Why I'm attending the DMA show

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With just a couple of unavoidable exceptions, I have attended DMA's annual conference for 29 years now. The DMA has been a one-of-a-kind way to reconnoiter with industry friends, learn about and keep up with industry trends, and spend intensive time with clients and far-flung colleagues in a stimulating, upbeat atmosphere, outside the typical windowless conference rooms where we toil the other 51 weeks of the year.

At the DMA, many of the relentless pressures of day-to-day work life take a most welcomed back seat to sitting in on super-informative sessions presented by many of the smartest and current people practicing in our expanding, ever-more complex field. What an unmatched way to re-charge our batteries with new ideas that can be put to work as soon as we're back at the office. DMA's annual gathering emphasizes the most important ideas of the moment - some of which have endured over the years in morphing forms and guises.

One of the best examples of an important morphing idea is "customer centricity." We were customer-centric a generation ago, even a century ago, and we're customer-centric still. Technology has remodeled our jobs and made us more professional - more like physicians who diagnose and prescribe than pharmacists who take orders and fulfill. At this year's annual conference, we can be sure that the customer will be at the center of just about every session presentation. The customer is, after all, why we're here.

Two related, overarching themes surrounding customer centricity undoubtedly will be on display: first, the ascent of digital channels in the multichannel dialogue; and, second, the mastery of the "other half" of a marketer/customer conversation, by which I mean the listening half. The marketing posture is necessarily more reactive, more one of listening and serving - a shock to the old brand system that's still being felt as marketers scramble to enable and fine-tune listening skills. When it comes to demand, the customer wants it now, and wants it customized. The winners on the supply side will be brands that find the customer at the moment of impulse, and are nimble enough to customize the offering at the right perceived price/value. Relevance rules.

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