Comply or face regulation, says DMA chairman Wilhelm

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NEW YORK - Direct marketers should abide by Direct Marketing Association guidelines to avoid regulation that could affect business, said the new chairman Marcus Wilhelm.

Mr. Wilhelm, who is also CEO of Bookspan, told list professionals at a luncheon last week that it is important to keep regulators out because they tend to exaggerate things.

"Take control and raise the bar," Mr. Wilhelm said. "Show substantial compliance so that the government has no reason to step in and regulate us all out of business."

Earning the trust of consumers, regulators and legislators is key to keeping the industry in a composed and unruffled state, he said.

Mr. Wilhelm also spoke about the recent postal rate case and how the DMA has taken an active role in advocating for marketers and their best interests.

"Going forward, we must work together with the postal service," he said. "We need to compromise. The post office has the best of intentions."

Mr. Wilhelm tagged the present time as the "age of super-relevance." He said there has never been a time in the history of direct marketing where marketers have so many options to relevantly target consumers.

In fact, new technology allows marketers to be extra relevant.

Those marketers who are unwilling to be innovative will be left behind in the dust, Mr. Wilhelm said. It is important to always have the best interests of the consumer in mind.

"Be pragmatic," he said. "We are not just marketers and business people. At the end of the day, we are all consumers."

Commenting on the do-not-call law that was passed a few years ago, Mr. Wilhelm warned the attendees of a possible do-not-mail law. Many states have introduced possible legislation calling for do-not-mail registries.

If such bills go into effect, the list industry may face severe repercussions, he said. To avoid such legislation, marketers must keep consumers happy.

"Do-not-mail laws could have a devastating impact on this industry," Mr. Wilhelm said.

Another important challenge marketers and list professionals face, according to Mr. Wilhelm, is ensuring that data does not get into the hands of the wrong people.

"This industry is not just about sales," he said. "If you don't have the data, there will be nothing to sell."

Not just that, consumers will be less willing to give information that helps build lists if they are not positive that their data is secure.

Finally, Mr. Wilhelm said it is important to nurture new talent within the industry.

"It is important to recruit new, young people," he said. "We need them to keep our business going in the future."

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