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

Alan Rosenspan's "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
Issue #22: Get the Best Creative Work


1. Below "C" Level
2. Stick Figures
3. Irregular Mail
4. Follow up…
5. Member Since
6. How to get the Best Creative Work
7. Letter Perfect

Dear Friends,

So I arrive in New York to do my DMA seminar, and check into a very fancy and expensive hotel and…

…I unpack and discover I don't have my dress shirts!

I rush out to the stores, but it's Sunday evening and the only places that are open are the ones that cater only to tourists.

And the only shirts that are available in my size are these incredibly loud, multi-colored (okay, garish) Hawaiian shirts, with huge pink hibiscus on them and hula-skirted dancers.

What else could I do? I opened the seminar with "Aloha!" and did my best to give my presentation in a serious and businesslike manner.

I'm not sure I succeeded…

Below "C" Level

You're a B2B company, and you want to do a direct mail program.

Who should you address the package to? Should you:

(A) Send it to the top person in the company? After all, if they pass it along to someone else - it will be much more impactful than if it just came from you.

(B) Should you send it to the highest-level person who might approve the purchase? This person could be the CIO, the CTO or the CFO. Again, they could pass it along.

Or (C) Should you send it to the individual who may actually use the product?

Recent experience says that (C) might be your best alternative.

Ernan Roman, author of the classic book, Integrated Direct Marketing, just gave a keynote address at the New England Direct Marketing Association conference.

His agency does extensive "Voice of the Customer" research for IBM and other top companies. It indicated that most high-level executives do not want to receive mail that is not relevant to them.

One Fortune 500 CIO said, "You're using me as an executive mailroom, and I don't appreciate it."

My advice: mail to the people who will actually use and benefit from your product or service. And give them enough information to share your story with their management.

On a side note: Ernan's research also showed that top executives have strong negative opinions about most marketing communications.

They believe:

1. Most marketing communications are superficial and irrelevant.

2. They do not provide enough information or the right information that helps them make a decision.

If yours does - chances are, you'll be much more successful.

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Stick Figures

My friends in Australia shared an innovative campaign that just won the Direct Marketing Creative Award of the Year.

The client was the Sydney Dogs Home, a non-profit that finds good homes for unwanted dogs.

Who are the most likely people to want to help dogs? People who own dogs, of course.

So how do you reach them, when you don't have a lot of money to do advertise or use direct mail? Their agency M&C Saatchi came up with an amazing media buy:

They dropped 5000 sticks in various parks and walkways around Sydney!

Attached to each stick (by a piece of strong) was a small booklet. The cover said, "Now all you need is a dog."

This campaign has won a number of awards, but more importantly, over 75% of dogs at the Sydney Dogs Home are now placed with loving families. They also received so much publicity that several companies, including IAMs, have now begun donating food and other supplies.

Credits to art director Gavin McLeod and writer Dave King, who came up with the idea - and did everything to make it succeed.

Dave King admits, "The stick that we sent off to the award show–I actually chewed on it to make it look more genuine."

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Irregular Mail

For years, I've been urging my clients to do more unusual and more creative direct mail packages.

My goal has always been to have my package be the most interesting or important piece in the mail that day. The reason is that people get so much direct mail, both at home and at work, that unless you stand out - you just won’t get noticed.

The US Postal Service just agreed with me, and paved the way for more "irregular shaped" mailing.

The Postal Rate Commission introduced a new classification called Customized Marketing Mail, which should be approved this July. It will cost a little more in postage - but I think it will be well worth it.

Would you like your mail to stand out? Here are four suggestions:

1. Try a larger size. Forget what you've always heard - size does matter - at least in direct marketing. Larger size envelopes (9" X 12") or bigger cost more, but they usually get a better response.

2. Try an unusual shape. A production company I worked with sent out a triangular envelope. AT&T sent out a circular package to showcase their global services. A high technology company sent out a package that was 22 inches long. Anything that helps you stand out in the mail will probably be effective.

3. Try a unique die-cut. In New York City you can buy postcards that are shaped like the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and even a New York Taxicab. I've always wanted to mail postcards with unusual shapes - now it's possible.

4. Try putting something in the package. If a direct mail package feels like it has something in it, or if you can shake it and hear a sound - it will probably be opened. One of the control packages for World Vision has a packet of seeds in it. The outer envelope says, "Shake this, and hear the sound of hope."

