Commentary

The Importance of Planning For Sept. 1, 2009

In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) adopted an amended Telemarketer Sales Rule (TSR) citing consumer protection against unwanted marketing communications.  As of December 1, 2008, prerecorded sales calls must provide an easy opt-out feature.  More significantly, beginning September 1, 2009, automated sales communications can be delivered only to those recipients who have provided their "express written consent" to receive them.  Having an existing business relationship (EBR) will no longer be sufficient approval for organizations to attempt to sell goods or services via an automated, prerecorded message.   

The amended TSR rule is a game changer that offers organizations a strategic opportunity to impact long term success by enabling more targeted, effective marketing. Organizations need to act quickly to meet the deadline and maximize the percentage of consumers that they will be able to reach legally and cost-effectively.  

Companies establish a brand impression with their customers -- the better and stronger the brand impression, generally the more profitable the relationship.  Customer communications plays a major role in forming that brand impression.  Yet how many organizations really know how each of its customers prefers to be communicated with?  And under what circumstances?

For example, would customers want to learn about a special sale you are running via email, voice or text message, or direct mail-or maybe a combination? How would your customers want to hear about special offers just for loyalty/reward program members?

Consumers have their own communication preferences.  Some want to receive emails, others voice messages, others text messages, and others would prefer to be called on their cell phones.  Many would prefer to receive communications through a combination of channels. It is important to ask consumers directly how they want to be communicated with so you can develop a communication strategy that encompasses their preferences.

Communications are all about getting consumers to act.  If you know in advance what their preferences are, you will be in a much better position to have your communications "breakthrough" and be acted upon.  This will mean more market share, more revenue, more profit.  

As an organization determines the individual communication preferences of its consumers, it can then secure express written consent from these consumers (i.e. their permission.)  As a result, organizations will be well-positioned to deliver relevant information to consumers who have expressed an interest in their goods or services.  

Seize this opportunity and create a formal Consumer Communication Preference & Opt-in Program.  The September 1, 2009 deadline creates an urgency to do so.  The value of understanding consumer preferences should create a strategic drive to do so.  

Organizations should ask themselves:

  •     Do you have contact information for your customers and prospects? Is this complete and updated - for Mobile phones? Emails?  Landlines?  How do you keep it updated?

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  •     Do you understand your consumers' communications preferences? Do these vary by the situation?  Service Reminder vs. Special Sale Offering vs. Loyalty Program Update vs. Fraud Notification?  

     

     

  •     How do you track and update your consumers' evolving communications preferences?   

     

     

  •     Can your entire organization access your consumers' communications preferences?

     

  •    What's your organization's plan to handle the September 1, 2009 Telemarketing rule changes?  

     

    Those that act swiftly and with purpose in creating a formal Customer Communication Preference & Opt-In Program will have a head start in building a targeted, qualified list of customers who want to hear from you and will welcome your communications.  After all, it's all about customer choice, so why not deliver your communications to those who want to receive them -- how they want to receive them.  

     

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