Do you know that the US federal government protects you from unwanted mail? There are also federal mail laws adopted to ensure the security of credit card details, medical records, and similar sensitive data. Such laws regarding direct mail marketing and other direct channels give consumers better control over the information they share and receive. For example, people can join the National Do Not Mail list to ‘unsubscribe’ from junk mail. They can exclude their phone numbers from call lists for a certain period of time. There is also a mechanism to notify the postal service that a specific person doesn’t want to receive sexually-oriented materials, and more.

Such limitations prove that direct mail marketing should be organized with professional support. Mailing vendors know how to get the most out of direct mail, complying with laws regarding direct mail marketing. They can turn direct mail into an effective marketing tool with stronger data privacy than other direct marketing channels.

In this article, you will learn more about:

  • What Is Direct Marketing and What Direct Marketing Channels Exist?
  • Privacy and Security in Direct Marketing.
  • Federal Mail Laws and Other Direct Mail Regulations.
  • Why Direct Mail Ensures Better Data Privacy than Other Direct Marketing Channels?
Privacy and Security in Direct Marketing

What Is Direct Marketing?

Direct marketing is a type of marketing that directly communicates the message to the selected target audience. The recipients are chosen based on their personal information, characteristics, and behavioral patterns. Potential or existing customers are also supplied by means to provide a direct response to the advertising (e.g., by sending a reply form). That’s why this type of marketing is also often called direct response marketing.

Such a quick response to marketing materials allows companies to immediately measure the results and make decisions more proactively. This is particularly important for small businesses that need to be very flexible to withstand the market competition. Moreover, direct communication increases the efficiency of marketing efforts and makes them better customized.

Examples of Direct Marketing Channels

As it was already mentioned, the key idea behind any direct marketing channel is direct and personalized interactions with customers. You have to know who you are talking with. A print magazine sent to random recipients isn’t direct, whereas personalized postcards delivered to pre-selected people are. Feel the difference? Yes, it’s huge. Therefore, if you want to use direct marketing successfully, make sure to tailor your message across all channels. Here are some of the most common examples:

  • Direct Marketing Example #1: Print and Mail.

Direct mail is called direct for a reason. This is one of the most recognized direct marketing channels since the print is usually delivered to specific people on a mailing list. Most mailpieces include customer’s name, address, and personalized content.

  • Direct Marketing Example #2: Direct Email Marketing.

Such emails are sent to users that have previously opted-in for marketing newsletters. They may include a direct marketing message or a tailored selection of products based on customer preferences.

  • Direct Marketing Example #3: Telemarketing.

This is the classics of direct marketing. A sales representative convinces prospective customers to order products or services over the phone or during a 1:1 meeting.

  • Direct Marketing Example #4: Direct Social Media Marketing.

Although social media aren’t direct by their nature, targeted messages sent to known users are considered direct. You can use the personal information willingly provided by your Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube subscribers to connect with them.

  • Direct Marketing Example #5: SMS marketing.

When you SMS your promotions to the phone number of a specific recipient, this is also a direct marketing technique.

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All these channels can significantly boost your marketing campaigns by making them more personalized. While modern consumers hate bulk advertising, they tolerate (or sometimes even love) tailored ads. In particular, 57% of consumers state they are ready to share personal information to receive personalized offers or discounts. 62% say they don’t mind companies sending such personalized messages based on their previous purchases.

Want to benefit from these advantages? Get ready to take responsibility for customer data privacy and security.  Direct marketing channels are strictly regulated by laws regarding direct mail marketing, data processing, and more.

Direct Marketing and Privacy: Laws Regarding Direct Mail Marketing and Other Direct Channels

Laws Regarding Direct Mail Marketing

The state and federal governments continuously take steps to secure personal information of the US citizens. Federal mail laws and other laws regarding direct mail marketing were passed to allow consumers to manage marketing they interact with. There are other controls like the National Do Not Mail List and the Do Not Call Registry. These are the lists of people who opted out from receiving marketing mail and phone calls.

Generally, every direct marketing channel has a range of laws and regulations regulating it. Let’s start with the most important federal mail laws.

Laws Regarding Direct Mail Marketing

There are no federal mail laws prohibiting direct mail advertising on the national level. Still, if you want to do everything right and avoid unpredictable regulatory issues, make sure to follow the existing laws regarding direct mail marketing. They will not only help you better protect personal information but also make your marketing more effective. There is no use in tormenting people with direct mail advertising if they don’t want to read it.

Here is the list of key federal mail laws regarding direct mail marketing:

The Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act (DMPEA) (39 U.S.C., Section 3001).

According to this act, non-governmental entities aren’t allowed to send solicitations that imply a connection with a federal government for the purchase of products or services. It also prohibits mailing sexually-oriented materials to those who refused such mail with prior notification to the postal service.

