John A. Greco Jr. succeeded H. Robert Wientzen in July as president-CEO of the Direct Marketing Association. Greco, who has 30 years of marketing and association experience, presided over his first DMA Annual Conference and Exhibition last month in New Orleans. After delivering an opening address in which he touched on the major issues facing direct marketers and his plans for the organization, Greco sat down for a Q&A with BtoB Managing Editor John Obrecht and Senior Reporter Carol Krol.
BtoB:You have talked about the DMA's image and reputation, and the need to improve them. What is it exactly that you need to improve? What do you see as the DMA's image today?
Greco: What we need to do is think about all the good stories, all the good anecdotes, all the good examples that we could be inventorying, using, proliferating-any opportunity that we get as to positive experiences that people have as a result of that relationship [with a direct marketer]. Whether it's because you were contacted with a health care solution that was very appropriate to you and helped you, whether you were contacted with a financial service solution at the right time or whether you had a very positive shopping experience. We've heard tremendous stories. The kinds of industry statistics that we have in terms of sales volumes and growth don't happen without a lot of good relationships being developed, and yet we don't talk about them. Right at the heart of this is taking inventory of those and building a portfolio that we can use over and over again.
BtoB:How would you go about sharing the stories you've inventoried?
Greco: We would use every possible opportunity. We need to make sure that we understand who needs to hear those messages. I would find every possible way to distribute them. I think there are a lot of different constituencies here. First of all, we need within the industry to talk to ourselves that way, and we need to share those kinds of stories. We're certainly going to lead the pack on this in terms of taking the leadership role for the industry and pulling this together, but I think it's a wonderful opportunity for each of our members to be equipped with those same stories and that knowledge and sharing them with their constituencies, their stakeholders at a company-specific level.
BtoB:What are you planning to do in the coming months to specifically serve the b-to-b membership?
Greco: We have a director in place, Susanne Sicilian, who is responsible for spearheading the effort in the b-to-b area. That starts with developing a strategic plan in concert with the B-to-B Council, as well as members of the b-to-b community who are now part of that council. We're going to reach out to that whole b-to-b community and develop a strategic plan that very specifically deals with the components of the DMA value proposition that applies to the b-to-b community. For example, if there is the need for a particular version of the newsletter from the networking perspective that makes sense, then that will be something that will be driven through the communications organization.
BtoB:What is the timetable on b-to-b as part of the overall plan?
Greco: Susanne and I are working through now the best timing of it, but I really want to have in place by the end of this year the strategic plan that outlines clearly what it is that we need to get done and what the priorities are. This way we can begin operationalizing that in the second half of next year. Then as we go through our annual budget process, the fiscal budget process, we'll be even more in a position then to emphasize even greater things as we go into the next planning era.
BtoB:Of all the legislation issues facing direct marketers, is there one that rises above the others as most important?
Greco: They're all important. It really depends on the subsegment that you're talking to. You know, if you're talking to a b-to-b marketer who is heavily mailing, then postage and postal rates are going to be terribly important to them. If you're talking to a b-to-b marketer who is clearly doing it at a distance and doesn't have a nexus in a state that they're marketing into, clearly the remote tax issue is going to be more important. So I really think, as with anything I'm learning, one of the truisms in life that I have to keep coming back to is segment, segment, segment, segment, and understand which part of b-to-b we are talking about.
BtoB:When you went out on what you called "The John Greco Listening Tour," was there something that resonated in your talks with the membership?
Greco: I tried to be very cognizant of the segments that I was speaking to, so depending on the segment, issues varied. But clearly the one discussion topic that always came up and was always very important was this issue of our brand and our image as an industry, and the implications of that for how the industry evolves. In order to impact public policy certainly that is something that is easier to do when you're starting from a position of a strong brand and a strong image. And so I would say that's the overarching theme that I picked up in terms of going across the member segments, and then with each segment it had its own unique component to it.
BtoB:Are there any imminent changes that we can expect to hear about in the coming months?
Greco: No, I believe that we are steady on course right now. You know, you heard the commitment this morning [in the opening address] to creating a center of excellence in some very key areas. So I guess the answer is really yes. The changes, though, are more of the kind of engaging the membership around some task forces and working committees with us on those very specific areas.
For example, I mentioned this morning that I want to make sure that our database, and our creative and our direct marketing approaches with our members are really using and leveraging the best-in-class of the industry. And while we have done that to a degree in the past, I really want to take the volume up on that. I want very much to tap into the tremendous talent that exists in this industry. As I've gone around and met with members I've been incredibly impressed by the talent, the brainpower, the experience, the knowledge that exists in every piece of the direct and interactive marketing value chain. And so my approach to this is that this is a real win-win situation and that we can make the association stronger by using the strength of our membership, and if the association is stronger, our members benefit. And so it truly is an example of where clear collaboration is a big winner.
BtoB:What do you see as the DMA's greatest strength?
Greco: There's absolutely no question about it. It's our membership base. We have wonderful people. We have wonderful staff. We have a great list of value propositions, products and services. The list goes on and on. And we've got to make sure our members take advantage of it. When I cut through all of it the real strength of this organization is the quality of our membership, and the diversity of our membership. There's tremendous strength in diversity, because you really can bring together everybody along that entire industry value chain and that marketing process value chain I talked about, and that just can be tremendously valuable.