DM's New Mantra: Your Name Won't Be Given

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"Your name has not been given to any third party. You are receiving this message because you have chosen to opt in to the . . . "


This header is thankfully beginning to appear on many more e-mail mailings than previously has been the case. If we simply remember to keep the consumer's needs in mind, our industry may survive. I've always taken the position that what was good for the consumer, was also good for direct marketers; and a vigorous economy means more consumer spending, which has always been good for direct marketers.


To go even further, a large Democratic victory usually is good for the economy and, therefore, also good for direct marketers. (I know I'll get flack on that statement). But, what is not good for direct marketers is letting data rule our decisions. Not all data is marketing information. I'm not the first person to say that, but I did first say it in a direct marketing forum back in the mid-80s.


Today, however, the issues surrounding the usage of information are not as clear. In the past, the concerns were over the use of credit information that banks passed to their clearinghouses, such as TRW (from the past). These clearinghouses mistakeningly felt that the information collected was owned by them - it was not. Eventually, the clearinghouses backed down and withdrew these files from the market.


It would be thought of as absolutely wrong for that type of data to be presented in today's atmosphere. Now, we have a crowd of what I call "Newbies" that are marketing data to the direct marketing community. They not only have data, but they have money. Many are fresh from the Internet IPO mega-buck wars - and they've been victorious. We see many of these companies advertising their tantalizingly BIG databases with many varied selects - great stuff. Wrong, it could kill off the entire e-mail market and legislate all of us out of existence.


The consumer (remember I started with that) needs to know which company he or she opted in to, not this generic BIG list conglomeration. Unfortunately, for many of the newbies, not having the BIG multimillion name list will ruin a business plan or two. But, not every newcomer has this condition, NetCreations continues to be a bright light among this group. Many direct marketers will say that it's just like postal direct and, therefore, identification is not necessary. It's both not true and, frankly, too late for that position. When an e-mail comes to your computer, it can contain a virus. You have the right to know what organization has sent it - otherwise you'll delete it, and that serves no one except the transmission house. Secondly, privacy has become a war cry for every politician, Democrats or Republicans, or even those who were Democrats and became Republicans (does the name Shelby ring any bells or car horns?).


We are going to play in a new medium through our very successful channel - direct marketing. So, let's be shrewd on how we play the game, and not fall into potholes or follow those who haven't been to bat.


Roy Schwedelson is CEO at Worldata Inc. and co-founder of WebConnect, both in Boca Raton, FL. His e-mail address is roy@worldata.com.
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