Think Like a Consumer to Protect the List Industry

With more legislation to protect consumers from potential fraud being drafted at the state and federal levels, list owners and professionals need to be more cautious before accepting work from direct marketers. In addition to helping direct marketers find the right people to send offers to, list brokers and managers should also look out for signs of trouble.

According to Chicca D’Agostino, president of Hackensack, NJ-based list management firm Focus USA, that means the information direct marketers include in their copy is as important as what they don’t put in their copy.

“The consumer does not understand what target marketing is all about, so you need to put your consumer hat on when you’re deciding to work with a direct marketer,” D’Agostino said during a session this month at DMA’s Directo Days in New York. “The marketer should not reveal information it knows about the consumer in its direct offering, because it will raise a red flag for the consumer.”

D’Agostino said the wisest thing for list managers to do is inspect the direct mailer’s piece for red flags and gray areas before agreeing to rent out the names to the mailer. The red flags would be any sort of e-mail subject line or print headline that offers a promise that can be considered too good to be true. The gray areas would be anything that could possibly reveal personal information about the person the piece is being sent to.

Examples of the former, which D’Agostino said have all been used in questionable mailings in the past, include:

  • Eat as much as you like
  • Proven to provide immediate results!
  • “Free” hotel with purchase of airline tickets
  • No credit? No income? No problem!
  • You are preapproved
  • Because you are credit worthy

Examples of gray areas D’Agostino pointed out included:

  • sensitive data such as ethnicity, age, income, ailments, and information related to children living in the household
  • public record information
  • mortgage information

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