New Day for Telemarketing
I knew it was just a matter of time before that strange summer cold virus making its way around the East Coast got hold of me. It claimed its first editor in the Inside Direct Mail offices in early June, and proceeded to jump cube walls one week at a time until it reached the end of the lineme. So I found myself marooned in my bed on the last Friday in June, sleeping off a fever and entertaining myself by watching reruns of "Bewitched" and "$25,000 Pyramid."
Around noon, I thought I'd check in with CNN's "Headline News" to see what was going on in the real world. Imagine my surprise to hear none other than President George W. Bush holding a press conference to kick-off the launch date of registration for the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) National Do Not Call Registry. (Actually, only online registration and phone registration for folks in the western half of the United States got started on June 27.)
You know, the first shoe has pretty much dropped when unwanted sales phone calls are the topic for a live press conference on the White House lawn. Who knows how long it will be before a National Do Not E-mail Registry gets passed, and how far behind will be a National Do Not Mail Registry? I think the saving grace for direct mailers is that the e-mail quagmire will be pretty impossible to straighten out, so you've got some time on your side.
I might get some raspberries for this, but I have to say that the Do Not Call requirements leave a lot of daylight for marketers who want to continue to use the phone in a targeted manner. The biggest opportunity going is the provision where consumers who sign up for the list still can provide their phone numbers to companies with whom they want to conduct business by phone. Translation: Direct marketers should make phone number collection from inquirers and customers a priority in all communications.
Further, an existing business relationship clause allows companies to call customers up to 18 months after the person's last purchase, delivery or payment. Sure, a year and a half means that expired customers have a shorter shelf-life for phone promotion. But I can't imagine too many businesses do well on converting lapsed customers past the two-year mark anyway. And for the time being, you've still got mail and e-mail.
Even inquiries provide you with a three-month window to get hopping and turn that request for information or that application for credit, a mortgage, membership, etc., into a sale.
As much as we'd like to think that we have a right to call up consumers out of the blue to present a sales pitch, I think it's crazy to ignore the sheer volume of animosity toward this practice. Case in point: The FTC reported that as of July 2, 15.3 million Americans had signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry. Eighty-eight percent of them used the online channel to do so, while only 12 percent chose the telephone. Doesn't that preference speak volumes?