Wilhelm: Compliance Will Fend Off Regulation

It’s the same message the Direct Marketing Association has often delivered to its List and Database Council membership, but one Markus Wilhelm says bears repeating.

If mailers do not comply with the DMA’s mailing guidelines, the industry will face further regulation.

To put it simply, if a consumer requests to be taken off a mailing list, make sure that mailer is removed. Otherwise, the headaches will begin.

Wilhelm, chairman of DMA and CEO of direct mailer Bookspan, said it takes just a few bad apples to do something that will annoy consumers, and that those prospects and customers are the ones that will blow the whistle to their representatives, who will draw up legislation that could hinder the direct marketing industry.

For example, last month, New Jersey became the most-recent state to propose do-not-mail legislation.

“The few isolated incidents [of unsolicited mail complaints] are not a reflection of the whole industry,” Wilhelm told council members attending a luncheon at The Harvard Club in New York on March 15. “But it only takes a few rotten apples to make the whole industry look bad.”

DMA president John Greco emphasized that since do-not-call legislation was passed in 2003, legislatures see do-not-mail bills as the next logical step in the pecking order. “Do-not-call was a big win for politicians,” Greco said. “And we did not shed enough light on what that bill would mean for consumers. Do-not-mail is the next logical step.”

Wilhelm said mailers have to think like consumers before sending out direct campaigns, and ask themselves if the mailing is something they would appreciate receiving. Moving forward, he added, the DMA has decided to take a consumer-focused approach.

“We need to get consumers on board with direct mail,” Wilhelm said. “Maybe we didn’t fight the [do-not-call] battle the right way. We thought about saving call center jobs instead of receiving unwanted calls during dinner time.”

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