Check Marketer Prizes Privacy Over List Revenue

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It has been more than a year since check and address label direct marketer Checks in the Mail took its customer file off the list rental market, and the company has not regretted its decision for a minute.

"It's what our customers want us to do," said Alan Westfall, president/CEO of Checks in the Mail Inc., New Braunfels, TX. "Our customers and associates are the most important part of our business."

The company made the decision after conducting several surveys of new and reorder customers in spring 2002.

"Over 80 percent responded that doing business with a company who protected the privacy of their personal information was important or very important to them," said Cheryl McDougald, executive director of marketing at Checks in the Mail. "We determined that discontinuing the renting of our customers' personal information and protecting their privacy was the decision to make."

The company removed its list from the market in June 2002 and introduced its Privacy Guarantee in September 2002. According to the guarantee, Checks in the Mail uses the personal information of its customers only to fulfill their orders. It says in part, "Our commitment is to never sell, rent or share your personal information for other direct mail or telemarketing purposes."

The company even has agreements with its service providers to mandate that they maintain the confidentiality of its customers' data.

Though McDougald described the revenue the firm previously derived from list rental as "significant financial benefit," she said, "We have never regretted not renting our customer list. The No. 1 benefit of this decision is the trust that our customers place in us. Enhanced customer trust can translate into increasing customer loyalty and reduced churn."

McDougald said that ceasing to rent its list helped the firm increase customer confidence and boost customer acquisition.

"We believe that this trend will continue as more consumers concerned about the protection of their personal information decide to order from Checks in the Mail," she said.

To promote that outcome, the company will continue its awareness campaign focused on the Privacy Guarantee, she said.

As evidence of the goodwill created by its privacy policy, McDougald cited some responses that Checks in the Mail received to its customer satisfaction survey.

One customer said, "I'll order from CITM because of the Privacy Policy, good dollar value and good service."

Another stated, "I'll order from CITM because of the good variety of designs, price, and the Privacy Policy."

As for its own prospecting, the company markets its products mainly through free-standing inserts, cooperative mailers and select magazines. However, it occasionally rents lists through a list broker for prospecting but mostly for its business-to-business division.

Still, the company said the benefits of not renting out its list have outweighed the loss of revenue.


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