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National Mail Order Association (NMOA)
Direct Marketing
and Mail Order


Systems Paving

Systems Paving makes and installs beautiful interlocking stones for driveways, walkways and patios. They have over 15,000 satisfied customers across the country.

When we first started working with them, they showed me all their existing direct mail and advertising, which was brilliantly written and beautifully designed. They were understandably very proud of it, but it wasn’t working as well as they had hoped.

Some of their headlines:

"We Worship the Ground You Walk On…
Give Us a Call and You Will Too"

"Not All Great Art is Created to Hang on a Wall"

"We’d Like to Put Something Sharp Under Your Tires"

I realized very quickly that there was no way I could come up with better copy or graphics — so I looked through their work once again to see where it could be improved.

The thing that jumped out at me was that their offer wasn’t as strong as it could have been.

Their existing offer was a 20% discount — a valuable offer, but the prospect had no idea of how much the offer was actually worth. It was too vague. Because nowhere in the piece did it talk about the cost of a Systems Paving solution.

This wasn’t a mistake — it was intentional. Systems Paving stones are a remarkable product and guaranteed for life, and the cost can be considerably more than using cement or asphalt.

So how could we change the offer to make it more meaningful and relevant to potential customers?

But what about my house?

Once again, I looked over their existing materials and saw the beautiful color photography of luxurious homes with a System Paving solution.

I thought, “Of course the paving looks great — the houses they show are amazing. But I wonder what my house would look like…”

And that led us directly to our new offer.

During brainstorming, we came up with the idea of software that would allow us to take a picture of a house, and then drop Systems Paving into the photograph.

That meant the salesperson could actually show the homeowner a “before” and “after” photograph of their house — with their old driveway and then with a Systems Paving solution.

We thought this offer was very innovative — but what was the best way to present it?

May we take a photograph of your house?

The first package we tested was a blind #10 envelope, with the headline, “May we take a photograph of your house?”

Since the mailing was comprised of people who live in more expensive houses, this teaser line was very effective. They may have believed it came from a magazine like House Beautiful or Architectural Digest.

The offer then became the hero of the package. Inside the envelope was a brochure, with the same house and two different driveways on the cover. One was old and cracked; the other was Systems Paving. The headline read:

“Let us show you how to turn this……into this."

“With absolutely no cost or obligation.”

The brochure went on to describe the offer as “easy as 1, 2, 3.”

First, a Systems Paving representative will take a photograph of your home. Second, they will scan it into their laptop computer — and show you what it will look like. Third, you can then play around with over 50 different designs and colors.

The Letter described the process in a very dramatic way.

The Johnson box, or headline of the letter, read:

“How much better will your home look with Systems Paving? Now you can see for yourself with absolutely no cost or obligation.

“Dear Sample A. Sample,

“You just can’t imagine how different…and how much better…your home will look with Systems Paving.

“And we don’t expect you to.

“That’s why Systems Paving will take a “before” and “after” photograph of your home, so you can see how it will look in just minutes. And there’s absolutely no cost or obligation.”


The reply form was printed at the bottom of the letter, which allowed us to personalize it and track results more carefully. We also gave them a BRE (Business Reply Envelope.)

In previous mailings, Systems Paving had used a BRC (Business Reply Card) but our experience has shown that people are increasingly reluctant to put any personal information on an open card.

What’s considered personal information these days? Just about anything, including name and address!

No cost or obligation — again?

As you’re reading this, you may wonder — how many different times do they have to tell me that the offer is free and with no obligation?

The answer is — as many times as we possibly can.

No one is eager to have a high-pressure salesperson come to their home — they may feel trapped or obligated in some way. So we needed to continually reassure them that they don’t have to worry about it.

I’ve found that this works with other offers as well. People need to hear things more than once to fully understand them. Repetition works.

Repetition works.

One additional response booster.

Systems Paving, like many other companies had dozens of letters from existing customers, expressing their satisfaction with the product. Many of them even sent in photographs.

In the new package we developed, testimonials were given a prominent place in the brochure. In subsequent packages, we not only included testimonials — we version them to the State or area that we are mailing to.

This not only increases credibility — but also has a practical advantage. The things that affect a driveway in the North (snow, sleet, salt on the road) are very different than in the South (excessive heat and sun.)

So how did it perform?

The new work — a modest #10 package compared to their expensive 9 X 12” previous efforts — outpulled anything else they had ever done by 50% or more.

But the increased leads were only part of the success of this program.

Because the homeowner could now see what their own house would look like with Systems Paving, the conversion rate from prospects to customers jumped significantly.

So not only was Systems Paving generating more leads, they were also increasing sales.

The idea of coming up with an offer that accelerates the sale is something we try to do for other clients as well.

Who deserves the credit?

I sometimes read about direct marketing gurus who can create an award-winning package for a client, without even needing a brief.

Their attitude seems to be — “just send me your stuff, and I guarantee I’ll beat it.”

Maybe it works for them. But whenever we start a new project or work for a new client, we prefer to spend a day with them, learning about their business, their product and their unique challenges.

The Systems Paving program would never have been successful without the brainstorming we did, the commitment and the continued involvement with CEO Larry Green and Marketing Director Debbie Katz.

Where do we go from here?

The “May We Take a Photograph of Your House” package has proven unbeatable for the past three years.

We’ve tested different envelopes against it — from full color photos to blind envelopes.

“Photograph” always wins.

We’ve tested different creative approaches — same result.

We even tested a larger 9 X 12” envelope, and while it pulled a bit better, it costs a lot more.

We are currently testing a double postcard with a removable sticker. You simply take the sticker, which has a beautiful driveway, and place it on the picture of the house that has an old, cracked and stained driveway.

Please note: if you can come up with any suggestions for how to beat the control for Systems Paving — I would be very grateful.

Back to Beat the Control



© Alan Rosenspan & Associates
5 Post Office Square
Sharon, MA 02067
Phone: 781-784-8283