Newsletter Archive - Corner Office
A discussion with John Greco, President and CEO -- Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
11/09/2004 - John A. Greco, Jr certainly has an impressive resume. His early career was spent as a design engineer and a market and product manager at RCA Company. John then spent 19 years at AT&T Corporation, holding a broad range of marketing and business development positions including division manager for the Consumer Communications Services Business Unit, sales vice president for Business Communications Services Alternate Channels, division manager of Business Communications Services Business Planning, division manager of Business Markets Group, branch manager of Information Systems, and division manager of IS Headquarters, among others.
Between 1991 and 1996, John served as the director of AT&T's Consumer Laboratory Center of Excellence at AT&T Bell Laboratories and AT&T Consumer Communications Services. During these years, the Consumer Lab did extensive work understanding the early applications of the Internet, home networks, wireless devices, and interactive television - including those for home shopping and home banking - for all of AT&T's business units prior to the AT&T/Lucent split.
From 1996 to 2000, John served as a marketing executive at R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company. Between 1996 and 1999, he was senior vice president of marketing and technology, and in 1999 he was named senior vice president of marketing and business development for Donnelley's Financial Business Unit. In these positions, John played a key role in the company's strategy/new business development, marketing operations, product management/new product development, software/system development, technical services, integrated media laboratory, and planning and operations.
But most of you will remember John from when he served as President and CEO of the then named Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association from 2000 to 2003. During his tenure, the "I Am" promotional campaign targeted to major national advertisers was initiated after the industry had been dark in promoting an industry message for several years. John expanded the association's public policy program in Washington, D.C. The Yellow Pages Research Institute was launched to provide an independent platform to promote the industry's research. The new ELITE order system was implemented during his term, after nearly two years of discussion, development, and testing.
Immediately prior to being named The DMA's CEO, John was co-founder of Greco Enterprises LLC, a family holding company that includes Greco Associates, a marketing, business development, and association management services company, and Greco Development and Construction, a real estate investment and management company.
John holds an MBA from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electronic Engineering from Monmouth University. He, his wife Carol, and their three children reside in Watchung, NJ.
At the time we talked with John he had been on the job only two months and two days, but already had a firm understanding of the many issues facing this diverse organization. For those not familiar with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), it was founded in 1917, and is the largest trade association for businesses interested in direct, database, and interactive global marketing, with about 5,200 members from the United States and 53 foreign nations on six continents. The Annual conference is a huge gathering with over 550 exhibitors.
Both consumer and business-to-business marketers are the users of direct marketing techniques. These marketers employ a number of media, including telephone marketing, catalogs and other direct mail pieces, television, radio, newspaper, magazines, and the Internet to market directly to their customers. The suppliers, of course, are those companies that provide users with supplies and services.
We talked with John about his career, his new Association, and the direct marketing industry in general. Under the banner of full disclosure, readers should know that I worked with John at YPIMA for over 2 years.
YPT: What drew your interest in this position??
I was familiar with the efforts of the DMA from prior meetings and discussions with Bob Wientzen, my predecessor, at various business events. While I was at YPIMA we made several attempts to reach out to this Association and its large number of national advertisers. Because the DMA is such an integral part of its members' success and a leading voice for them on Main Street, in state capitals, in Washington, around the globe, and even in the press, I thought this would certainly be one of the most challenging positions I could ever aspire to. In the short time I've been here it has quickly lived up to that expectation. It's a very intense position. The range of issues you deal with on a daily basis is significant. I also thought my marketing and association management background was one that could help the DMA through the many challenges that lay ahead while also seizing the opportunities that the future will present us.
YPT: What skills will you have to draw on to manage this huge Association??
It will certainly require me to use all my past experiences. The wide range of businesses that our members are responsible for is a challenge in and of itself. I've had to draw on my understanding of the many key issues facing our members, both on the business-to-consumer and business-to-business sides, use my marketing experiences, and then add my association and nonprofit group management experience on top of that. Only by combining all of those pieces can I feel comfortable that we are delivering a consistent message that builds trust in the products and services our members deliver each and every day through best practices, appropriate legislation, and efforts to be good environmental citizens.
I've spent the first two-months on a "listening tour" with some of our key members to hear what they had to say, familiarize myself with the issues, and solidify the direction we need to take the Association in. There are a wide range issues we will be pressing forward on, everything from spam to postal reform. Our focus will be building on the successes that the DMA has already achieved while creating new initiatives that can generate positive, tangible value for members - as prior President's have done over the last 87 years of this Association.
YPT: In a handful of words, describe John Greco??
One of the luckiest guys in the world. I have the support of a great wife and kids, and now one of the most challenging, rewarding jobs I could have ever asked for. I think people that have worked with me view me as a leader that believes in empowering the staff, who puts a great deal of trust in the abilities of the people I work with, but has high expectations for their success. Toss in a tremendous passion for our industry and you see why I am really enjoying the opportunity to lead this Association and work with our members.
