Self-Regulate or Die
By David Kanter, CEO, AccuList
Imagine a world in which no transactional data can
be rented or shared unless customers have given
express, written consent. Sound crazy? Well, it
Last year, over a dozen states considered bills to
restrict unsolicited mail and various forms of
information sharing. And the Direct Marketing
Association is expecting roughly twice that number
to mull the issue this year.
Your list management income and business will be in
jeopardy if even one of these bills becomes law.
Don’t believe me? Ask your accountant or list
Renting names to pre-screened third parties is a
profitable endeavor. Your revenue and company value
will decline if this is curtailed or banned.
And how about those cooperative databases? Now would
be a good time to ask the co-ops how they intend to
serve you if data sharing regulations are enacted.
Consumer catalog companies and retailers are at
particular risk if the prevailing political winds
blow the wrong direction.
But don’t panic. You can self-regulate right now.
There’s still time to ask your customers’ permission
to rent their names or put them in a cooperative
Don’t be surprised if most choose to opt in, as one
of our high-profile catalog clients discovered over
10 years ago. That firm asked permission via
First-Class Mail®, before considering a change in
their “we will never rent, sell, or share your name”
Above all, give consumers control over how their
transactional information may be used. They’re more
likely to let you share this data with affiliates or
outside companies if you have delivered value.
And ask consumers to opt in for all channels, not
just the online ones. Opt-in names command a premium
on the rental market.
Have you ever wondered about companies that claim
they will never sell or share customer information?
That promise defies credibility.
Consumers know a lot of data sharing goes on, with
and without their knowledge. What happens to the
customer list when a business is sold? It’s best to
tell them before they ask.
A handful of visionary catalog and financial service
companies have pursued consumer-friendly privacy
practices for years—long before the government and
privacy advocates got on the case.
The ultimate sanction when a breach of trust occurs
is “loss of consortium.” It’s hard enough to replace
unhappy customers who leave. But how do you undo the
damage created when they tell others about their
The DMA has long championed self-regulation. But
most direct marketers are not members of the DMA,
and are therefore not subject to its guidelines.
The DMA needs to recruit new members to help support
its mission to keep direct marketing and data
sharing lawful in all 50 states.
The bottom line is this: If you fail to regulate
yourself, the government will do it for you.
Reprinted from Multichannel Merchant Magazine's List
and Data Strategies Jan. 14, 2008 newsletter. David
Kanter is CEO of AccuList. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.