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

Alan Rosenspan's "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
Issue #19: Spring Edition


• Best Source of Business Lists

• Classified Creativity

• The Empty Envelope Test

• You Know You Need It

• You Know You Need It, Part 2

• The Vatican on Line 1

• Still Interested?


Dear Friends,

Okay, it may be too early for a Spring edition — given the incredible snowstorms we've had on the East Coast — but that's the kind of mood I'm in today.

In this issue, I'm going to start with the most important part of any direct mail package...the part you can't see.

Most direct marketing professionals agree: Your list is 10 times as important as anything else in your direct mail program.
Next comes the offer.

But where do we spend most of our time and effort?

On the creative!

Possibly because it's the most visible part — probably because it's the most fun. But you can have the most creative, most compelling package in the world — and if you send it to the wrong list, it just won't work.

I have one more important comment on list which concerns you.

And I'll get to it at the end of this newsletter.


Best Source of Business Lists

How can you find exactly the kind of companies you're looking for — without having to buy and de-dupe multiple lists?

For the last several years, I've been working with iMarket Inc., which was recently acquired by Dun & Bradstreet, and is now known as D&B Sales & Marketing Solutions.

D&B Sales & Marketing Solutions gives you access to the D&B list of over 13 million U.S. businesses, updated monthly. But that's not what makes them unique.

The unique part is that you can select exactly the list you want before you purchase it. There are no minimum quantities, and once you buy the list, you can use it as often as you like.

For example, you can start by looking at a list of all the businesses in New York.

Then you can ask the software to eliminate those with under $10 million in sales.

Then you can ask the software to eliminate those in certain categories. And by the way, D&B Sales & Marketing Solutions goes way beyond the standard SIC codes (Standard Industry Classification) so you can find exactly the kind of businesses you want.

Once you've defined your list, you can purchase the data right on the site You can even select the level of information you want — from simple business names to contact names, fax and e-mail information, etc.

Plus D&B Sales & Marketing Solutions further enhances your ability to target with specific selects on the businesses. For example, you can choose to select only those companies who are growing by 15% or more a year.

And once you buy the names, they're yours for an entire year — so it's easy and affordable to do multiple mailings or campaigns.

D&B Sales & Marketing Solutions can also take your house list and update it, adding all new and changed information. You can also use them to find other customers or even markets that look like yours.

I can't possibly do justice to this terrific suite of products in a short newsletter article, but for more information, please visit them at or

They also offer 50 free leads and two free company lookups when you register at

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Classified Creativity

Several years ago, I was working for a large direct marketing agency, and we needed to hire a proofreader. I wrote an ad with the following headline:

Proofreader Wanted for Rapidly Growling Direct Marketing Agency.

If you didn't get it — read that again slowly.

The copy was rife with errors, and we asked people to "correct this ad and send it back to us with your resume." We received hundreds of responses and I won a Silver Echo Award from the DMA.

To my knowledge, it's the only classified ad that's ever won an Echo!

But now I have a challenge for you. It's a creativity test that I've given in my last seminar.

You have a beautiful 8-week old black Labrador puppy that you want to give up for adoption. Your assignment is to write a short classified ad (50 words max) designed to generate the most responses.

The winner will receive a free copy of my new book, Confessions of a Control Freak, a $35. value plus coupons for three Free Pints of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream! However, we must receive your entry by March 15th to qualify.

The answer — which generated over 15,000 responses! — will appear in my next newsletter.

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The Empty Envelope Test

The research company Roper Starch measures advertising readership, and compares the relative effectiveness of different ads. They've studied thousands of advertisements — and came up with a fascinating statistic.

Advertisements that includes a coupon generate 13% higher readership than ads that don't.

Regardless of what the coupon says.

The coupon itself seems to alert the reader. It says — "we've got something for you!" And even if you're not sure what, you usually pay more attention to the ad.

And that's precisely what the Reply Card should do.

It shouldn't be designed to cleverly blend in with the rest of the direct mail package. It should stick out like Yao Ming in a Volkswagen convertible.

Here are 7 ideas you might want to try for your next Reply Card.

1. Turn your BRC into a BRE. Turn your Business Reply Card into a Business Reply Envelope. People are increasingly more reluctant to include personal information on an open reply card. What do they consider personal? Their phone number, their e-mail address, even their name.

Give them an envelope to put it into and you will almost always increase response.

2. Use color. A bright, almost florescent reply card has outpulled many other versions for Harvard Men's Health Watch.

3. Use an unusual shape. The Smithsonian has used an "L" shaped format with great success. The part you send back is the bottom of the "L."

Every time I show this sample in a seminar, I'm tempted to tear it off — it's that compelling.

4. Make sure you put your phone number and your website on your Reply Card. It may be the only thing people save from your mailing.

