Meet the Presidents Panel: Mailers Must Keep Prospecting

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RYE, NY -- Even in uncertain economic times, prospecting must continue, a panelist at the Hudson Valley Direct Marketing Association's Meet the Presidents luncheon said yesterday.


"You have to run your business and you have to grow your business," Andrew C. Goldberg, president and chief operating officer at Publishers Clearing House, told more than 100 attendees at the Manursing Island Club.


In a question-and-answer format with moderator Rich Mercado, senior manager at Madison Direct Marketing, the panel spent an hour pondering issues facing the direct marketing community. One thing that they agreed on was that house file sizes had certainly decreased over the past 12 months.


Kevin Green, president of Lillian Vernon Corp., said house files are generally down 10 percent.


"It's a good piece of information to have to know where you stand within the industry," said Green, who tracks his own house file as well as those of competitors. "If your house file is down, rest assured you're not alone."


In response to a question about how list managers are helping clients weather the tough times and bring in list revenue, Martin Stein, president of RMI Direct Marketing Inc. stressed the importance of file enhancements.


"Enhancements create pockets of new revenues for list owners by creating new opportunities for mailers to use their lists," said Stein, adding that modeling has become an effective way to make lists work for mailers.


The question of e-mail prospecting also was addressed by the panel but without any real consensus except to say that it is an evolving area. Helen Hoart, president of Consumer Health Publishing Group, said e-mail fatigue and in-box clutter were the two biggest issues, while Neil Metviner, president of Pitney Bowes Small Business Solutions, cited a totally different concern: Internet access. According to Metviner, fewer than 40 percent of small businesses even have Internet access.


While most of the panelists agreed that new customers often have stronger lifetime value than reactivated customers, retention is a huge part of direct marketing. Goldberg said Publishers Clearing House is working to identify the moment that a customer starts to decelerate in their buying and when it needs to make a retention effort.


Reactivation, Green said, really only works well for Lillian Vernon during the holiday season, which is its strongest mailing season.


The panelists also touched on the direct marketing job market. Most admitted to making cutbacks last year but hope to see a turnaround this year. One recruiter in the audience said that while there are DM jobs available right now, most are not in the New York tri-state area.


In other news, the HVDMA said it will launch a Web site for the organization March 1 at www.hvdma.com.


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