Positive Thinking at HVDMA Presidents Forumby Kenneth Kraetzer, VP, CBSI Services
"Listen to your clients" and "Stay Positive" was the key advice offered by a panel of direct marketing CEOs at the Hudson Valley Direct Marketing Association "Presidential Forum" and luncheon held in Greenwich, CT on February 11th. "We are all each other's support group" was how HVDMA President Lauretta Harris led off the event, referring to the tradition of fellowship within the direct marketing community. She suggested to the audience that client relationships are built on a "Foundation of trust and a strong set of operating values".
Rich Mercado, panel moderator, asked questions of four Westchester/Fairfield area direct marketing CEOs who considered questions of “Staying Power” in a tough economy:
Mark Kolier, founder of CGSM/Canterbury Graphics commented on current conditions, "Clients are cautious, they ask we do more for less. They are looking for retention, to sell at lower cost, for web initiatives, and to offer ancillary products.” He emphasized, "Listen to your clients until it hurts … listen and offer new ideas".
Jim Schanck, Founder of JS Marketing said, "It has been hard to get decisions, and we have seen reductions with auto and home furnishing clients." He emphasized looking for opportunities, keeping avenues of communications open, adding value and addressing negatives with positives. “We are all in a relationship business; act as if you are part of your client’s company."
Jim reminded the audience of those who have broken the rules to create success, citing Apple as an example of knowing how to keep its stores packed with avid, full-price consumers. Recommended reading included the work of former Yankelovich Partners "Futurist" Watts Wacker, and Faith Popcorn.
Brian Snider, President of GRI Marketing Group, is “working closer than ever with clients on budgeting, and finding opportunities in new partners, media, channels. Our mailings are smaller, more targeted. We are looking at other channels and social media, wherever we can get a Return On Investment.” To maintain relationships he suggests, "Be relevant in what you offer to clients, show how can they better communicate, and what technology they should consider."
Gerald Messer, President, Data Services, Inc. says his clients “are looking for value added services – and fortunately their need for data base vendors has not dropped much." Still, "Everything we do is about cost saving for clients. Our strategy has been to diversify into various segments." He encouraged direct marketers to look at international markets where "Responses are three to four times what they are in US. Although mailing costs are higher, there is less mail, and shelf life for mailing pieces tends to be longer." On what is working, "Top retailers are sending mailing pieces to generate more store traffic, there are a lot of loss leaders being used." On running the company during challenging times, "Our philosophy continues to be, leave negative things outside, do whatever it takes to get the job done."
Rich Mercado summed up the program with four points:
1. Be smarter
2. Listen to clients
3. Add value in the things you do for your clients
4. Be Positive, Be Positive! Be Positive!
For more info about this and other HVDMA events visit www.hvdma.org.