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Club, Continuity Marketers Talk Shop Over Breakfast

ORLANDO, FL — About 200 direct marketers got up bright and early yesterday to attend a DMA show breakfast devoted to club and continuity programs and featuring a panel of marketers.

Panelists began by discussing the biggest challenges they face in their businesses.

“Response has been down for the past few years,” said David Stewart, CEO of International Masters Publishers Inc., a marketer of card-based continuity programs. Better credit screening and modeling are a few ways his company has combated lower response, as well as price testing, he said.

“Younger consumers are less likely to respond to continuity offers,” said Seth Radwell, president of marketing and editorial at Bookspan. Part of the problem is that consumers today face so many choices and channels, he said.

According to Steve Solomon, director of customer database management at HCI Direct Inc., his company has a unique problem: “Our biggest challenge is that women aren't wearing as much pantyhose.” HCI is a marketer of hosiery continuity programs.

In fact, he said that eventually his firm probably would have to introduce a new product.

As far as marketing channels were concerned, the panelists agreed that direct mail was still their best and largest channel but said the Internet had increased in recent years.

“There has been a shift over the past few years, and the Web is now another good channel for us,” said Mike Carrano, vice president of video clubs, new member acquisition at Columbia House. Consumers often respond to a direct mail piece online, he noted.

Stewart said that though solo direct mail drives about 80 percent of his firm's orders, insert media also has been successful for acquisition.

Looking ahead five years, panelists each expressed their intent to expand their businesses and introduce new products.

Following the panel discussion a representative for each company gave a short presentation on their list rental files.

The breakfast was sponsored by list firms American List Counsel, ClientLogic Specialists Marketing Services, Direct Media Inc. and List Services Corp. Karen Mayhew of Direct Media moderated the panel.

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