Competition Direct Mail Entrepreneurs Politics

Every day, someone is trying to put you out of business.

Some days it’s a competitor, or a supplier. Other days, it’s the government bureaucracy by virtue of that ever-increasing pile of paperwork.

And some days, it’s the people you least expect – your legislators.

I spoke a while back about this issue as it related to a misguided “Do not mail” bill that came up in the Montana House.

As annoying as it may seem , you simply MUST keep up with what these people are doing with their “spare time”. At the Federal level, the small business person is in a tough position because your voice is but one in the maelstrom of lobbybucks coming at Senators and US Representatives. But you have to contact them anyhow. If you don’t, you get the government you deserve.

This is one of the best reasons to support the trade organization that lobbies for your industry (assuming you agree with what they do) and similar organizations. No, they aren’t perfect, but they are better than nothing. EVERY business niche has a trade organization of some kind. Sure, some are better than others. Sometimes a local or state trade or business organization is your most effective voice. It all depends on what you do and how interesting your industry is to legislators.

Regardless of how annoying they are, you HAVE to keep contacting them. FYI: Being a nutball is the wrong way. Be concise, avoid jargon and be reasonably polite until they no longer deserve it and then do it anyhow – otherwise you’re wasting your breath.

At the state level, things are different. In many states, these people have real jobs or real businesses that they are concerned about when they aren’t in session. My State rep ( a freshman rep this session ) is a school guidance counselor. Here in Montana, the sessions are every other year and only last a few months. Because the state has a small population, those of us who actively participate in the process (by contacting them when they need it), can get something done.

Still, like any other place, BS partisan politics is present. The 300+ water-related bills in this year’s Montana legislative  session are a fine example.

But I digress:)

The point of all this that the Do Not Mail thing is just an example of what can happen to your business. Don’t assume that direect mail is never going away, any more than you should assume that having an email address and no other contact info is “ok” for your business. EMails change, legislators flip flop.  Get that phone # and mailing address. Use them APPROPRIATELY. Remember – all these Do Not <whatever> bills exist because there are unscrupulous (or just stupid) businesses out there.

Those of you who are starting up and fighting for a toehold are the ones most threatened by these kinds of bills. Why? Because you don’t have all the relationships you need yet.

For more details on the Do Not Mail legislation and the efforts to wake up the legislators who are in favor of it, see the DMA web site ( ), where you can get and stay up to date on these issues.

Another brief read about the Do Not Mail issue is at 

Direct Mail Politics

Misguided Montana bill proposes to eliminate so-called “junk mail”

HB718, submitted by Bozeman Rep Franke Wilmer, is yet another stab at the heart of the small business owner (much less the wanna-be entrepreneur) in Montana.

Note that this bill is scheduled for a hearing, so it has a long way to go. By the time they are done, it will be filled with lobby-influenced exemptions, like non-profit organizations, and of course – elected officials and political candidates.
Before you celebrate that your mail box wont have any more junk mail in it, perhaps you should consider a few things:

This is not like the “Do Not Call” list. US Mail doesnt interrupt you during dinner, doesnt nag you, etc. If you dont like it, you can throw it away and punish the mailer by not buying anything from them. It also ISN’T limited to residential addresses.

The great thing about direct mail is that you have to get it right or it costs you a fortune. Anyone who isn’t willing to study the masters and learn from them is doomed to waste $ and is punished in the wallet for their mistakes. If you are mailing to the wrong prospects, or to the wrong people, your wallet gets a big hole in it for nothing. Its not like spam email where it costs close to nothing to send 200,000 emails a day. Email isnt paid for by the sender. Direct mail is.

Small business loses on this one. Imagine that you start a new business tomorrow. One of the best ways to get leads on new business is with an appropriate offer to a segmented list that you are sure, AHEAD of time, will have a reasonable percentage of people who get your mail. Sorry, but you cant mail to people you don’t know anymore. You cant call them. You cant fax them.

Big business is the clear winner. They already have market share, a customer list, staff and cash flow to beat down any newcomer who has no relationship, no mailing list, cant call, cant fax, etc. If you were thinking about starting a small business, doesn’t that make you feel good?

Entrepreneurs in Montana who have businesses built around helping other businesses do direct mail marketing are going to be hurt. Welcome to reality.

Print shops that print direct mail will find their customer workload shrink. Remember, these arent evil, 3 headed monsters, they’re tax-paying, voting citizens with kids to feed and homes to buy.
Unintended consequences abound. Hopefully in tomorrow’s hearing, someone will realize this and kill it. I’ve emailed my rep and the bill’s sponsor to ask for that very action.

Full text of the bill:

You can keep up with the current status of the bill here.

Currently there are no exemptions, but I have full faith in the legislature that they will manage to find a way to exempt political organizations and non-profits, as well as anyone represented at the passing of the lobbyist’s wallet.

One last thought: Have you gotten less spam email since the Feds created their anti-spam law? Think this will work any better?

If this and similar legislation in other states passes, you can expect your direct mail to start coming from Canada, etc. Sure, it’ll cost a little more for a business to mail it, but that just benefits the businesses with more savvy and deeper pockets. The more they have to spend to do a mailing, the harder it is for a small business to break in. Just what big business wants. Unintended consequences for the consumer – less competition, less quality, poorer service.