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A December to Remember … looking back on 2009

by Graham Ruffels, president, Direct Marketing Association of Washington

Lexus may not of coined the phrase (here’s at least one reference I’ve found to Aaron Tippin

Either way, this past year taught me (or reminded me) of many things.

And I had the unique opportunity to experience them from the perspective of not only a marketing professional and business owner – seeing the economy, marketing and world around me rapidly change; but as President of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington – an organization with a past to celebrate and a need to change and grow for the future.

Here’s a few things that are top of mind:

Indulgence is only good in certain forms. Passion, yes. Brownies, no.

  • ROI has never been more in vogue.  Just a few short years ago, parents would gladly pay a few hundred dollars for a $30 Tickle Me Elmo for that short-term pay off. Today, extra dollars are likely to find their way into the college fund. As with parents, marketers require more transparency and measurement. Good ideas are everywhere. Measurable ones will continue to prevail.

Change, although difficult and uncomfortable, most often will challenge our behaviors to yield better results.

  • The term “Sales Rep” has taken on new meaning across organizations. With less time to develop business, the call for instant results is intense and most competitive.  Many of the new concepts are actually being generated everyday by those on the front lines.  Sales executives now fully participate in “ideation”, a valuable element of any sustainable business.

Winners usually win in any environment.

  • There are pockets of success everywhere you turn. Some of those were evident at Bridge Conference this year.  In the most economically challenging time that we have had since the Great Depression, our Bridge Conference thrived in education, attendance and spirit.  Those that came, entered and left with fierce determination to better their organization and themselves.  Few excuses were discussed.  These winners, know they need to win.

Give out more than what you take and good things will happen.

  • This is a personal note that my experience has been that when I invest in people and relationships, they have always proven to return more than what I thought possible.  In this past year, I was blessed with a capable, thoughtful board.  Much more than what the figures reflect at the end of the year, I was left with learning from their leadership and perseverance in less than ideal circumstances.

Things do get better even when they seem that they never will because life, like the economy, has cycles.

  • There is no anecdotal story to be told.  This concept just needs to be shared to remind some of us that things always turn around.

There is no crystal ball for 2010. When it comes to the economy, I’ve seen people point to everything from TARP paybacksholiday sales and RV sales (really, RV sales).

Either way, I’m looking forward to reflecting on continued progress and change for our industry and association.


Graham Ruffels is the President of Victory DM and current President of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington. Contact Graham at, or 215-272-5600.