Sir Richard Branson, the flamboyant chairman of U.K.-based Virgin Group of Cos., may be getting top billing as a keynote speaker at next week's Direct Marketing Association annual conference (Oct. 14-19) in San Francisco, but analytics takes center stage in the educational sessions at this year's confab.
Measurement has always had a spot in the traditional direct marketer's tackle box, but now that major marketers have increasingly trained their eyes on it, measurement and ROI have gone mainstream, rising to the surface as one of the most important—and vexing—issues for marketers today.
More than half of marketers (53%) say that measuring marketing results is one of their top concerns, according to a recent Forrester Research survey, called "The State of B2B Marketing."
The DMA announced in August that it has renamed and revamped its Planning Research educational track as Analytics/Research, in an effort to present the fundamental components of analytics and research together with sessions that offer marketers techniques to combine the two in order to increase campaign effectiveness.
"Analytics is such an integral part of research that it made sense to combine the two," said Julie A. Hogan, executive producer of DMA06 and acting VP-conferences and events, a newly created department at the DMA. Hogan will step up to her VP role after DMA06 and bring in a new executive producer.
One speaker said the track name change should be advantageous. "It should help draw more [people] to our presentation," said Steve Hawkins, account VP at Southwest Business Corp., a financial services company.
Keeping up with the times
This change and other adjustments made to the program are part of a larger effort by the DMA to assure the annual show's format keeps up with the pace of change in marketing.
The moves were based on in-depth research after last year's annual meeting in Atlanta, Hogan said. The DMA followed up with attendees in a detailed post-conference survey, as well as speaking one-on-one with many industry executives. Those findings, along with the on-site evaluation forms the DMA employs every year, have had a significant impact on this year's programming, which includes nine distinct educational tracks and more than 140 sessions.
"We spent a tremendous amount of time analyzing the type of content we wanted to deliver in DMA06," Hogan said. She added that the number of sessions increased by 15% compared with last year's.
The former CRM track was renamed Acquisition/Relationship/ Loyalty Marketing to give it a wider focus. "We didn't address enough of that last year, so that's why we renamed that track and gave it a broader focus than strictly CRM," Hogan said.
In addition, the number of catalog sessions has been increased for 2006. "We didn't have as many catalog sessions as we would have liked to [in 2005]," Hogan said.
Another track renamed this year is Direct Marketing Basics, which will now be Direct Marketing Boot Camp. Hogan said the DMA is working hard to appeal to and evolve with its audience, as well as skewing to the younger demographic typically interested in the basics.
The overall show structure was also arranged so that the program tracks are structured around the different direct marketing processes, including creative strategy and execution as well as analytics and research, in addition to acquisition/relationship/loyalty marketing.
"We decided to take the key components of direct marketing and structure the program around the different processes. Unlike some other DMA shows, there is no specific b-to-b track. "B-to-b cuts across the different processes," Hogan said.
B-to-b does remain an important focus at the show, particularly since a large constituency of attendees are b-to-b marketers.
"A good percentage of our attendance comes from the b-to-b space," Hogan said. About 30% of last year's audience was b-to-b-oriented, based on post-show research.
Specific sessions target b-to-b audiences exclusively, such as "Maximizing catalog multichannel sales and profits," a new session in which panelists will discuss catalog marketing techniques and strategies being used to increase sales, offset costs and maximize profitability. That session will be offered in the Analytics/Research track. Hogan estimated that 20% to 25% of the sessions this year are b-to-b-driven sessions.
Hogan said b-to-b can be tricky to program at the show. "We don't want to cannibalize the b-to-b conference," she said, referring to the DMA's B-to-B Inter@ctive Marketing conference held in Arizona in September. "You still want to address b-to-b issues because those are very important."
Advisers' influence felt
In the planning process, Hogan said she sat down with the program advisory committee made up of members from such companies as Yahoo! as well as consultants, including the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis, a staple speaker who draws sell-out crowds to his sessions year after year. She worked with them to scrutinize past speakers and plan for this year.
"We literally looked at every single speaker and evaluated how they did in DMA05," she said. "The people who didn't pull their weight haven't been asked back. The industry is far too competitive and there's too much information out there; and, frankly, DMA06 is not a way for advertisers to promote their companies.
"The podium shouldn't be used as a vehicle for promotion," she said.