FUNDRAISING SUPPLEMENT | Did CASL just tip the balance in favour of direct mail?

By Steve Falk

It’s still early days, but there’s indication that Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law (CASL) will be good news for the direct mail business.

Across industries, there’s talk of replacing email marketing with print and mail when no opt-in permission is available.

  • Forbes magazine blogger Julie Brewer posts that most small business may eliminate email marketing entirely. (“Doing Business in an opt-in world: Is the Canadian Anti-Spam law (CASL) punishing the wrong people?” at blogs.forbes.com/people/juliebrewer/).
  • Alexandra Nicol of law firm Borden Ladner Gervais was quoted saying lawyers may revert to ‘old school’ methods of advertising. (“What’s it all about? How anti-spam legislation can affect your firm” by Ava Chisling, at cba.org, the Canadian Bar Association’s website).
  • Manufacturing agrees, according to Andrew Shedden. (“Growth tips: Anti-spam law will change the way you market” at plant.ca). Mr. Shedden predicts that in 2014 you’ll see more manufacturers using much more direct mail, among other tools.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence of the impact of CASL on marketing for small businesses is the recent Constant Contact survey results. Released on July 17, 2014, the survey found that almost 25% of small business respondents said they would do less email marketing, or stop email marketing altogether.

Prime Data serves customers across the Canadian business landscape, and we’re hearing the same message. One customer did his due diligence and sent an email to all his contacts before July 1, 2014. He asked them to opt-in to continue receiving his email. Only abbout 30% of them did.  So he’s going to measure the impact of this on revenue and see if he has to retool his direct mail skills and other available channels.

Word on the street is that it may just be easier to skip email marketing altogether.

The end of ‘free’ marketing?

For years, email has been seen as “free” marketing. Ignoring the fact this was never exactly true, the cost certainly got substantially higher as of July 1. Consider the administrative costs of cleaning and maintaining implied and express consent databases, contacting customers to obtain consent, putting a solid policy in place to remain compliant plus the hefty fines if you get it wrong, and it may be as cost-efficient to simply send mail.

Which means direct mail just got a lot more cost-effective compared to email marketing.

Will we see a surge in direct mail?

Digital agency Stephdokin predicts yes, in their post of June 25, 2014. I predict the same. With fines in the millions of dollars, even for small businesses and not-for-profits, CASL may have shut down a lot of electronic communications, and provided a boost for direct mail.

I’ll be watching closely to see what happens next. As we enter the strategic planning season for 2015 campaigns, will CASL drive more direct mail into the marketing mix? My money is on ‘yes’.

Steve Falk is president of Prime Data, whose clients benefit by bringing technological innovation and marketing automation together with variable data printing and direct mail.

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Lloydmedia, Inc is based in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and is a multi-platform media company which delivers a total audience of more than 100,000 readers across four national magazines, three industry directories, and a range of events and online marketing.

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