Permission Marketing: A Response to Do-Not-Call
By Roger W. Risley
today’s marketer use permission marketing to reopen the door to
consumers who have registered their telephone numbers on the Federal
Trade Commission’s (FTC) National Do-Not-Call (DNC) Registry?
Perhaps we should start by defining permission marketing.
The American Heritage® Dictionary
defines permission as the act of
permitting or consent, especially formal consent; authorization.
the genesis of permission marketing came when Seth Godin, founder of
Yoyodyne, the first company to create on-line promotions and
direct-mail campaigns, coined the phrase “permission marketing” in
1999. Godin envisioned consumers
providing marketers with permission to send them certain types of
promotional messages. He
saw this as being a way to reduce clutter for the consumer while
improving targeting precision for marketers.
couldn’t have foreseen was how the concept of permission marketing
could be used to re-open the door to consumers who had placed their
phone numbers on the FTC’s National DNC Registry.
So, our definition of permission marketing is thus expanded to
be marketing centered on obtaining customer
consent to receive a phone call (or an e-mail, fax, or text message)
from a company.
Defining the Problem: Consumer response to the FTC’s amending of
The Telephone Sales Rule (TSR) and the implementation of the National
DNC Registry in 2003 was overwhelming.
Since its implementation, consumers have placed more than
ninety-two (92) million phone numbers on the registry.
Sure, one might question the integrity of the data, as it
contains the phone numbers of small and home-based businesses, cell
phones, and disconnected numbers.
However, if you’re a responsible marketer, then you can’t
argue with the fact that the American consumer was just itching for a
way to stop telemarketers from bothering them at home.
to a 2003 Direct Marketing Association Telemarketing Survey:
32% of American adults made a purchase via an outbound
The average purchase was $135
In total more than $9 billion was spent
to the DMA’s 2004 Response Rate Report, telemarketing has the
highest response rate, return on investment, and revenue generated per
contact of the twelve direct marketing disciplines included in the
study. There’s no doubt
that telemarketing works, yet more companies than ever are
uncomfortable continuing to utilize it to market their products and
services due to the National and State DNC Registries.
there been such an overwhelming response to the National DNC Registry
and State DNC Registries? Why
is there a perception that consumers only get called at dinner time?
(I’ve always found this interesting because, in a very
unscientific survey I’ve conducted countless times among friends and
colleagues, none of them eat dinner at the same time.)
Certainly part of the backlash can be attributed to the
overwhelming number of calls consumers receive.
When I worked for a large direct marketing company in the
1980s, it was determined that one of our large bank clients was
calling its credit card customers once every seven days to sell them a
variety of products that had nothing to do with their credit cards.
Yet, this same bank couldn’t understand why these customers
were unresponsive and, in some cases, angry every time they received a
call on behalf of this institution.
This is the “carpet bombing” telemarketing technique.
The thinking is to take a list, put it on a dialer and call and
call and call. It is this
approach that has, in part, led
to the overwhelming consumer response to the National and State DNC
Introducing a Solution: So how can permission
marketing enable smart marketers to once again use the telephone as an
effective sales channel? The
FTC’s National DNC regulations currently allow a marketer to
continue calling a consumer under their Existing Business Relationship
(EBR) exemptions. These
EBR exemptions are defined by the FTC as:
company with which a consumer has an established business relationship
may call for up to 18 months after the consumer’s last purchase or
last delivery, or last payment, unless the consumer asks the company
not to call again. In that
case, the company must honor the request not to call.
If the company calls again, it may be subject to a fine of up
a consumer makes an inquiry or submits an application to a company,
the company can call for three months.
Once again, if the consumer makes a specific request to that
company not to call, the company may not call, even if it has an
established business relationship with the consumer.
consumer whose number is not on the national registry can still
prohibit individual telemarketers from calling by asking to be put on
the company’s own do not call list.”
what do you do if the consumer you want to call falls outside of the
EBR definition and they’re on the National DNC Registry?
The FTC’s TSR has an additional exemption they’ve
identified as “The Written Permission to Call Exemption.”
This exemption states:
TSR allows sellers and telemarketers to call any consumer who gives
his or her express agreement to receive calls; even if the
consumer’s number is in the National Do Not Call Registry.
The consumer must give express agreement in writing to receive
calls placed by – or on behalf of – the seller, including the
number to which calls may be made, and the consumer’s signature.
signature may be a valid electronic signature, if the agreement is
seller seeks a consumer’s permission to call, the request must be
clear and conspicuous, and the consumer’s assent must be
affirmative. If the
request is made in writing, it cannot be hidden; printed in small,
pale, or non-contrasting type; hidden on the back or bottom of the
document; or buried in unrelated information where a person would not
expect to find such a request. A
consumer must provide consent affirmatively, such as by checking a
box. For example, a
consumer responding to an email request for permission to call would
not be deemed to have provided such permission if the ’Please call
me’ button was pre-checked as a default.”
written consent: So how do you go about securing this “written
consent?” This is where
a marketer can leverage permission marketing.
Utilizing more traditional direct marketing channels, such as
mail, post card mailings, take ones, or business reply cards, a
marketer can simply asks the consumer for permission to call them.
As effective marketers, we know that the response to any of
these methods could be questionable.
What if we could “spice up” a traditional mail piece to
make it more exciting, providing the consumer with an incentive to
respond with their permission to call them?
The mailing would have to be highly targeted.
It would have to contain an offer that was not available
elsewhere. And, it would
have to be unique.
Picture this: a large auto insurer knows that
consumers have an opportunity to change their auto insurance provider
every six months. They
want to target consumers on the National DNC to ask their permission
to call them every six months to see if they’d like to switch auto
insurance carriers. The
mail piece would contain a compact disc, on which would be some unique
content that would appeal to the target audience – for example, the
forms a consumer would need if they were to get into an accident.
Or perhaps an atlas of the United States, maps and information on National parks.
The idea is to have content that would be interesting or of use
to the consumer so that, upon receipt, they’d place the CD-ROM in
Once the CD-ROM is inserted into the computer,
the disc auto loads. In
order to “unlock” the content, the prospect would be lead through
a process where it is clearly
explained that the insurance company would like to call them a limited
number of times per year to check on their auto insurance needs.
The prospect would answer specific questions that, when
answered, would constitute their electronic signature.
This information would be kept on a secure database.
The contents on the disc would be available to the consumer,
whether or not they gave their permission for future calls.
If permission was obtained, even though this person is on the
National or any State DNC Registry, this specific auto insurance
company would be able to call them.
A marketer could even use this concept to increase activity to
a web site and/or make a sale on the spot.
This concept of permission marketing could be
used by any company that has reduced or eliminated their use of
telemarketing as an effective sales channel due to the National DNC
Registry. Just think of
it. A company could ask
the consumer whether or not it could call them.
The marketer could even ask what specific days and times the
prospect would prefer to be contacted.
A consumer that opts in to a call is certainly more likely to
respond to future offers from a company that practices permission
marketing. And, they’re
likely to be a more long term customer with a higher lifetime value.
What more could you ask for?
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