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

Alan Rosenspan's "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
Issue #16: DMA Highlights


• Intro

• Build Credibility 10 Ways

• Double Digit Response Rates

• Dead Celebs, Accident and Viagra

• Reilly’s Rules of Writing

• True Confessions


Dear Friends,

I just returned from the DMA Annual Conference in San Francisco, where I attended a number of terrific sessions.

Senator Joe Leiberman spoke followed by Stan Rapp. And Bob Wientzen, President of the DMA gave his "State of the Industry" address which is always valuable.

Kevin Nealon from Saturday Night Live presented the Echoes. He began by opening a copy of Esquire magazine — and hundreds of BRC’s fell out!

My own presentation wasn’t quite as funny, but I’m not going to bore you with that.

Instead, let me use this newsletter to share with you the ideas and recommendations from some of the sessions I attended.


Build Credibility 10 Ways

DM consultant Lee Marc Stein ( gave a highly credible presentation on how to build credibility in direct marketing.

Here are some of the techniques he described — and my comments.

1. Acknowledge skepticism and disbelief

People are more skeptical than ever before. You can pretend it doesn’t exist or you can admit it.

Lee showed a very successful sweepstakes package they did for American Express that said — "How come this doesn’t say 'you’re already a winner'?"

2. Master the tone and language of your customers

Lee worked with an insurance company that sold "contents" insurance. This was designed for people who rent houses or apartments and it covered their belongings.

Lee recommended changing "content" insurance to "renter’s" insurance. Response soared.

3. Put a face on it.

People like to buy from people — not from faceless corporations.

Remember: true one-to-one marketing isn’t one company to one prospect. It’s one person to one person.

4. Use testimonials…but from the converted

This ties in very well with #1. Testimonials are always a great idea — but think how much more powerful they would be if they came from people who had doubts?

For example, "I never believed this would work, but after I tried it…"

5. Admit fallibility

This has always been one of my favorite techniques.

Several years ago, I did an Easter promotion for a large department store chain. It was a sweepstakes, where customers could win valuable prizes every day.

Unfortunately, the mailing went out a day late, and the Chairman of the company received half a dozen angry letters.

What would you do?

(A) You could ignore it. After all, there were several other chances to win. (B) You could write a letter of apology to everyone. Or (C) You could admit fallibility— and that’s exactly what we did.

I created a "2ND Crack Promotion" and we sent out a direct mail package that showed cracked Easter eggs. It read, "We’re giving all our customers a 2ND crack at all the prizes."

I wrote the corniest mailing of all time — "Which came late — the chicken or the egg? Our mailing came late…." And also "Boy, do we have egg on our face!"

We did more business in those two days than we did all of Easter.

And this highly unusual promotion became an annual sales event.

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Double Digit Response Rates

Ernan Roman gave a presentation on Integrated Direct Marketing (He invented the technique 15 years ago.)

Integrated Direct Marketing is using a combination of communication tools to accomplish your goals.

This is even more important today — with falling response rates and as Ernan puts it - "an unprecedented level of e-mail opt-out"

For example, an integrated campaign might consist of PR, then Print, then Direct Mail — and then e-Mail or telemarketing 24-72 hours after the direct mail.

IMPORTANT TIP: Many companies wait for the direct mail response to come in before they start telemarketing. Their thinking — why waste an expensive phone call on someone who is already going to respond?

Roman believes this is inefficient. He says, "Don’t let the 98-99% of your prospects get cold — while you’re waiting for the 1-2% to respond." I agree with him.

How well does this idea work? Roman usually achieves double-digit response rates for each program. You can order the new edition of his classic book — Integrated Direct Marketing by calling 1-800-323-4900.

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Dead Celebs, Accidents and Viagra

How could I not attend a presentation with the title - "What I Learned from the National Enquirer"?

Sandy Blum ( gave a fascinating presentation on how supermarket tabloids sell — and what direct marketers can learn from them.

One of her lessons was the Power of the BLT (Yes, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato.) Sandy was referring to a triple headline — an eyebrow, a main headline, and then a kicker subhead. For example:

Globe Exclusive





Chilling Evidence from Royal Butler Trial

Sandy also talked about the Power of Photo Narration. In other words, don’t use one photo. Use three or more to tell a story.

For example, one photo spread showed Cher with five different hairstyles over the years.

Sandy says the tabloids follow a formula — and that every company can do the same, and have guidelines for every piece of marketing or communications.

