Anne Holland

Personal reflections on the DMAW Annual Conference

July 19th, 2002

This past week, I was an invited speaker at the DMAW (Direct Marketing Association of Washington DC) annual conference. It is actually a bigger show than you might think because some powerhouse marketers are HQed in the region, including AOL, National Geographic, USA Today, Time Life Books, US News & World Report, as well as most of America’s associations and non-profits.

It was kind of a weird experience for me. Partly because the last DMAW function I was invited to speak at was about 10 years ago when I won their Bronze Maxi Award for a “breakthrough” direct marketing campaign I’d devised sending out 3.5″ floppy disks to promote sales of a CD ROM. About 1/3 of the copy in the package was dedicated to “what is a CD ROM?” because few people knew.

(I still have my winner’s plaque proudly displayed, propped up on a table in my office. You can’t hang the darn thing because it’s got a solid lead post office box stuck on the front which must weigh about 5 pounds. God only knows what future generations raised in e-only will make of it.)

It was also weird because, although it seemed like 50% or more of the speakers focused on Internet and email marketing, only two of the 40-something exhibitors were online marketing-related. I walked past booth after booth of envelope printers and the like. Speeches -> exhibit hall = disconnect.

Last but not least, partly because we at Sherpa suffer from the same affliction that I think everyone writing an email newsletter or hosting a radio show does: not viscerally believing our audience is out there listening. It’s one thing to write words onto your computer screen or speak into a mike. It’s another thing to face a real-life audience and have half of them nodding when you mention recent stories, because they read you.

If you write an email newsletter or any email or direct response marketing campaign for your organization, I urge you to get out there occasionally. Because it’s too easy to be divorced from reality and lose your step.

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