Live from NEDMA: Prior Consent Makes a Difference

(Direct Newsline) Burlington, MA–Marketers looking to increase response rates should consider allowing consumers to opt in not only for e-mail but direct mail as well.

In his keynote address at the New England Direct Marketing Association conference here yesterday, Ernan Roman, president of Ernan Roman Direct Marketing, noted that IBM saw an 80% increase in sales over the control group, a 75% decrease in marketing waste, and an 841% increase in qualified response for a consensual marketing program it tested. The program allowed customers to create a customized “calendar of communications” and update their profile at any time, letting IBM know what products and divisions they would like to receive information about.

“Give people a choice,” Roman said, noting that marketers need to remember many people still prefer paper direct mail over e-mail, because they’re getting so deluged with spam. This is particularly true in the high-tech sector, he added.

Of course, marketers still need to take care that their data is clean, whether the campaign is consensual or not. As an example, he offered a recent letter he received from American Express. The letter reversed his first and last name and gave him a middle initial he never had before, addressing him as Mr. Roman D. Ernan. It also oddly included a bar code on the letter inside the envelope. “How does that help?” wondered Roman.

Most egregiously, the letter invited Roman to become an Amex card member. “What happened to the last 35 years I’ve been an Amex card member?” he said.

Verizon sent him a very touching letter post-Sept. 11. The only problem was that it was in Spanish, a language Roman doesn’t read. And AARP didn’t fare any better, sending an invitation to join the association to “Mr. Elias Roman,” Ernan Roman’s son, who just turned 18.

Mistakes like these do nothing to improve the image of direct marketing in the eyes of consumers, he said.

“Forget relationship marketing,” said Roman. “This is kindergarten. I thought we knew how to do this stuff.”

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