Navy Pier to Sheraton Chicago: CADM's DM Days aims for large strides

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The Chicago Association of Direct Marketing on April 30 and May 1 will host its 2007 Direct Marketing Days & Expo event. Don't make the mistake of heading to Chicago's scenic Navy Pier. The show - the 53rd - this year was moved to the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, not far from Michigan Avenue and perhaps a more convenient venue for the Midwest's leading direct marketers to deliberate direct marketing issues of the day.

The show theme is "Ionize." Keynote speakers are Yvonne Furth and Lor Gold, president and chief operator officer and chief creative officer of Rivet Chicago, respectively.

The event will honor Donald L. Harle, vice president of postal affairs at Diamond Marketing Solutions, vice chair of the Mailers Technical Advisory Committee and past president of the CADM. Mr. Harle has been named the CADM's 27th Charles S. Downs Chicago Direct Marketer of the Year. He will receive the award May 1.

Key industry executives associated with CADM discussed the Chicago DM Days & Expo and the state of direct marketing in the Midwest with DM News' Mickey Alam Khan. Following are excerpts of their conversations.

Carol White, head of marketing communications consultancy CL Associates and CADM president:

What's so different about this year's Chicago DM Days & Expo?

This year we're trying something new and kicking off the second day with a special speed-networking session. Speaking of new, this year we're relocating to the Sheraton Hotel, located right off Michigan Avenue. This venue really lends itself to a conference like ours, with a great exhibit hall, convenient meeting rooms and plenty of comfortable spaces where you can gather for networking.

Any interesting trends you see?

One over-reaching trend I see is something I like to call "everything old is new again" - target marketing. I think about the personalized, one-on-one service my mother used to get at our local small-town grocery. Now technology enables this kind of service on a far more global level.

The target marketing landscape continues to reflect the importance of Web-based marketing along with major investments in e-mail marketing. At the same time, database marketing continues to thrive because companies want to be sure that their strategies are driven by insights into unique customer perspectives, if not individual customers. A personalized approach is particularly important for e-mail campaigns where a customer can filter out your message forever if it looks like spam.

I think we'll see increased investments in marketing automation and analytics, and a continued emphasis on customer loyalty programs and CRM.

Nancy Artz, president of Artz Consulting Services and general chair of the 2007 Chicago DM Days & Expo:

Why did you choose the theme "Ionize"?

Our agency, Korzenowski Design, developed the "Ionize" theme. "Ionize" means to split off one or more electrons from an atom, leaving it with a positive electrical charge. The planning committee wanted to get the message out that attendees and exhibitors alike can expect a highly charged atmosphere with new educational sessions, powerful keynote speakers and lots of opportunities to network.

What are this year's concentration and problem areas like?

The educational program will provide sessions in a diverse number of concentration areas, including CRM/CME, database marketing, interactive, creative, production and nonprofit and basic direct marketing. Problem areas include new customer acquisition, maximizing customer ROI, managing the customer experience and winning creative and marketing concepts.

Any key exhibitors?

They will include a diverse group of suppliers to the direct marketing industry, including both the USPS and Canada Post, envelope and print companies, mailing and graphics services, and marketing and data solutions providers. Total number is 43, to date.

What's the mood of direct marketing in Chicago?

Very positive. More and more companies are embracing new interactive solutions as well as tried-and-true direct mail programs. And they're actively looking for new solutions and ideas to put into immediate use.

What are the key issues and concerns?

Changes in then USPS rules and pricing and how they will directly impact current mailing programs. Making CRM work. Improving the customer experience through integrated touch points. Staying on top of the latest trends in interactive direct marketing.

Any predictions for the rest of this year?

More companies will take a hard look at their current marketing program elements and determine how to best adapt them to the new and emerging USPS regulations to reduce the bottom-line impact.

Ron Marsh, principal of Audience Identification Inc., CADM director and program chair of the 2007 Chicago DM Days & Expo:

Your take on the mood of DM in Chicago?

Although last year was a positive one for the industry, this year has gotten off to an even stronger start. All of our events are well attended; classic DMers are busy and we see many new people becoming involved.

You must have some concerns.

Certainly postal rates and government meddling are the major concerns. Potential do-not-mail actions in states could have a chilling effect on the industry.

Have you identified any new opportunities in the marketplace?

There has been much talk in recent years about analytics becoming more important in direct and interactive marketing. This is true not only of traditional modeling and segmentation work but also real-time or at least quick analytics to effect changes in marketing applications. And the broader marketing and advertising industry has also gotten on the analytics' bandwagon. Note the popularity of the recently published book "Competing on Analytics."

And your prediction for the year ahead?

CRM - finally focused on relationship marketing, not technology, and powered by a renewed interest in analytics - will finally reach a level of maturity so that a majority of implementations are successful.

Frank Roman, principal of direct marketing nonprofit consultancy Frank Roman Partners and CADM director:

What's the mood of direct marketing in Chicago?

It's a bit cautious. Many organizations want to see how the new Congress - especially a Democrat one - will work with funding for various missions. Income for some is slightly down and expenses are being watched carefully to lessen the impact. Only a few agencies are actively hiring. Some have a hiring freeze in place.
Also, while postal reform is finally here and will hopefully bring benefits, a postage increase is never welcomed. Budgets will have to accommodate and smarter marketing/targeting will hopefully make up the additional cost.
What are the key issues and concerns?

A tough issue facing nonprofits is the lack of qualified staff. Some of the
more qualified staff are leaving for possibly more lucrative ventures,
including consulting. Institutional knowledge at organizations is falling
off. Good, senior-level managers are in demand. There is a potential rut for
many social-service agencies and finding the charismatic leader to bring
resources on board and address competing issues will be tougher.
Have you identified new developments or opportunities in the industry?

Integrated marketing continues to be of great importance. Combining the
omnipresent Web with mail, radio and phone to better address donor needs and wants will continue. The donor is much more in the driver's seat, with
organizations striving to fulfill the desires and needs of donors and clients
at the same time.

George Buckley, executive director of CADM:

Why separate the Chicago DM Days & Expo event from the association's Tempo Awards ceremony?

I would say that after the past four years, we learned that these communities do not overlap as much as we once anticipated. I think we had less than 10 percent overlap of attendees. Separating the major events enables us to better focus on the production and audience needs of each. The Tempo Awards show at Café Brauer on Thursday, June 7, will not compete with anything else and will be a showcase event in and of itself, and at a classy venue."

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