My attendance this October at the Direct Marketing Association Conference, held at the massive McCormick Place in my quasi-hometown Chicago (I am a suburb dweller by way of full disclosure), reinforced my faith in many of the foundations of direct marketing.

I interviewed Dennison (Denny) Hatch, a respected practitioner of direct marketing for many years, and an inspiring if irreverent voice in the wilderness that was October in these circles. Hatch feels that direct mail response rates will be minimally impacted outside of the East Coast in the short term. In the long run, he said, countermeasures such as irradiation should help make the public in general (and medical professionals in particular) feel more at ease with direct mail. On a darker note, he observed that nothing is without risk, including the food we eat! Eventually, mail may not be singled out.

To minimize the fear factor's impact on response, Hatch suggested the following:

  • Identify yourself Emblazon your mailing with bona fides such as your logo, Web site address, and even phone number to reassure recipients that this mail-piece is safe.
  • Shrink wrap Encase your mailing in plastic and use teaser copy: “Sealed for your safety.”


E-mail Explosion?

Asked if he thought direct marketers would follow the advice of the U.S. Postal Service and e-mail notifications of direct mail pieces to come, Hatch expressed skepticism. However, just the day after the interview, I learned of a business-to-business mailer who sent an e-mail in lieu of the catalog it had planned. The copy went something like this: “We were going to send you a catalog, but under the circumstances we've decided to ask you first if you want us to mail you the catalog. We are also offering you the option to access the catalog's online version.”

E-mail and fax certainly are viable options (the latter subject to certain provisions of the Telecommunications Act, as of this writing). E-mail address appending was a hot topic at DMA — you can expect to see more physician e-mail addresses appended to leading physician mailing lists from major sources, including Database Licensees of the American Medical Association, in the near future.

Fear-Busters

I also asked another DM legend, Bob Hacker, how CME marketers might overcome the general atmosphere of fear that had reduced attendance at many meetings. He sat down and proceeded to work through his motivational matrix.

  • Fear Come to this seminar because it offers cutting-edge information you can't afford to miss.

  • Greed Your practice will grow when you learn about these new procedures and techniques.

  • Guilt Your patients will benefit if you attend this seminar (subtle message — if you don't, they won't).

  • Anger Stand tall in the face of terrorism! Don't let them change your ways.

  • Exclusivity Meet the elite in your field.

  • Salvation Extract yourself from the quagmire you're dealing with by learning these new techniques.

  • Flattery Because you are a recognized expert in the field, no meeting on this topic would be complete without your participation.



According to Hacker, even pre-9/11, fear has tested as the most powerful of these motivators. One can only imagine that terrorism has enhanced its power. Nevertheless, Hatch, Hacker, and others at the show were optimistic about the future of direct marketing and CME. As the president's father said in his DMA keynote speech, “You're going to be OK.”




Terry Nugent has 25 years' experience marketing medical meetings. Since 1989, he has been director of marketing for Medical Marketing Service Inc., an American Medical Association database licensee. Before that, he directed AMA's membership development efforts. Send him your questions or topic ideas at T-Nugent@mmslists.com.