5. Consider an involvement device. Many financial services companies and publishers use stickers.

You can even be creative with your sticker. Working Assets Long Distance offers you free ice cream for a year when you switch. They ask you to place a sticker of a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream on reply card. It works!

6. Make sure your reply card passes the "empty envelope" test. If for some reason, the post office destroyed your direct mail package and everything fell out of the envelope except your reply card...

Does is have enough information for people to respond? And does it persuade people to respond. If your reply card passes the "empty envelope" test, it's probably pretty effective.

7. Give people a "Yes" or "No" option. It may not make sense, but it works. Just make sure you don't make the "No" option — "No, take me off your list..."

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You Know You Need It

The Creative Strategy Form I use is probably a lot similar to the one your company or agency uses...

...with one exception.

I have a special section called "You Know You Need It When..."

This helps you identify the "early warning signs" that a prospect could benefit from your product or service. It can help you choose the right list or media. You can even use it for creative. Let me give you an example:

I did a package for a high technology company to engineers. They know they needed our product...

...when they often had to switch between incompatible tools

...when they had to go back and re-design everything when one element changed

...when they couldn't incorporate new technologies into their designs

And even...when they felt that competitors were adding features faster than their company

I turned these into questions and used them on the front of the envelope. My goal was to have engineers read them, nod their heads and say, "These are exactly the problems I'm having. Maybe this new software can help solve them." It was very successful.

How do people know they need your product? What's happening in their business or their lives that would indicate to them that they need a change?

If you can answer those questions — you might create a much more successful program.

And by the way, if you'd like a copy of my complete Creative Strategy Form, just e-mail me at

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You Know You Need It, Part 2

I don't just write about this stuff — I actually use it. Here's how I applied this technique for my own company with a recent mailing.

The cover of the brochure asked these three questions:

"Are your response rates going down...and you know you could be doing much, much better?"

"Did your agency show you only two or three ideas...and you think you've seen one of them before?"

"Is your next direct marketing project important to your company...and to you?"

If you answered "yes," to any of these questions — you know you need Alan Rosenspan!

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"The Vatican on Line 1"

In the past few years, I've had the good fortune to interview some of the leading thinkers in direct marketing.

These interviews have been published in direct marketing magazines in Australia and New Zealand, but never in the U.S.

What I'd like to do in this newsletter is share the highlights of one of them with you.

The Thinker

He has the world's perfect job — he's paid to think.

John Groman helped found Epsilon, one of the world's largest and most sophisticated direct marketing agencies in 1969, and has long been regarded as the guru of fund raising.

I interviewed John in his kitchen, and while we were talking, the Vatican called.... they want to consult with him on a fund-raising project.

Your interviewer was properly humbled.

Alan: John, the Republican Party was one of your early accounts. What did you do for them?

John: Back when Ronald Reagan was president, I had just married and had met my father-in-law, who was a Republican, and I realized that there was no procedure in the US to enfranchise voters.

You basically went to the polls to declare the party for which you wanted to vote. You could change at any time.

So nobody owned the customer or what I call — credentialized the relationship.

Alan: What does that mean?

John: It means two things, basically. First, you have to anthropomorphize the relationship — and make it real.

Second, you have to make the customer know that they're in a relationship. Like American Express does, where they use the "Member since..." on the card. You not only know you have a relationship with them, you know how long it's been.

Alan: So how did that apply to politics?

John: The political parties had never really given their members the proper credentials, such as membership cards, bumper stickers, etc.

So we created the Ronald Reagan Presidential Task Force, which was really a fan club for Ronald Reagan. We mailed 30 million packages, which was unheard of in prospecting. These were very expensive, closed-face stamped packages, including a 7-page letter inviting people to pledge $120 to the task force.

We enrolled over 200,000 people, who paid every month for memorabilia, like an American flag, a lapel pin, a medallion, the first time that premiums of that nature — we called them "collectibles" — were used in politics.

Alan: In your opinion, what makes a superior direct marketer?

John: The extraordinary people I've met over the years have a fascination, almost an addiction to the results.

Seeing what they did, and what worked. It's sort of like betting at a casino, with an important extra: you can learn from your previous bets.

Learning allows us to jump right out of the probability curve into the sureness curve.

At this point, the telephone rang again.

It could have been the Pope. It could have been George Bush. It could have been my wife — who I was supposed to meet 15 minutes ago. The interview was over.

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Still Interested?

I know how busy you must be — we all are — so I want to make sure that you're still interested in receiving our newsletter.

If you want to stay on our list, please send me an e-mail and let me know. I'd also love to hear any comments or suggestions you may have.

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.

To unsubscribe, just send me an e-mail that says "Remove."

Thank you, and I wish you all the best.

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