I STILL CALL UNDER "DO NOT CALL?"
C.J. Hayden, MCC
Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission
regulations governing the National Do Not Call Registry went into
effect nationwide in the U.S. in October 2003. The FTC's Telemarketing
Sales Rule covers calls made across state lines, and the FCC's Telephone
Consumer Protection Act Rules apply to calls made within and outside
are numerous federal regulations that govern telemarketing, and
many of them have been in effect for over a decade. The 2003 rules
have attracted so much attention because they introduced the Do Not
Call Registry, intended to prevent telemarketers from calling anyone
whose phone number has been registered.
I read the actual rules, what sprang to mind was an excerpt from
the entrepreneurship classic "Small-Time Operator" by
Bernard Kamoroff: "The Lord's Prayer contains 56 words. Lincoln's
Gettysburg Address has 268 words. The Declaration of Independence
is 1,322 words long. Federal regulations governing the sale of cabbages
are 26,911 words long."
welcome to read the regulations yourself, if you dare. The actual
rules are available at: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2002/12/tsrfinalrule.pdf
or less plain English explanation is available at:
the pages and pages of rules boil down to this: "Don't call
people who have never heard of you, at home, and try to sell them
consumer goods and services." Well, I could have told you that
without needing to pass a law.
get me wrong — I think these regulations were, if you'll excuse
the pun, called for. My own home telephone has been blissfully silent
since I put my number on the Registry. Most of the calls I receive now are from
friends, and actually welcome.
good news for those of us who spend a fair amount of time marketing
our services by phone is that the rules are designed to protect
us from receiving many unwanted calls ourselves, while still allowing
us to market our own businesses effectively.
of all, business-to-business marketing is exempt from the Do Not
Call provisions. If you market your services to corporations, nonprofits,
or small businesses, you are engaged in business-to-business marketing.
If an entrepreneur or self-employed professional is using a home
telephone number to conduct business, and you call them at that
number to sell them something for business use, that's a business-to-business
exempt from the Do Not Call rules are calls made on behalf of nonprofit
organizations, calls made to people with whom you have a personal
relationship, calls made to those with whom you have an established
business relationship, calls made to anyone who has specifically
requested that you call them, and any call that is NOT made for
the purposes of soliciting a sale.
of these exceptions have legal definitions, of course. For those
of you who do call consumers at home, note the following:
- Personal relationship means any family member, friend, or acquaintance.
"Acquaintance" is not further defined.
- Established business relationship means someone who has made a
purchase or any financial transaction with you during the last
18 months, or an inquiry about your products and services within
the last 3 months, so long as that person has not requested that
you stop calling them.
- To continue calling once the time limits above have expired supposedly
requires a written, signed request from the consumer. But if the
consumer verbally expresses interest as the result of your calls,
there appears to be no restriction against considering that a
new inquiry, and restarting the clock.
only type of calls covered by the regulations are those made for
the purpose of solicitation, defined as inducing the purchase of
goods and services. If you call someone to say hello, share information,
or invite them to attend a community event, it seems to me that
it would be difficult to claim that a solicitation was taking place.
after reading this far, you're still feeling nervous about how these
rules might impact your business, here's one more significant piece
of guidance, quoted directly from the FTC bulletin: "FTC staff
does not contemplate enforcing the National Do Not Call Registry
provisions against individuals who make sales calls out of their
own homes to personal friends, family members, or small numbers
of personal referrals."
as I can figure it, the only time the rules would impact the average
independent professional is when you are calling people at home
for the express purpose of selling them consumer goods and services,
you don't know them, haven't been personally referred to them, and
they've expressed no interest in your business. As a professional
selling your own services, why exactly would you be calling these
I am aware of the fact that there are some professionals who make
cold calls to purchased lists of consumers. Financial planners and
insurance brokers in particular have traditionally included this
activity as part of their marketing plan.
when I ask these professionals about the effectiveness of these
calls, they typically tell me their rate of return is abysmally
low. In fact, they get much better results by building referrals
from clients and other professionals, personal networking, public
speaking, and following up with prospects who have already expressed
interest. None of these activities are likely to be hindered by
the Do Not Call rules.
you do want to make cold calls to consumers as a regular
part of your marketing plan, you'll need to comply with the rules.
The FTC also suggests: "As a matter of good will, small direct
sellers may want to avoid contacting a person whose number is on
the Registry. The National Do Not Call Registry has a free, single
number lookup feature to enable small direct sellers to verify whether
an individual number is in the Registry database."
other entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals be aware of
these rules? Certainly. Ignorance of the law is never an excuse.
But do they prevent you from marketing yourself effectively
and efficiently? It would seem not. In fact, following the rules
could help reorient your sales activities to avoid cold calling and
focus on permission-based relationship marketing. In other words,
doing what works better anyway.
© 2003-2008, C.J. Hayden
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