Dealing With the Legalities of Direct Mail

There are many regulations and laws that govern our day to day business activities. In additional to the laws and regulations there are also imposed ethical restrictions on our own behavior. When creating and implementing a direct mail advertising campaign, be sure that you are strictly adhere to all laws as well as ethical considerations. No business can afford to damage its good name through ignorance of the law or by any type of shady behavior.Both direct mail and telemarketing have been under scrutiny for the past several years. Few people want to be harassed by phone or through the mail at their own homes. It’s good that some limitations have been imposed to keep unsavory elements out of the industry. A few unethical practitioners have given honest direct mail companies a bad name and it’s better for all of us if they are kept out of business.In order to be absolutely certain that your company is setting the highest possible bar in regards to ethics and the law, be sure to consult your legal advisor about the laws in your state. Make this appointment in the earliest planning stages of your campaign. This site does not pretend to be an expert in legal matters so be sure you consult with someone who is. However, there are a few matters that we can speak to with limited authority in regards to following the law.Do some research.Just like there is a national “do not call” list for telemarketers, there is a similar “do not mail” list for direct mail companies. You can visit http://www.donotmail.org to learn more about this list.The Direct Marketing Association also keeps up with current legislations and proposals regarding “do not mail” on its site, http://www.the-dma.org. This organization has a responsibility center where companies can learn about privacy policies, identity theft, self-regulation and many other topics relating to the use of direct mail marketing.Do your homework when planning your campaign. Not knowing the law is no excuse, especially when there are so many resources available with just a simple Google search.Learn about postal regulations.It’s not just the legal ramifications that can entangle a direct mail campaign. Practical considerations can trip you up as well. Something as seemingly simple as putting postage on your marketing flyers can become complicated when you are sending a large quantity.The US Postal Service has many, many regulations regarding bulk mail. Using the US Postal Service’s bulk mail system can be a big money saver but it can also be pretty complicated. When you send your mailers through as bulk mail, you can get a much better rate on the postage. In return, you are essential doing the post office’s job for them and you must process it as they would. They publish a book with all of the regulations outlined and it can be overwhelming for the uninitiated.Consider hiring a pro.A professional direct mail company can help you get through many of these sticky situations. Many companies can check your mailing list against your state’s “do not mail” list. They can also navigate the complex postal system to get you the best rate on your mailer.

5 Tips for Better Direct Mail Marketing Ethics

With great power comes great responsibility. Just as you can reach many customers with direct mail marketing, so you must treat them respectfully. This means following a network of common-sense ethical guidelines and firmer laws and regulations that keep direct marketing honest and above board.
Be transparent. Don’t lie or obfuscate about who you are or what you’re selling. Share a real, physical street address as a return address. This ensures you can be contacted by the authorities if you have broken laws, and allows consumers to contact you for removal notices. Speaking of:
Let customers opt out. Some customers don’t want to hear from you, and that’s okay. They have the right not to receive your communications and you have a right to save your money and not send to them. If you have a request to be removed from the mailing list, take action within 30 days to stop mailings.
Follow the Do-Not-Mail List. Here’s where things get tricky. There is a national opt-out list curated by the DMA. This allows customers to opt out of certain categories of direct mail (for example, credit card offers) or “all” direct mail. Notice the quotation marks. This list only applies to unsolicited direct mail. In other words, if you’ve never had a business relationship with that person, you shouldn’t send to them if they’re on the list. However, if they’re a former customer, you’re still fine. However, some cautious marketers choose to cross-index even their customer list with the DMA list to ensure they don’t send to people who just aren’t interested. If you’re purchasing a list, make sure they’re removed people on the Do-Not-Mail List.
Be honest about how information will be used. Some companies keep customer data just to use it in-house. Others sell it or share it with strategic partners. That’s all well and good, as long as you’re honest about it. Have a privacy policy on your website and make sure you actually follow it. If you say you’re not going to share data, great. If you say you’ll share it but only with specific companies, say that. And if it’s a free-for-all, let people know.
Be a decent person. Basically, follow the golden rule. If you wouldn’t want someone marketing to you in a certain way, don’t do it to other people. You’ll be a better company, a better marketer and a better person for it.