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What, me worry? Some marketers in dark on regulations

Reservoir Partners is among the first to calculate the impact that Can Spam and "do not call" are having on marketers. Surprisingly, some aren't even aware of the regulations.

Amazingly, some marketers aren't worried about new regulations -- like the national "do not call" list and Can Spam law -- because they aren't even aware that a government crackdown is underway, according to a study due out next week.

In February, Cambridge, Mass.-based Reservoir Partners surveyed 100 marketers online. Forty-six percent of business-to-business (B2B) marketers hadn't heard of Can Spam and 26% of them weren't familiar with the national "do not call" registry.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers seem to have a greater sense of the laws. One in three hadn't heard of the national anti-spam measure and just 5% weren't aware of "do not call," according to the study.

Still, only 30% of B2C marketers and just 2% of B2B marketers said that they have downloaded the "do not call" registry. Overall, those that had found that 31% of their leads had signed up to have telemarketers stop calling them.

"[Generally] people are aware that the laws exist, but they're not in tune with what the legislation requires," said Glenn Gaudet, a partner at Reservoir Partners.

Despite increasing regulation, marketers still think that phone calls are a good way to pitch their products, according to the research.

Those in the B2C space rated the telephone as the third most effective way to market. B2C marketers ranked calls as second most effective.

In both arenas, marketers see the ability to create relationships as key. They each named in-person visits as the top way to get out their message.

While inexpensive, the use of e-mail clearly seems to be falling victim to spam. On the B2B side, marketers ranked e-mail blasts as fifth most effective; their B2C brethren put it seventh out of eight choices.

The research is some of the first conducted in the wake of the Can Spam law, which took effect in January. Among other measures, it mandates that marketers clearly identify themselves and bans misleading subject lines.

Reservoir Partners says companies should take several steps to comply with the regulations. First, it recommends that businesses appoint an internal "do not contact" champion to track regulatory changes and gauge the effect that shifts in business practice might have on compliance. Currently, just one in five B2B firms and two in five B2C businesses have such an employee, according to the study.

The CRM consultancy also suggests doing an audit to determine current compliance levels. It said businesses should emphasize permission-based marketing, the practice of cross selling and up selling customers when they initiate the contact or explicitly state it's OK.

Gaudet said that businesses must be prepared to defend each customer contact in the event that the government investigates a complaint.

"Instantly the company is put in the hot seat to make sure they have the documentation and processes in place," he said. "You have to not only understand what the impact is to your organization but also create processes around compliance."


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Irony abounds. There are so many communicators around these days (because the barriers to the Web are so low and everyone thinks they can write) that there are likely going to be legions of people who step outside the rules to share information and reach potential customers. We see it every day with bloggers who don't acknowledge their compensation for posts and social updates; we see it regularly when sales people make phone calls to people on do-not-call lists because they don't have the lists on hand; and we even have people do hard sells to folks who have explicitly asked not to be disturbed. I don't know how to effectively fix this - I'm glad it's not my job. But there has to be a way for the list of folks who don't want to be contacted to mesh with the automated and other methods companies are using to reach them. Penalties are starting to grow, but keeping pace with who can get your call is still hard to do.