By Hallie Mummert
Change is afoot, I'm reminded with almost every news story I read in the general press. A speech delivered by consultant Don Libey at a recent Direct Marketing Idea Exchange meeting further convinced me. While Libey is always histrionic when showcasing his ideas, he does not fail to leave his audience with food for thought. In fact, his talk brought perspective to a few events I had been trying to make sense of recently.
For one, there's the deal made by Wal-Mart, Target and Toys R Us with 38 states and the District of Columbia to charge sales tax on orders placed via their Web sites. It struck me as a sign that the states have gotten a taste for direct marketing blood after their success with individual Do-Not-Call lists, and are back for more.
Second, the bill proposed by a little known assemblyman to create a Do-Not-E-mail and Do-Not-Mail list for New York state raises concern that a feeding frenzy may start. But it's not privacy that is calling politicians into action. It's good old-fashioned money. As Libey pointed out in his speech, state and local governments are running out of money. With the federal budget not settled, states have yet to receive the funds promised by Bush to help them cover the costs of homeland security. The states need a new revenue stream.
But for direct marketers there's an upside. None of what the states are doing will help consumers. When taxes go up—and they will, says Libey—people will stop shopping. Many of those big box stores will not be able to afford their real estate, and will close the doors on poorly performing locales.
For the smart direct marketer, says Libey, here's the opportunity to swoop in with a local marketing plan. You've already got the fulfillment infrastructure; now you need to pinpoint your mailings to play up your ability to serve consumers' needs with reliable, to-the-door delivery.