For example, the formula for the cover of People Magazine is:

  1. Young is Better than Old
  2. Pretty is Better than Ugly
  3. Anything is Better than Politics
  4. Nothing is Better than a Dead Celebrity

Sandy also shared this quote — which applies to every form of writing:

"Take a great beginning and a great ending…and put them as close together as possible!"

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Reilly’s Rules of Writing

Okay, I didn’t get this from the DMA.

But on the flight out to the DMA, I read an essay by Rick Reilly, who writes for Sports Illustrated. He has 10 rules of writing which are absolutely terrific — and also apply to direct marketing.

Here are my three favorites:

Reilly’s Rule #1: Never Write a Sentence You’ve Already Read.

"It’s the best way to make words jump off a page and squirt grapefruit juice in the reader’s face. Why write "He beat the crap out of the guy" when it’s so much more fun to write, "He turned the guy into six feet of lumps"?"

Reilly’s Rule #2: Get ‘em in the Tent

"Have you ever been zapping around on the remote, going from one show to the next? And then something comes on that you just can’t zap because you have to know what’s going to happen? That’s what a great lead does.

"In this fragmented world, readers are looking for the tiniest excuse to turn the page, put you down…so you have to make it impossible for them not to go on to the second paragraph."

Reilly wasn’t referring to letters — but this rule absolutely applies. My favorite letter lead of all time was for Amore cat food.

"Dear Name,

You’re on a luxury cruise liner in the Caribbean. A wave smashes over the deck, washing your husband and your cat overboard. Who would you save first?"

With that lead, how could anyone stop reading?

Reilly’s Rule #8: Adjectives and Adverbs Sorta Suck, Really

"If I can avoid using an adjective, I will. I’ll avoid writing, "He was a lucky sort of guy," and write instead, "He was the kind of guy who could drop a quarter in a payphone and have it pay 20 to 1."

"And don’t even talk to me about adverbs…if you can’t find a better way to say "hungrily" or "proudly" you need to find a new line of work.

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True Confessions

My book is finally available. New title: Confessions of a Control Freak. I sold dozens of copies at the DMA and orders have been streaming in from the website.

I’ve sent it out to about 50 industry leaders — and received some amazing reviews. Let me share four of them with you.


"Three hundred thirty pages; not a wasted word. That is my conclusion after spending a stimulating day with Alan Rosenspan’s book. This book is for those who have spent a lifetime in direct marketing as well as those who are simply curious about what direct marketing is all about. The structure of the book is simplicity itself. Rosenspan puts all the direct marketing tools on the table. Then he provides a Golden Arrow — CREATIVITY — to hit a bulls eye time after time. This book is a dream come true."

— Bob Stone

Author, Successful Direct Marketing Methods


"In a clear, friendly and accessible manner, Alan takes the reader through example after example of successful (read responsive and profitable) direct marketing. Confessions of a Control Freak will be an invaluable reference for every direct marketer who wants results!"

— Anne Schaeffer

Senior Vice President of Professional Development & Training, Direct Marketing Association, New York


"Alan Rosenspan is not only a genius direct response copywriter, he is also a delightful person. Alan’s engaging style is apparent on every page of his new book. The book draws you in — with facts, with stories, with illustrations, with persuasive arguments, and with charm — until, by the end, you feel like a genius too."

— Ruth Stevens

Columnist,iMarketing News


"I’ve always known Alan was a great copywriter, but in Confessions of a Control Freak he demonstrates he is a classic direct marketer. With humor and style, this book is a virtual road map for direct marketing success.

"This new book is destined to be one of the Top books in our industry, and if you only own one, this is it!"

— Jerry I. Reitman

Executive Vice President (retired), The Leo Burnett Company; Author, Beyond 2000, The Future of Direct Marketing


Newsletter subscribers can have my new book at the special price of $29.95 plus $5. delivery and handling. To order, please visit

Other book news: Ruth Stevens just published her new book, called The DMA Lead Generation Handbook.

Ruth knows her stuff - this is an invaluable guide to creating demand and driving sales. You can find out more — and order — at


Forward and Backward, and a Few Words about Privacy

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To unsubscribe, just send me an e-mail that says "Remove" and I will understand. And once again, please let me remind you that your name and/or e-mail address will never be shared, sold, circulated, or passed along to anyone else. Thank you.


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Phone: 781-784-8283