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Leave gloom behind

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The  best thing about attending the Direct Marketing Association's Annual Conference and Exhibition-from a journalist's perspective-is that it provides a good indication of where business is trending headed into the new year. ¶ The signals from last month's show in New Orleans were generally positive, especially contrasted with the gloom of the Chicago show in 2001 and the uncertainty of the San Francisco show in 2002.

Traffic was strong on the show floor, and attendees said they were impressed by the debut of DMA President-CEO John A. Greco Jr., who pledged to bolster the organization's efforts on behalf of b-to-b marketers.

Even more important, most of the people I spoke with said their own business has been picking up.

"We're definitely seeing an uptick in activity and spending," said Cyndi Greenglass, president-agency services for Diamond Marketing Solutions and chairwoman of the DMA's Business-to-Business Council. "We're seeing more hiring, more filling of positions lost through attrition. They're looking for b-to-b marketers with direct experience."

Greenglass said business for her company is up 30% this year over last.

James M. Cyze, president of Banta's Direct Marketing Group, said his unit saw a 25% increase in business in the second quarter. "The year started strong and has continued to stay strong for us," he said.

"There's an overall pent-up demand to get back into a true marketing mind frame," Cyze said. "The good news is there's activity, and activity usually translates into business."

Jeremy Silver, senior product manager for E.piphany, said that after a "tough period" business for the CRM company is headed upward. "It's starting to come around," he said.

High hopes for the near term are tempered somewhat by ongoing challenges-postal reform, privacy and spam concerns, remote sales tax issues-but on balance things appear to be looking up for b-to-b direct marketers.

John Obrecht is managing editor of BtoB. He can be reached at jobrecht@crain.com.

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