Scholastic's Radwell: Commitment Is Not Dead

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NEW YORK -- "Commitment is not dead," according to the keynote speaker at yesterday's Direct Marketing Association List Vision 2005 conference at the Marriott Marquis.


However, continuity marketing needs to be reinvented in an age of e-commerce, and list professionals can have a major impact on their clients' efforts, said Seth D. Radwell, president of e-Scholastic and executive vice president of Scholastic.


The benefits of the traditional direct mail continuity club are dubious, he said, given the widespread availability of products on the Internet and through mass retailers.


"It's a difficult dilemma," Radwell said. To acquire customers, some continuity marketers are offering "sweeter bribes" in terms of offers or accepting a lower quality of customer. Neither is a good solution.


Instead, Radwell advocates using the Internet to acquire, service and market to customers. But he said three things are key.


Transparency is first. Customers should be able to see clearly what they are signing up for online.


Second is more control for the customer in terms of being able to change the terms of the relationship with greater ease. Radwell cited online book club Zooba, where instead of just shipping consumers the pick of the month, members create a list and get one book from their list each month, similar to how online movie rental service Netflix works.


Finally, Radwell said simplicity is a must, including a straightforward offer, a flat price and low shipping and handling.


Marketers will discover many benefits from interacting with consumers on the Internet, he said. Online conversations are cheaper, and you have an ongoing second chance to make a sale because consumers can log on as many times as they want instead of just receiving a monthly mailing. He also touted the ability to learn about customers by capturing clicks and knowing what they are looking at on your site.


Informational content is also very valuable to consumers, Radwell said. He suggested providing customers with non-promotional content on the Web and in e-mails to keep them looking forward to hearing from you. For instance, a book marketer could send information about popular authors or the top nonfiction books.


Scholastic tailors content for its different audiences, which include children, parents and teachers.


Radwell encouraged attendees to engage clients on these topics and help them move their continuity businesses into the e-commerce age.


Preceding Radwell's address, conference attendees were shown a video greeting from DMA president/CEO John A. Greco, who could not attend due to a prior commitment. Greco recapped the legislative challenges facing the industry in the privacy and data security area and reiterated the DMA's support for a national data breach notification law. He also urged attendees to go to the DMA Annual in October in Atlanta.


Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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