According to American Business Media, there is a powerful coalition of environmental and consumer interests coming together to introduce "do not mail" legislation in the next session of Congress. Could it happen? Nobody knows for sure, but if it does, "do not mail" will come together with "do not call" and the murky set of rules that effectively create a "do not fax" environment. Add into the mix technology like voicemail and aggressive spam filters and as a society we'll be well on our way to seeing the elimination of all unsolicited outside contact. It is arguably desirable for consumers to be able to choose to make their homes into their own fortresses of solitude, but the implications for business-to-business marketing are much more profound.

As businesses, this legislative trend, coupled with our own aggressive adoption of technology to filter email, is severely limiting what we see and hear and in many cases we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Case in point: we get a number of opt-in sign-ups to this newsletters every week. We add these folks to our list and like clockwork half of them come back with the message "this message was blocked by our spam filter." We used to try to contact these people to alert them to the problem, but it's a big effort and expense for us, and in many cases these people tell us there is nothing they can do because they don't control what gets filtered out. It's a perfect lose-lose outcome, and it's getting worse every day.

Even more importantly, as this trend towards rigorous screening accelerates, we hurt ourselves in another way because as a side-effect of all this, we are creating a more complex, if not downright hostile marketing and sales environment that makes it harder and more expensive for all of us to do business.

So where are things headed? In the short-term, it's a boon for trade show producers, and publishers with magazines and websites that carry advertising that generates inbound inquiries (provided these prospects can get past your defenses). It also partially explains the boom in any and all forms of lead generation. But longer term, things have to significantly change.

Just as we tell our advertisers that "just one sale can pay for your entire advertising program," we as organizations need to appreciate that just one good unsolicited contact can make up for an awful lot of unwanted contacts, and we need to be mindful that corporate fortresses of solitude are a luxury none of us can afford.