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Oct 15, 2003
Best Practice

Hard-hitting Advice for Marketers on How to Handle Do Not Call

SUMMARY: Should you call consumers who haven't joined the Do Not Call Registry yet? Should you transition your telemarketing budget frantically over to direct postal mail? And, what on earth should you be doing to upgrade your marketing database now that DNC is here?

Here's some useful 'best practices' advice from one of the foremost marketers handling DNC today. Warning: some of this advice may startle you...
As of October 1st, the new US Do Not Call Registry swung into effect. Plus, now the Canadian government is considering a similar measure.

We asked the head of database marketing for a very large
financial services firm for his input on how to handle Do Not Call. He had some great advice, but requested anonymity for this interview. (So you'll see him referred to as "he" throughout.)

His main takeaway: just because 80 million households have not yet signed up for Do Not Call does *not* mean they want to receive telemarketing calls.

He says, "I heard a marketer being interviewed on NPR, and he made an astonishing comment, 'What's really great about the Do Not Call list is this will allow us to focus our efforts on people who really want to be telemarketed to.

"I was driving down the road yelling, 'Are you crazy? No one wants to be telemarketed to.'"

Now, he worries those 80 million households are about to
be inundated with calls, and telemarketing response rates will drop ever lower while the Do Not Call list continues to gain ground.

What are Best Practices for the new Do Not Call era?:

-> No calls (even if legally allowed) to those on the list

First issue a stringent Do Not Call (DNC) restriction: if a consumer has put their name on the DNC list, you should not call them for any reason.

He advises this is a Best Practice that he thinks should
be followed even when you're in a situation not specifically covered by Do Not Call regulations. So even if you're legally allowed to call a consumer, it doesn't mean you should.

"I hear companies saying, 'Well, we have an existing relationship with a customer, so we have the legal right to continue that relationship,'" he says. "I think those companies are in serious denial; the consuming public is sick of this stuff."

"I take a non-conformist perspective," he admits.

"My view of their world is that if people are willing to go to the effort to get themselves on the list, they don't want to be messed with by anybody. Consumers are saying, 'Leave me alone in my house.'"

And, they're probably not thrilled to hear that since you're an in-state business or a politician, the Do Not Call list doesn't cover your call. They just don't want to be called at all.

-> Don't just blindly switch to DM

Unfortunately average postal DM response rates have dropped so much over the past few years, that most marketers can't afford to take their outbound telemarketing budget and plunk it into the mail.

"Postage rates are not going down and neither are printing
rates," he says. "The only thing going down are response
rates. And how many companies can afford to send a billion pieces a year?"

Yes email is considerably cheaper, but marketers risk being blacklisted and filtered if they mail without permission.

-> Ask for permission for every channel (not just email)

Instead of continuing to reach out through any channel you
can, he suggests you ask consumers to give you their
communication preferences.

"Companies need to go strongly toward permission as a premise for managing customer dialogue. I wouldn't go at it from 'Do you want us to contact you, yes or no?'" he says. "I would give them the three vehicles to choose from: a line that says direct [postal] mail, is that ok?, same with telemarketing, same with email."

"Then begin to build yourself a list of people who have
explicitly given you permission."

Hopefully the list will not only outperform other tactics, but will also eliminate a significant amount of marketing 'wastage' so it costs you less in the long run.

"The only way is permission marketing. It's right on the money. I don't see any alternative. The short of it is, it sounds gloomy. But I'm not gloomy."

-> How do you get that permission in the first place?

He advocates using four vehicles in a row, from cheapest to most expensive:

#1. Email a permission request to everyone whose email address you already have in your system.

(Note: just because you have a customer or prospect's email in your database, doesn't mean you have accompanying permission to use it. Without explicit permission you can be blacklisted, filtered, and/or lose accounts.)

#2. Ask all inbound callers and new customers to give permission for their favored communications channels. "I ought to be able to get preference at [account] initiation."

#3. Add features to your Web site to convince more visitors to sign up for their choice of communications.

#4. Invest in a postal DM campaign with a series of checkboxes that consumers can use to choose their preferences and return to you.

-> Once you get permission, donít barrage them

"Having permission doesn't mean 10 sales messages per day," he notes. Keep in mind that consumers will withdraw their favor as quickly as they give it to you.

"We don't want to abuse email. You have to strike a balance."

The best way to start is by creating a cross-media calendar showing all campaigns going out in all channels, so you're aware of what each consumer is receiving from you at any point in time.

Another way is to enhance your marketing database so you can count and limit the number of touches any one name gets from your company per week or month.

Plus, he reminds everyone, "Those people out there are not alien creatures. You have to temper your desire to sell to consumers with giving them something of value. Are you meeting actual needs, or are you just trying to push product? The value proposition of getting a happy customer is infinitely greater.

-> Permission requires a better database

He notes that it's one thing to say "get permission in every media" and another thing to have a database ready to handle it.

Ultimately you'll need "an integrated solution, a consolidated infrastructure that allows us to manage information on a real-time basis to make sure we're not running afoul of customer preference."

Companies that have complex existing databases may have the
hardest job integrating formerly silo-ed systems. But, at least it's great news for database marketing job security, "when you have a challenge associated with doing stuff like this, it's a positive."

Do Not Call Registry:
See Also:

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