BIZ-TO-BIZ CONFAB EYES CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS

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Building and strengthening customer relationships is the thrust of the fifth annual Business-to-Business Direct Marketing Conference.

Hot sessions during the gathering May 2 to 4 in New York include an opening presentation by Jon Anton, executive director of the Center for Customer-Driven Quality, Lafayette, Ind., and professor at Purdue University; a luncheon presentation by Howard Berg, director of IBM Direct, White Plains, N.Y.; a workshop and session by Ernan Roman, president of Ernan Roman Direct Marketing Corp., New York, whose just-published book on integrated direct marketing is generating attention; and a session about integrating direct response with general advertising by Mark DiMassimo, VP-creative director at Kirshenbaum/Bond/Partners.

Mr. Anton will discuss managing customer relationships.

"Sometimes I call this seminar, `How to make hard decisions with soft numbers.' Soft numbers are customer perceptions, and hard numbers are internal profits," he said.

"Customers, both in business-to-business relationships and business-to-end user relationships, are looking for value," Mr. Anton said. "Value is defined as quality divided by price .*.*. We don't focus on the price part of that equation because sometimes there is little you can do to change price. We focus on quality as perceived by the customer."

IBM Direct's Mr. Berg will focus on using database marketing and technology to build relationships between a company and its customers.

Mr. Roman and Scott Hornstein, senior partner at Ernan Roman Direct Marketing, will describe how to achieve double-digit profits while keeping customers satisfied.

ERDM will present results from its research with customers and prospects of major companies including IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., AT&T and Motorola. The research found executives feel few companies have a clear understanding of the complexity of the decisionmaking process, and led ERDM to actively involve customers in database development.

"We used the voice of the customer to bring the right message to the right person at the right time via the right medium," Mr. Roman said. "We integrated the customer into the process; that's a totally different mind-set."

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