The US Postal Service has the power to protect consumers against deceptive mailing with sweepstakes, games of chance, facsimile checks, and skills contests. All direct mailings with contest entries or sweepstakes must include the name and address of the sponsor, detailed official rules with all terms and conditions, the value and nature of the prize, and the numeric chance of winning it. It is also necessary to include a disclosure that explains that a purchase has no impact on the odds of winning the prize. Besides, if you send large volumes of sweepstakes or contest mailings, you will need to establish a name removal system to allow opting out. Direct mail that doesn’t meet these federal mail laws will be detained and prosecuted by the United States Postal Service.

Theft or Receipt of Stolen Mail Matter Generally (Title 18 U.S. C., Section 1708).

This federal law punishes citizens that steal, abstract, take, or obtain by deception/fraud any direct mail. Those who commit or attempt to commit such a crime can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to five years. Although such federal mail laws don’t impact direct mail advertisers, they impose the additional responsibility for mailing accuracy. To provide quality mailing services, third-party advertisers should strive to control data processing and the mailing process. In addition, with direct mail automation, it’s possible to track whether a specific person received the mail piece. This can effectively help to prevent and detect mail theft or fraud.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).

This act was signed in 1996 to protect the medical information of US citizens and modernize the processing of patient records. It prohibits sharing mailing lists used by medical facilities. You can use your own list of patients to send direct mail offers until they request you to stop doing that. Also, you need to make sure that medical information will be delivered only to the intended recipients. Certified mail is one of the common ways to achieve this. As an alternative, you can include a pURL or a personalized QR code that will forward the recipient to their online profile with all the details.

National Do Not Mail List

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) provides the National Do Not Mail List that allows consumers to refuse unwanted mail. It’s an alternative to the National Do Not Call List, which is used to opt-out of telemarketing services. Do Not Mail List helps people share their mail preferences and stop receiving junk mail. A customer just needs to ask to include their name in the corresponding database and, after that, all DMA members update their mailing lists accordingly to exclude this person. Although the National Do Not Mail List seems to limit mail marketers, it can actually benefit them. It saves businesses from furious customers irritated with marketing materials. As a result, such companies can make their direct mail marketing more targeted and cut extra printing and mailing expenditures.

This is not an exhaustive list of federal mail laws regarding direct mail marketing. In case you want to launch regular direct mail campaigns, it’s better to consult with mailing professionals. Especially, if you deal with sensitive customer data, medical records, or credit card details that are particularly strictly regulated.

Laws Related to Other Direct Marketing Channels

Customer data protection and security is always an issue regardless of the direct marketing channel you use. Some federal or international regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (EU), limit the processing of personal information across all channels. Others are related to specific channels, including:

  • Email direct marketing: The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003  (CAN-SPAM Act), Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003 (UK), CASL laws (Canada).
  • Text messaging (SMS): Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TPCA).
  • Telemarketing calls and unsolicited commercial communications: Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Act (Telemarketing Act) issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). There are also restrictions to telephone marketing on the state level, including state Do Not Call registries.

In case you plan to promote your business using one or several of these channels, don’t forget to read through the related laws. Regulatory compliance is mandatory for business success, customer trust, and a reliable reputation.

Why Does Direct Mail Ensure Better Data Privacy than Other Direct Marketing Channels?

Data Privacy

Getting ready to start a direct marketing campaign? Sending mail is one of the easiest ways to connect with your customers, complying with all data privacy regulations. Whereas with email newsletters, telecommunications, or text messages you will need to study the rules of the game on your own, direct mail has clear standards.

If you choose to cooperate with the USPS, you will be provided with a detailed set of requirements and direct mail templates. Such templates already indicate all information that must be included (or omitted) in a mail piece. In addition, as a governmental body, the USPS is committed to meeting all the requirements of state and federal mail laws. It has strong internal security measures and conducts regular employee trainings to protect customer data. In addition to that, direct mail is the best way to get official proof that a specific person has received the information. After sending certified mail, you will be given a mailing receipt and verification of the delivery. You will also be able to track the mailing and request the recipient’s signature. This is extremely important when you need to deliver official documents or other critical information.

Still, the USPS services have a significant disadvantage. You will have to organize printing and regularly bring direct mail to the post office. This takes a lot of time and reduces the efficiency of your marketing efforts. Instead of controlling the process, you have to deal with everyday chores that distract you and create extra obstacles.

To minimize your active role in direct mail marketing, consider using direct mail automation. A third-party vendor will organize everything from direct mail design to mailing. Direct mail providers like Inkit are experts in laws regarding direct mail marketing and cooperate with the USPS for seamless delivery and regulatory compliance. Besides, Inkit’s tool processes all customer data and launches variable data printing automatically, meeting the industry security standards. You can also get in touch with 24/7 support if you have any security or regulatory concerns and questions.

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