*NCDM Show Garners Mixed Reviews From Attendees

ORLANDO, FL — While attendees provided generally mixed reviews at this week's 26th Annual National Center for Database Marketing show here, one telling comment was provided by a magician hired to draw visitors to a booth who said, “It's dead in here.”

But Jerry Bernhart, president of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, Owatonna, MN, was upbeat when asked about the flow of traffic on the exhibition floor.

“There's been a lot of traffic on the trade show floor, and many of my clients are here and they are getting fistfuls of great leads,” he said.

Christian Wright, vice president of database marketing at MITI Prospecting Solutions, Andover, MA, said the show is becoming fragmented — as companies continue to expand their offerings — and that attendees are going to have to be seasoned database marketing experts to be able to find what they're looking for.

“I think it is very hard for a novice to come to this show and be able to find what they need or a good lead,” said Wright, who added that companies need to do a better job of presenting information regarding what they can do for attendees.

Bryan Black, chief executive at Protagona Worldwide, Chicago, noticed a difference compared to last year's show.

“There are a lot less dot-com companies here offering pure Internet-based solutions,” Black said. “I don't think I could come here and be very successful by just being a Web-based company offering Web-based solutions. If you look at the name-tags on people out on the exhibit floor … they are from major financial institutions and healthcare organizations. These are big-time players.”

On Dec. 4 Wright and Black said their companies had experienced decent traffic flow and picked up several quality leads.

“I am attending the sessions and I'm getting great ideas from them,” said Steve Germain, assistant vice president and manager of marketing research at BJ's Wholesale Club, Natick, MA.

Etienne Le Gouis, project director for Redcats, Roubaix, France, said most of the exhibitors did not seem interested in what is going on overseas, they do not consider that market to be lucrative enough and, therefore, will not show much interest in working with foreign-based companies.

“If you come here with a precise problem you are trying to take care of, then you should be able to find what you are looking for,” Le Gouis said. “But if you don't, it could be hard because all of the products look the same and a lot of the companies don't do anything to distinguish themselves from one another.”

Le Gouis also discussed the problems that can arise with a product demonstration.

“The product always works perfectly when they run it in a demo,” he said. “But when you ask them to put in some real numbers of yours, they are unable to do it and can only run it with what they have in there. The displays can be very fake because they don't use concrete examples.”

The show kicked off Dec. 3 with a keynote speech delivered by Llewellyn Wall, an Internet technology forecaster, who told the audience that convergence “is rapidly expanding the amount of direct access to consumers and buyers.”

Wall, chief technology officer at Decis e-Direct Inc., used several examples to illustrate how convergence is taking place, including the marketing capabilities of wireless devices and the prospect of digital and customized radio. He also said people would soon have the option of having their Web addresses printed alongside their phone numbers in the phone book.

In Judy Kincaid's Dec. 5 keynote address, the director of customer relationship management at Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, CA, discussed her three reasons for being at the show: to raise awareness about the importance of privacy in business today; to clarify and simplify the definition of privacy; and to encourage people not to be afraid of the privacy movement.

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