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

Alan Rosenspan's "Improve Your Response Newsletter"
October, 2000
Issue #1
: Introduction to Newsletters


• A word of introduction

• All about you

• E-mail ideas

• The colleague card

• Free print ad analysis


Dear Reader,

Thanks for your patience.

Let me begin by telling you why I started this newsletter, and what we hope to achieve by it. Every month, I write several articles for direct marketing magazines around the world.

They include Direct Marketing magazine, SAM, Inside Direct Mail and Target Marketing (a new one for me) plus Focus magazine in New Zealand, DM UpDate in the Netherlands and Marketing Directo in Latin America. In these articles, some of which you may have read, I try to share what I’ve learned about creativity and direct marketing, and use a lot of case-histories from my agency.

However, there are three problems:

  1. Not everyone reads all the magazines. (My wife is probably the only one who reads all of my articles, but then again, she has to — she edits them)

  2. I can only write about larger issues. For example, one of my clients uses a technique called a "Colleague Card." that increases response an average of 40%. It takes about three sentences to explain — which I’ll do in a moment — but I can’t really build a whole article about it. Plus the articles often appear two or three months after I’ve written them, so they may not be as timely as I’d like.

  3. The articles are not interactive. I can’t easily get your viewpoint on what I’ve written, your ideas, comments and suggestions.

In my seminars, the most valuable part of the session is the participation and ideas of the attendees. And that’s exactly what I hope to achieve with this newsletter. I want to share ideas and lessons-learned (plus mistakes to avoid) on a timely basis, and also provide a way for you to interact with me and other direct marketing professionals for our mutual education, direction and benefit. In a way, we can become a virtual (forgive me, I won’t use that word again) roundtable of direct marketing ideas and experiences. So thanks for signing on for the voyage. I’m not sure what path we’ll take, but I think we’re going in the right direction.


You may be interested to know that you are one of 426 people who have become Charter Members of this newsletter. You work at Fortune 500 companies such as American Express, Capital One, Chase Manhattan, Experian, Household Credit, IBM, Nortel, Verizon, as well as leading smaller companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bose Corporation, IDC, Kessler Financial Services, Rodale Press and many others. You come from 17 different countries, 19 universities, 5 magazines including the New England Journal of Medicine, and 14 different advertising or marketing agencies including Digitas, Moore Response Marketing, OgilvyOne, Rosen Brown Direct and The Icelandic Advertising Agency. And you’re all interested in the same thing — how to improve response.


We’ve just started using e-mail as a low-cost, high-speed testing vehicle for both message and offer. One of my high-technology clients recently launched a new enterprise software product. Each sale has the potential to be worth several hundred thousand dollars. So we wanted to make sure we got the message and the offer right before we invested a lot of money in direct mail and advertising. The solution was to do an e-mail test, splitting the lists into 5 different cells. Each cell had a different subject line, plus a different positioning. Some focused on the problem that the product solved, others on the benefits. The test enabled us to get an "instant" read on what was most appealing, at an extremely low cost. Could this idea work for you? Even if you’re confident you have the right message, you can also use e-mail to test new ideas and offers quickly and inexpensively.


Here are five fast guidelines:

  1. The subject line is the most important part of your e-mail.

  2. Some people have compared it to the headline of an ad, or the message on the outer envelope, but it’s much more important than that. The reason why is that it’s the only thing that your prospect can see. There are no visuals, colors, dimension, anything else that might persuade them to read. The words have to stand-alone.

  3. Don’t put "Free" in your subject line

  4. You may already know this — but some e-mail systems have filters that block all e-mails with the word "Free" in the subject line. They believe that these e-mails must be spam. One of the ways I’ve found to get around it is by putting the offer and the words "For You" after it. For example: "Credit Kit For You." Got a better suggestion? I’d love to hear it? Just e-mail me at

  5. Put a link on top as well as the bottom

  6. Sounds a little odd, right? Why ask for a response before you’ve even explained the product and benefits? There’s only one reason — it works! My theory is that people want to see what’s being offered right away, and whether it’s worth reading further or not. So don’t treat the offer or the call to action like the punchline of a joke. Put it right at the top of the e-mail, and repeat it at the bottom. It could significantly lift your response.

  7. Keep it short

  8. You know the old saying — if you can’t write your idea down on the back of a business card, you probably don’t have a good idea. The same is true of e-mail. If you can’t communicate your benefits and offer in just three or four paragraphs, you shouldn’t be doing e-mail. Keep your message to one screen, don’t make them scroll down. The only exception? You’re reading one right now. Opt-in newsletters can be longer, because they’ve been requested and because you are sharing information versus trying to generate a lead or a sale.

  9. It’s still the offer

    You’d be surprised how many e-mails I receive that don’t have a compelling offer. Despite what many e-marketers might tell you, the medium is not the message. You still need strong benefits, human interest, creativity, and above all — an offer that people just can’t refuse. One of the offers I’ve been seeing a lot of lately are business books. It’s an excellent offer for three reasons, (1) It positions your company on a higher level, almost as if you’re part authors of the book. (2) It appeals to a large group of people, particularly if the book is targeted to them. It is also a very effective offer to the "C" level — the CEO, The CTO, The CFO. (3) It’s usually inexpensive to fulfill. The book publishers are more than happy to extend huge discounts for bulk sales. My idea: Create a custom jacket for the book that ties in with your campaign or your product.


One of my clients is a high technology company that markets to engineers. They realized that every engineer is sitting next to who? — usually another engineer! So every time they send out a direct mail package, they include an additional reply card. The first card says, "One for You" The second card says, "One for a Colleague." They’ve done it for three years, and they report increased response of up to 40%. Is this an idea you can use right away?


I just finished an article for Direct Marketing magazine called "Principles of Print Advertising." If you’d like a copy, please e-mail me at At the end of the article, I offered to critique (and hopefully improve) any print ad sent to me by readers. So I’d also like to extend the offer to you. It can be a finished ad, or even just a rough. I’ll be happy to look it over and give you an outside perspective, based on what I’ve learned.


You’ve waited long enough for it. I hope you found it interesting and worthwhile. As always, I welcome your feedback, comments and suggestions on the newsletter or any of the topics I’ve touched on here. You can reach me at the address, phone, fax or email address below.


You are welcome to forward this to anyone else who you believe may be interested. To unsubscribe, just send me an e-mail that says "Remove," and I will understand.


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Phone: 781-784-8283