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The Must Read on Do-Not-Mail for Direct Marketers

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by Keith Goodman

At first glance the Do-Not-Mail registry bill addressed in the Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee last month can cause quite a scare for direct mail marketers whose success is dependent on mailings. However, a closer look should ease marketers’ fears about the legislation causing lower response rates and impairing business.

The legislation to create state-run do no mail registries has been introduced in 12 states including Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Texas and Washington, and aims to regulate direct mail by imposing fines up to $2,000 per each mailing violation for individuals complaining of junk mail. If the bill passes, the affected states will need to maintain a database to allow their respective residents to opt out of receiving direct mail.

While the proposed registry will inevitably limit the number of potential direct mail recipients, it will simultaneously assist marketers by eliminating those people that are less likely to respond. As any successful direct marketer knows, the key to executing effective direct marketing campaigns is targeting the appropriate audience. Industry standards deem that 40 percent or more of direct mail’s success is based on getting the mail piece into the proper hands (Ed Mayer).

The Do-Not-Mail bill will help marketers ensure that individuals are receiving the information they ask for rather than advertisements and offers they’re uninterested in reviewing. In this way, the legislation also assists to boost response rates by increasing the relevancy of the message and likelihood it will reach the appropriate audience. Do-Not-Mail could therefore be seen as money-saver, provided direct mail marketers avoid costly violations that can become devastating when repeated.

In order to avert infractions, direct mail marketers are advised to use advanced services and lists that are clean with complete and accurate information as well as additional fields that can be used to drive variable elements. Taking extra steps will be essential to executing extremely targeted mailings, reaching only appropriate niche audience members rather than mass mailing to large, generic groups or mistakenly including the wrong individuals on lists meant to be targeted.

If marketers haven’t already, implementing the latest direct mail technologies, such as Variable Data Printing (VDP), will further personalize pieces so recipients are more receptive to mailed advertising. Based on the level of personalization and corresponding message relevancy, it’s been proven that response rates for direct mailings that utilize VDP are more than 500 percent higher than direct mailings not utilizing this technology (Romano & Broudy). Not only will this boost marketers’ return on investment (ROI), it will ensure that appropriate consumers are not opting out of mail pieces meant specifically for them as a result of poor targeting practices by direct marketers.

But what about the reaction from consumers themselves? After CAN-SPAM and Do-Not-Call, you could assume that there will be overwhelming pressure for the whole country to adopt a more limiting legislation for Direct Mail. On the contrary, it’s been proven that people are actually very receptive to direct mail, provided individuals are not overloaded with the wrong type of mail. According to the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail is still the most preferable way of receiving marketing, which is likely why it’s also the most effective marketing method. Furthermore, while the Do-Not-Mail registry is similar in concept to the Do-Not-Call list used to regulate telemarketing, the difference is the intrusion factor. Individuals can’t control when someone calls but they’re able to personally manage when they look at their mail and what offers they can relate to and find interesting. And mailing costs prevent pervasive marketing abuse, such has evolved with spam emails.

Therefore, while the Do-Not-Mail registry might at first appeal to consumers, many people will likely change their mind and eventually remove them from the list. In the meantime, it’s in the hands of the direct mail marketing community to work towards stemming future legislation that may impede the industry by creating more relevant mail rather than just more mail. This way, consumers will receive a higher percentage of mail that is pertinent to their needs and interests, and they’ll be less likely to opt out – a win-win situation for direct mail marketers and consumers alike.