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Direct Response Marketing

Committee Corner: Don’t Be an Outsider Looking In

1 Feb, 2017 By: Rick Shiu, InQuest Communications Response

As a direct response marketing professional since 1995, I’ve always said, “I don’t do business with friends, but I do make friends from business.” I’ve worked for several companies — on the client and vendor sides — that have enabled me to get to know many peers and competitors.

After transitioning from employee to business owner, I had to look at business from a different perspective. When you work for a company, it’s easy to take for granted the ability to make purchasing decisions and expenses. When you own your own company, in order to be both successful and profitable, harder economic decisions have to be made.

But it’s not always black and white, since I’ve always managed my relationships with sincere humanity: volunteering, donating to charities, and taking on other endeavors that may not make economic sense. I’ve always been one to write “thank you” notes, send out birthday cards, pick up the phone, or visit — rather than send texts, emails, and social media posts.

When you start your own business, you often find out who your true friends are and who your business associates are. Fortunately, I was blessed by many who came to me with ideas on how to do business together or simply, in an altruistic gesture, wanted to help me succeed by making introductions and passing along referrals.

When I looked at who was helping me the most, they all shared a common trait: they were members of the DRMA. Though my previous employer wasn’t a member company, I’d always received warm greetings from the DRMA staff and was very familiar with Response Magazine and Response Expo, as well.

At $595 annually — less than that proverbial cost of a cup of coffee a day — it was an easy decision to join. To many entrepreneurs, $595 isn’t necessarily a lot of money — but if there’s no value in the expenditure, it will be deemed not worthwhile. The DRMA is worthwhile. Among the benefits of membership are: discounts for Response Expo; a subscription to Response Magazine; inclusion in the annual Preferred Partner Directory; and an open invitation to several networking events across the country.

What the DRMA has done is offer the opportunity to build business alliances across a wide spectrum of clients and vendors. Since becoming a member, I estimate more than $500,000 in net profits from business I’ve garnered through other DRMA members or from its networking events.

Being a DRMA member doesn’t mean you can simply “set it and forget it” after joining. The quality of the membership is only as strong as the effort you put in to utilize the benefits — much like a gym membership. Sure, you can sign up, but if you never go inside and interact with the trainers and equipment, you’ll never reap the rewards.

So, if you’re a member of the DRMA, or thinking of joining, you should ask yourself, “What can I do for the organization and its membership?” If you live by the adage of “treat others as you’d like to be treated,” it’ll be an eye opening revelation that the DRMA’s slogan of putting “Unity in the Community” rings true.

In my inaugural year as a DRMA member, I was nominated for its Member of the Year award. Not winning it did not discourage me from continuing my efforts to assist the organization and its members. During the past few years, I’ve directly helped more than a dozen individuals either better their positions at their existing employers or found jobs for those who were looking for a new opportunity. I’ve also turned what was, initially, a free consultation to businesses entering the direct-to-consumer industry into a viable business model, onboarding clients and walking them through to campaign launch. I still volunteer to mentor new DRMA members with a free consultation session when they join.

Again, I don’t do business with friends, but I do make friends through business. The DRMA is a great professional organization that has many social benefits, as well. Many members attended my wedding, and I’ve invited many into my home for parties — and vice versa.

I know some companies in the industry that have neglected to formalize their relationship and join, yet send employees to Response Expo, subscribe to Response Magazine, and attend DRMA events as invited guests. To me, the numbers speak for themselves and value is clear — otherwise why would so many members and non-members be there? The DRMA has more than 300 member companies — and is growing. If you’re not a member, sign up! If you say, “Why join when I can reap most of the benefits without joining?” I ask in response, “Would you rather be an outsider looking in or an insider looking out?” ■

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