YPT: Has your definition of success changed over the years?? And now what is your definition of success??
When you start your career you often define success by the size of your paycheck, how many people report to you, or how many times your name shows up in industry news articles. By now, I'm certainly beyond the need to see my name appear in the press. Now my definition of success is how well our staff can meet the needs of our members, how well we can help lead some of the key issues facing this industry, and ultimately, the industry's overall economic health.
Favorite junk food? I am a peanut butter and pizza fan, but just not together. A fancy meal can be nice, but nothing beats a good slice of pizza, or a freshly made peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Best way to spend a day off? With three very active teenagers, I'm not sure there is such a thing as a day off. I enjoy golf, not because I've come anywhere close to mastering it but more for the social value. It is a great way for 4 people to spend some uninterrupted time together.
Golf Handicap? Somewhere near the national debt. Unfortunately, I don't get to play anywhere near as often as I need to so I can improve. I have added golf lessons to my "to-do" list.
New gadget you can't live without? My Blackberry. I love it. With the amount of traveling I do it really helps me stay in touch. I can't imagine how we conducted business without things like this before.
Favorite TV show? West Wing.
Favorite sports teams? The Yankees in baseball and the Giants in football. It comes from growing up in the Northern New Jersey area.
YPT: What key issues are you currently dealing with???
We certainly have a full plate right now. We are active in areas such as postal reform working with the US Postal authorities on much needed changes to the 1970 postal laws. In the area of privacy issues, we are working with the FTC at the Federal level, and with each of the states to ensure the proper use and security of consumer information. On environmental issues concerns, we have lead the way on encouraging recycling and providing members with information on how they can be environmental friendly and socially responsible. Online and remote sales tax issues are cropping up in nearly every jurisdiction as governments seek additional tax dollars. It's impossible to expect our members to be current on some 7,600 state and local sales tax rates. Spam and email marketing have been very big issues in the public eye lately. We've worked with the authorities to target and remove those who are abusing the power of the internet. And on top of all that, we are updating the strategic plan for the DMA.
I am also concerned that along with all of these issues that we work to establish the trust of the consumers who use our member products and services. That trust will be critical to the longer term financial health of this industry, and will obviously impact the direction of future legislation.
YPT: What have been the major differences you have seen between the Yellow Pages industry and the direct marketing industry?
One is the size. The Yellow Pages industry is a very successful industry at some $26 billion in world wide revenues. By comparison, the direct marketing world is measured in trillions. While at YPIMA, we had just over 350 members. Here we have over 5,000.
Another key difference I've noticed is how the members interact with each other. This is an industry where the members have always experienced healthy competition amongst themselves. But they have been able to go beyond that competition to collaborate on the critical issues we are facing. Take my Board of Directors, with 39 members, it sounds like a big group to work with. But these are all experienced senior level professionals, most with extensive marketing backgrounds, and they understand that by working together on an issue like spam, all can benefit from helping to shape policy and strategic direction before a government agency feels compelled to set the direction for them. Every time I talk with a member, one of the first things they do is to offer resources to assist on an Association effort or on one of the many committees we have. The group has been incredibly supportive.
YPT: How can the Yellow Pages industry work with this Association and its members??
There are a number of issues that we are pursuing that have direct overlap and impact on the Yellow Pages industry, such as postal reform, spam, and privacy issues. We would welcome their participation in our efforts to develop and shape policy.
Another possible area is in some of the interactive relationships we have added to the Association, relationships with our Interactive Alliance and our subsidiary, the Association of Interactive Marketing. About 80% of our members are already utilizing the Internet for marketing. As Yellow Pages publishers migrate further to Internet based products, relationships with these companies will become more and more important. We would welcome participation from the Yellow Pages industry.
Many of our members are significant national advertisers. I'm sure the CMR community would welcome an opportunity to interact with these leading companies.
And the last, but not the least area, is in the many non-profit organizations we have as members. The Yellow Pages industry has always been a good community citizen. I think there are further opportunities available here also.
About The DMA
The DMA is the leading trade association for businesses interested in interactive and database marketing, with over 5,200 member companies from the United States and 53 other nations.
Founded in 1917, its members include direct marketers from every business segment as well as the nonprofit and electronic marketing sectors. Included are catalogers, Internet retailers and service providers, financial services providers, book and magazine publishers, book and music clubs, retail stores, industrial manufacturers and a host of other vertical segments, including the service industries that support them.
According to a DMA-commissioned economic-impact study, direct and interactive marketing sales in the United States are projected to have surpassed $1.7 trillion in 2003, including $133 billion in catalog sales and $41 billion in sales generated by the Internet. The DMA's Web site is www.the-dma.org, and its consumer Web site is www.shopthenet.org.