What's on Marketers' Minds?

NEW ORLEANS — Getting down to business, the economy, politics, integration and the Direct Marketing Association's new leader. Marketers were talking about anything and everything at last week's DMA annual conference. Here's a sample of what we heard:

· Mark Traverso, vice president at Lighthouse List Co., Pompano Beach, FL: “Traffic was great from 10 a.m. [Oct. 18] when they were lined up and banging on the doors to get in. There are a lot of buyers here as opposed to the vendors that are usually on the floor.”

· Andrew Frawley, president/CEO of Click Tactics Inc., Waltham, MA: “Companies may be mailing less, but they are sending out more targeted, higher impact pieces.” He cited a financial services client that saw its response rate grow from 0.8 percent to 10 percent when it switched from mass mailing to personalized, targeted mailers with product information based on customers' life stages.

· Chris Paradysz, CEO of ParadyszMatera, New York, had positive things to say about his meeting with new DMA president/CEO John A. Greco Jr.: “He's been great. And he's not just talking, he's executing. I think he will be very good for the DMA.”

· Christopher Foster, marketing manager at Modern Postcard, Carlsbad, CA: “The phrase I've seen on more booths than I wish is 'integrated marketing solutions,' because everybody has a solution for you. The tone that I see is: before, companies might have had very specific areas of expertise, but I think now what companies are doing is they're branching out to provide more bundled solutions for their customers. I think you can dilute your expertise if you're not careful.”

· Sanjib K. Mallik, chief architect at Ciant Corp., Chester, NY: “What I'm actually seeing is there's a lot of crossover. Before, you had printers, technology companies, list companies. Now, with the Internet, it's all blurred. Who does what is very confusing. Everybody offers everything. So how do you compete in the marketplace? Unless the supplier goofs up, how do you get a new customer?”

· Laurence Faguer, freelance writer and CEO of Customer Insight Consulting, Paris: “I attended two sessions [Oct. 18]. The trip has already paid off. I can share these ideas with clients.” Comparing the DMA show with those in Europe: “It's huge compared to Europe. It's much more business-minded. I'm taking back lots of practical ideas. Five years ago, the talk was about the Internet and big things. Now it's back to the basics — return on investment.”

· Scott Cone, vice president of professional services at Merkle Direct, Lanham, MD, and programming co-chair for the DMA's CRM Council: “I think [Greco will] do a great job for us. I think it's important that the DMA now has someone leading who is from inside the industry.”

Cone said the presidential election's outcome probably won't affect DMers, nor will the issue he is most concerned about: rising oil prices. Though these prices could affect the costs of delivery services, they may help the industry in a way. “People may not want to drive to the mall to go shopping because gas is too expensive. Instead, they may choose to buy products via direct mail or the Web.”

· Jennifer Harrison, corporate communications manager at Silverpop, Atlanta: “It seems crowded. It seems like there are a lot of people, a lot better than other DM shows like DM Days in New York. I think this is just a sign of how this industry is growing and changing and it's becoming more multichannel. I hope that shows like this will get better for our business. Because with e-mail, a lot of times people are looking for list companies. We don't do lists. We do high-level strategic e-mail marketing.”

· Jim Cyze, president of Banta Direct Marketing Group, Oak Brook, IL: “I think there seems to be a resurgence in the overall marketplace. It's a combination of the activity levels we're seeing across the industry. There's a pent-up desire to get back to marketing.”

· Eric Edge, manager of corporate communications at Draft, Chicago: “Both small vendors and large list brokers alike seem to mesh well in the hall. The Echo [Awards] still have a bad slot on Sunday afternoon, and the stellar creative that's exhibited and honored does not get the attention it deserves. Agencies are integral to the direction and success of the DMA, and I'd hope that the association places more value in them in the future.”

· Bart Narter, general manager of EnhanceRate, Portola Valley, CA: “Oct. 17 for us was awesome. In the period of 1 1/2 hours that it was open, we had five solid leads come in, mostly because I'd spoken up at the e-mail marketing seminar. Today [Oct. 18] it's much slower. This is an interesting show for us because there's a lot of traditional direct marketers who are just starting in e-mail.”

· Michael Mayor, CEO of NetCreations, New York: “In the context of a year ago, the attitudes to e-mail marketing are certainly improving. A year ago, people were wondering if e-mail marketing had a future with CAN-SPAM approaching. And a year later, not only did e-mail marketing survive, it's thriving once again. Today's main issues are on list growth and deliverability rather than legislative. It's a dramatic change in attitudes and outlook and general positiveness. It could all change in 24 hours.”

· Jason McNamara, CEO of Dynamics Direct Inc., Los Angeles: “I've noticed people are talking about real projects. They're not just kicking tires.”

· Eric Obeck, president of SendTec, St. Petersburg, FL: “I think that the Web side of the show has become much more mainstream. It finally makes me feel like convergence is here.” About his booth in the DRTV pavilion: “It's a lot better than last year. Last year they separated us from the crowd by a curtain, and this year it's just more of a concentration.”

· Bob Lieber, CEO of The Lieber Group, New York: “There's really two worlds. There's the old world of direct marketing. It's about mail, fulfillment services, printing, affixing, lists [and] people who have historically been in direct marketing. The other is about segmentation, data and the Internet, optimization [and] cross-channel marketing. It's just funny, and you can almost draw the line. And there are companies that do both. It's like they have a foot in both worlds.”

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