Data-Driven Marketing in the Soul: New DMA Chair JoAnne Dunn

The following are excerpts from a conversation with new DMA Chairman JoAnne Monfradi Dunn, President and CEO of Alliant, the innovative database and analytics firm she founded in 2002.  JoAnne took over the chairmanship of your DMA on October 14, 2013 to serve two years.  She has been a member of our Board of Directors for the past two years, a past chair of Marketing EDGE and a Silver Apple awardee from the Direct Marketing Club of NY.  She is passionate about data-driven marketing and about serving the industry, and takes over from Matt Blumberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Return Path.  JoAnne is a force for good and new ideas.  We are grateful to her for her service and look forward to working with her and the Board.

Me: JoAnne, we are so grateful to you for your years of service on the Board, and glad you are stepping up to take on the Chairman mantle. However, you are also busy running a successful company. There are many demands on your time. Why are you interested in being Chair of DMA?
Joanne Monfradi Dunn Headshot - for blogJoAnne:  The direct and interactive marketing community is a great arena to build a career — and throughout my 25 plus years, I’ve always looked for ways to give back. Serving as a volunteer on boards, educational foundations and working committees since very early in my career has been beneficial beyond my expectations for me — professionally and personally — and those benefits flow to the companies I work with.

Being involved in the leadership of our industry beyond our day-jobs is good for business. You have the opportunity to take on — first hand — the issues that most concern your clients and your company. Not only do you get a clear understanding of the issues, you are exposed to the best minds in our business and the most informed thinking.

Taking on the DMA Board Chairman role is part of a natural progression of my commitment to industry service. The challenges may be bigger, but so are the opportunities. Having the chance to work closely with you and your team, a dynamic board, and an engaged membership, is an experience I am truly looking forward to.

Me: Marketing is so different today than even five years ago. Certainly it’s all data-driven now, but even more so, it’s become a balance of outbound messaging with conversation and community. What do you think modern marketers need most today from their trade association?

JoAnne:  It’s not exactly breaking news that the entire marketing arena has become more complex. It’s really astounding. It means that every single company on the planet that wants to compete, to sell its products and services successfully, needs to be grounded in dozens of new marketing disciplines.

Marketers and their service providers need to understand data and analytics, and they need to assure that they have the governance processes in place to meet ethical and regulatory expectations. They also need to master execution in both traditional marketing channels and myriad new channels. On top of that they need to develop creative and brand strategies that work in all of them.

That’s a pretty tall order, whether you’re an established corporation or a start-up. My sense is that marketing-driven companies are looking for a partner who can help them manage the complexity of the marketing landscape. Clearly, the DMA is the right organization, at the right time. We have the scale and scope to serve members across their diverse interests, and the organizational mandate to be a partner to all marketing organizations.

So, I have to say that I am more excited than ever before about the future of the DMA. While there is substantial work each of our companies has to do to survive in this environment — a strong DMA will do a lot to help all of us meet these challenges.

Me: I know you’ve learned firsthand why a strong trade association in Washington (and state capitols) is so important. Can you share something about that lesson?

JoAnne: Early in the development of Alliant there was a significant change to FTC regulations that created a substantial risk to the business. While we were able to respond to the necessary changes effectively, we vowed to take an offensive position and become active in DMA’s Government Affairs programs.

Since 2006 Alliant has sent frequent letters to NY State Representatives in support of DMA’s positions on pending regulator threats and we have encouraged clients to get involved as well. We have been members of DMA’s Ethics Policy Committee, and are active in DMA Days in DC, the DMA PAC, participated in industry panels, and, of course, the DMA Board of Directors. We truly believe that information is power — and information is a key benefit of active participation in the DMA advocacy programs.

Me: What are your priorities for the coming year as Chair?

JoAnne:  A key role for the Chairman of the DMA is to support you and the executive team as you operationalize the DMA’s strategic plan which calls for radical chances to programmatically meet the needs of today’s data-driven marketer.

Specifically, the personal contribution I hope to make is to serve as an ambassador to the DMA membership by focusing on strategies to strengthen and grow the partnership between the DMA and a rapidly evolving marketing community.

The good news is that I am not alone in this effort. The DMA Board of Directors is full of strong, articulate marketers and businesspeople who are executives in companies seeking to lead marketing forward in an increasing digital, data-driven environment. They all face the same challenges our members face. And they are trying to help the DMA become a stronger partner to the membership.

Me: What do you most need members to focus on or rally around in order to help us serve them best?

JoAnne:  My hope is that DMA Members will make the time to understand, at both management and operating levels, the key benefits DMA provides their companies: Advocacy, Education and Networking Events.

The primary reason Alliant chooses DMA Membership is advocacy. The DMA is the gold standard in government policy for marketers, regardless of channel. DMA has an established, highly regarded presence with lawmakers and they are constantly working on behalf of all members to assure that we can continue to advance responsible marketing. This is paramount to our business continuity and success.

In addition, Alliant takes advantage of DMA’s educational programs for our associates and continues to have solid new business development opportunities at DMA conferences. As you might guess, in my new role as board chair, I am now receiving a lot of feedback on the DMA’s value to members. I am delighted to report that the session content at DMA 2013 received rave reviews — and many of the exhibitors were pleased at the volume of hall traffic.

In his rock-solid DMA 2013 Keynote address, Terry Jones delivered a memorable quote, “If you don’t like change; you’ll like irrelevance even less.” DMA can help you navigate change and avoid becoming irrelevant!

Me: Will you share a little bit of personal insight, so members can meet a little of the “real JoAnne”?

JoAnne:  Well, there are two ways of answering that question. In business, the real JoAnne loves data, developing talent and coaching managers. She thinks that having mentors and being a mentor is the key to long term success.

Of course all that flows from my non-business life. The real JoAnne is passionate about family — and is occasionally accused of mothering other people’s children. Baking and entertaining is therapy. She also thinks you should celebrate your ‘Birthday MONTH’ – not just your Birthday.

In business, and in my personal life, it’s all about being engaged, and being of service. To me, that’s the foundation for all the other stuff.

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