elements," he said. "The most exciting arena right now for us, besides the continuance of that process, is being able to take this huge amount of information that we can append ... and to append it to our clients' house files so that people are able to make old pieces of the house file work like they worked before."

He mentioned segments of house files by product categories as well as determining the customers who should be receiving mailings.

"The more information you have about the characteristics of each of your customers, the more profitable your lifetime value characteristics become," he said, "and, coincidentally, when you have higher lifetime value characteristics, you have a client who is in a position to be able to prospect more aggressively."

The discussion shifted to privacy, a topic covered by Martin Rego, president of King Lithographers & Mailers, Mount Vernon, NY.

"I'm afraid that if we don't do a good enough job of regulating ourselves, government authorities are going to step in and do it for us, and that could be the death knell for many of our businesses or it could severely hamper our work," Rego said. "I'm hoping that we could exercise the proper restraint and know when to use data and when not to."

The media took heat from Lynn Wunderman, president/CEO of i-Behavior, Harrison, NY.

"No one gets more irate than I do when the press comes out with the 'J-word' -- junk mail," she said. "You're reading in the morning about junk mail, and you come home at night and The New York Times is calling you for a weekend subscription."

The DM industry also got some criticism.

"If the industry is experiencing a lot of negative press, I think to some degree we brought this on ourselves," she said. "There are enough bad apples out there that have given us a bad name. How many people out there today have never received a telemarketing call before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m., or have been interrupted during dinner by an offer they had absolutely no interest in?"

Avram C. Freedberg said direct marketers shouldn't be embarrassed that they sell products.

"Folks, we sell products," he said. "People who sell products are generally recognized as being commercial. Commercial is crass. I don't care how many DMAs or how many great types of efforts you make at PR, people are going to look at us as salespeople. That's what we do."

The president of National Collector's Mint Inc., Port Chester, NY, displayed copy to be used in an ad that could appear in New York metropolitan area newspapers as early as Friday. It will promote a coin featuring baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez. The copy carries the headline "NY + A-ROD!," a reference to the player's nickname. Freedberg displayed the copy about 24 hours after Rodriguez was introduced as the New York Yankees' newest player, having been traded from the Texas Rangers.

"This A-Rod coin -- we know we have competition right now, and it's just coming out," he said, "and we're going to try to be there faster, try to be there better."


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