Prospecting Ripe at Smaller Net Show

MIAMI — Small but full of highly qualified prospects was the general assessment on the exhibit floor of the attendees at the Direct Marketing Association's second annual Net.Marketing show at the Fontainebleau Hilton resort here last week.

“The quality of the prospects here has been terrific,” said Nicholas Mondello, director of marketing at list directory firm SRDS, New York. “Shows like this are what you make of them. We came prepared, and it has paid off tremendously.”

The food, however, was another matter. It and mostly sunny, 80-degree weather conspired to distract people from the goings-on at the show. The April 6 lunch, for instance, was a large ice-cream scoop of tuna over a slice of tomato with pasta salad on the side.

“I found the conference very good and very useful, but the food was just awful and it drove people away,” said Sunny Bates, president of executive search firm Sunny Bates Associates, New York. “It's also too bad they couldn't have done a couple of things logistically to take advantage of the weather. Everybody was desperate to get outside.”

The sole outdoor event was a well-attended evening cocktail hour on the hotel grounds after the opening reception April 5.

As for other highlights, about 500 people attended the April 6 keynote address in which H. Robert Wientzen, president and CEO of the DMA, outlined key issues surrounding the growth of Web commerce. Privacy self-regulation apparently tops his list.

“If the industry doesn't regulate itself, government will. I can't stress that enough,” Wientzen said. “If anything, the Internet has drawn the attention of people who have long felt that there is too much use of information out there.”

Other key issues surrounding the growth of Web marketing, according to Wientzen, are Internet taxation (to which the DMA is vocally opposed), and unsolicited mass commercial bulk e-mail, or spam.

“Today's spam could destroy opportunities for tomorrow's targeted responsibly used marketing e-mail,” he said.

Wientzen reminded the well-filled room that DMA members have until July 1, 1999, to comply with DMA's privacy principles. He later told a sparsely attended question-and-answer session that a first draft of DMA's Privacy Preferences Project is about to be released.

Included in the draft is a notice that marketers must tell consumers that they have the opportunity to opt out of the sale, rental or exchange of their contact information soon after the “prospect” becomes a “customer” and once a year thereafter.

“These are relatively easy guidelines to follow, but, remember, this is a first draft. We will learn from it and go from there,” said Wientzen, who added that the next step will be to hear feedback from DMA members.

Walter A. Forbes, chairman of club and franchise giant Cendant Corp., lived up to his reputation for vision and lofty goals when he told about 560 attendees at his April 6 keynote address that Cendant's “ambition is to sell everyone everything.”

According to Forbes, one of six guests already stay in Cendant hotels. Cendant is the result of a December merger between CUC International and hotel franchiser HFS Inc., and Cendant's businesses include Days Inn, Howard Johnson and Ramada hotels, Avis rental car company, Century 21 and membership clubs serving 73 million members. He predicted that one day 80 percent of Internet sales will be conducted by fewer than seven companies. Forbes' said his keys to ensuring Cendant is one of those firms are low price, low price and low price. Because Cendant profits from membership fees rather than product sales, he said, “We can sell TVs at cost forever.”

Forbes also said that the most successful online selling strategies include pop-up marketing, online pitches at checkout time, sweepstakes and cross-marketing. Counter to popular thinking, he said, online marketers' current focus on one-to-one marketing is off the mark.

“One-to-one marketing is people falling in love with technology before there's a need for it,” he said. “The problem is, it's out of sync with human behavior. People still want to go down that supermarket aisle looking for one thing and buy four.”

The best attended and most warmly received talk was a morning keynote address to more than 600 people by Bran Ferren, executive vice president of creative technology at Disney Imagineering. Ferren outlined his Disney-eye view of the world telling the crowd that the current era 100 years from now won't be remembered as the computer age but as “the storytelling age.”

Ferren predicted that in 10 years, computers will be the size of a book, solar powered and able to access the Web without typical telephone connections.

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