Robert J. Posch Jr. is passionate about direct mail.
That's a good thing, since he deals with it on a daily basis as a direct marketing attorney and senior vice president of legal, government and postal affairs and chief compliance officer/secretary at Bookspan.
“We are the locomotive that drives the postal train,” he said while visiting the DM News offices last month. “All other mail comes from Standard mail, such as parcels, magazines and everything else.”
Most recently, Posch worked on the first proposed negotiated service agreement involving Standard mail between the U.S. Postal Service and Bookspan, Garden City, NY, a direct marketer of general interest and specialty book clubs. NSAs offer customized pricing incentives based on the company's mail operations.
Posch's latest crusade, however, is an attempt to mobilize the industry to stop passage of do-not-mail bills pending in New York, Massachusetts and Missouri. Hawaii also has a concurrent resolution urging Congress to enact do not mail.
A proactive stance is needed over a reactive one, said Posch, who started as assistant counsel at Doubleday 30 years ago today. Given the restrictions placed on sweepstakes and telemarketing, Posch doesn't want the same things to happen with direct mail.
“The ratepayer is going to pay dramatically if there is a do-not-mail [law],” said Posch, who has written five books, including “The Complete Guide to Marketing and the Law.” “The industry has to have prepositioned, discernible arguments. Even if there is no threat, let's say why we are valuable to America. When the industry mobilizes, we win.”
A historian of the Revolutionary War and Civil War, Posch used military imagery to illustrate his points. He referenced Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to describe how direct marketers should be organized in their battle against these bills.
“Grant never lost a battle, but on the first day he was always losing,” Posch said. “You can win by simply refusing to accept defeat.”
He also said that when Paul Revere saw the threat of the British, he made sure the Minutemen were at the ready.
“They can act in a minute because they were prepositioned,” Posch said.
Posch has begun mobilizing troops for his effort. He contacted the National League of Postmasters, and postmasters are writing state legislators in their districts about the bills. He also contacted the Alliance of Independent Store Owners and Professionals, whose members are doing the same.
The industry needs a strategy for victory against its opponents, Posch said, including environmentalists who say direct mail harms the environment. One suggestion he offered is that DMers refer to themselves as employers, rather than as businesses, when they lobby.
“When you argue employers, you win,” he said. “We in the DMA are not a business. We are an employer. We employ 9 million people. When you argue business, you are abstract. This is how we can change the debate when others say that we are a threat.”
Posch also said the Direct Marketing Association must show stronger support to stop these do-not-mail bills.
“A trade association's value is diminished if in the end it doesn't defend the right of its clients to do business,” he said, suggesting that the DMA conduct a seminar at its fall conference discussing these issues. “They could be saying, 'Here are our top three threats. Here is what it would cost you to your bottom line.'”
But he said the DMA has had its share of victories, particularly the Quill decision, referring to the fact that online and catalog businesses aren't required to collect sales tax in states where they have no physical presence. The 1992 Supreme Court ruling, Quill v. North Dakota, held that it would be too burdensome for businesses to collect and remit sales taxes for 7,600 state and local jurisdictions nationwide.
Mail won't go away, nor has it lost its effectiveness, Posch said. Just look at the last presidential election.
“What did [President] Bush and [John] Kerry use as the primary driver to dramatically increase their turnout? Mail,” he said. “We had a huge influx of mail, and once again we saw the power of Standard mail. It delivers your product. It delivers your vote.”
Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters