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.