Drivers who slow and gawk at accidents will understand my instinct regarding the National Do Not Call Registry. I’ve got a pretty good idea there’s an impending pileup, and I’ve staked out a vantage point, packed some sandwiches and potato salad, and am waiting for the show to start.
The hell of it is, this wreck is avoidable. There’s even an opportunity for the direct marketing community hidden within it.
Here’s the opportunity: In June 2008 the first telephone numbers registered on the do-not-call list will hit a five-year limit and will need to be re-registered. The five-year limit was included in the program to acknowledge that people move, or merely change numbers. Without this stipulation, eventually all numbers would be registered whether new owners wanted them on the list or not.
Direct marketers have a chance to be the good guys on this one, by simultaneously alerting consumers that re-registration is necessary and convincing them that they’ll be losing out by signing up again, either in terms of advantageous pricing or by having a chance to be the first on their block to buy whatever is being offered.
And here’s the coming car wreck: The industry is making feeble efforts, if any at all, to get out in front of the news. In contrast, anti-telemarketing stories already have begun to run in the non-business media. Worse, lawmakers are taking advantage of the opportunity to re-examine the original do-not-call laws. If legislative efforts such as The Do Not Call Improvement Act of 2007 are any indication, these folks do not have DMers’ best interests at heart.
That bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) last month, would make any number on the list permanently off-limits. Of course, political phone calls would continue to be excluded from do-not-call provisions. Free speech arguments aside, politicians are well aware of telemarketing’s effectiveness.
If the original do-not-call laws are going to be re-examined, direct marketers have yet another opportunity: to ask for a radical change in how the list operates. Specifically, the structure could be changed from a blanket opt-out to an opt-out-by-sector model. This would allow enrollees to reject calls from, say, aluminum siding salespeople while keeping solicitations from cultural institutions coming. Or vice versa.
The argument that consumers won’t be able to cope with a laundry list of choices is a specious one: They’re faced with a much wider variety of options when picking out a new car, and yet somehow the highways are clogged.
And car wrecks continue to happen. It would be nice if DMers could avoid one they know is coming.
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