One thing you should never, ever put in a direct mail package - confetti. It may seem like a festive idea, but people will hate you as they pick up all the little pieces…

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Follow up…

You've run your advertisement, or sent out your direct mail piece to generate leads for your company.

You got a good response - and now you turn over the leads to your sales force. You've done your job, and now you can relax.

Not so fast.

What percentage of leads do you think are actually followed up and contacted by field sales? 100%? 95%? 90%?

It must be that high because after all, these aren't cold calls, these are people who are legitimate prospects for your product or service. They've actually requested that you contact them.

Unfortunately, many of your leads will never receive the attention they deserve.

A recent study revealed that the average field sales force follows up only 33%-40% of all B2B leads.

Stunning, isn't it? Keep in mind that you've paid for each of these leads - as much as $500. per name.

What can marketing do? Make sure you follow-up each lead with a telemarketing service call, or a direct mail letter from someone important at your company.

This should go out about 2-3 weeks after you've handed off the lead to sales.

The message can be, "recently, you contacted us about our product/service. I just wanted to make sure that you received the information you needed - and whether or not we can do anything to assist you at this time."

We did this for one of our high technology clients - and we got an amazing response.

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Member Since…

American Express was the first to include a "Member Since" line on their charge card - and it's worked very well for them.

It reminds their customers how long they've been with American Express every time they use the card, and it increases retention.

It even helps win back customers. Because when you come back, American Express will graciously allow you to keep your original "Member Since" date - even though your interrupted.

Disney just took this to another level. They launched their new Disney Visa card, and if you become a charter member, guess what it says on your card?

"Member Since: Day 1"

I think it's an excellent idea to remind your customers just how long they've been your customers - it makes them feel good, and it makes them more loyal.

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How to get the Best Creative Work

Why do some companies always seem to get better creative work than others?

It has nothing to do with your product. It everything to do with how you manage and motivate the people who work on your business.

I wrote an article about this, which I'll be happy to e-mail to you, but here are three quick ideas. And they apply whether you’re working with a large agency, a small boutique, an in-house department, or even a freelancer.

1. Get it fast.

The best creative work is usually done immediately after the creative team has been briefed on the project. "Immediately" should mean the next few days.

Your words and directions are clear in their minds. Hopefully, you’ve been able to convey a sense of excitement or drama or urgency.

The creative team will never again be as motivated to do a great job.

But what usually happens?

Your project gets pushed behind several others. By the time the creative team gets to work on it — a week or two later - they’ve forgotten half of what you’ve told them.

At that point, they’re less motivated by the work and more by the deadline. Their attitude may be, "Look, we have to something done by Monday. Let’s just put something on paper."

The result is very often bad and ineffective work.

Now I’m not telling you to set arbitrary or impossible deadlines. That will always make you more enemies than friends. But set a reasonable deadline, as short as possible, and you can even reward people for meeting it.

2. Inspire your team.

If you don’t, who will?

Pauline Lockier is one of the most successful direct marketers in the U.K. The last time I saw her, she gave me a great example of how to brief an agency.

Imagine Pope Julius II briefing Michelangelo on an important new project.

He could have said, "Please paint the ceiling…"

He could have said, "We’ve got terrible problems with dampness and cracks in the ceiling. Could you cover them up for us?

He could even have said, "Could you paint a few biblical scenes —- and throw in some angels, cupids, devils and saints?"

But what he probably said was, "Please paint the ceiling of our Holy Church, for the greater glory of God, and as an inspiration to His people."

"And Mike? It’s going to last a long time — so make sure you do your best."

The result, of course, was the Sistine Chapel.

The Pope knew what he wanted and why. He knew his audience. He gave clear guidelines, but allowed room for creative interpretation.

More importantly, he inspired Michelangelo.

It’s up to you to inspire your creative team. As the great advertising genius Leo Burnett said:

"Reach for the stars. You won’t catch them, but you won’t end up with a handful of mud either."

Ask your creative people to reach for the stars.

3. Do your work first.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just hand off your project to an agency or creative team, and just let them "do their stuff?"

You wouldn’t have to give them a detailed brief. They’d know exactly what to do. After all, they’re the experts, right?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The amount of thought and work they put into the creative work will be a direct result of the amount of thought and work you put into the creative brief.

Even if they’ve done a dozen other projects like this one — you will never get exceptional creative work by just asking them to "do it again."

I can’t tell you how many briefs I’ve been given where it was painfully obvious that the client either (A) didn’t take the time to think the program through, or (B) didn’t seem to care enough.

That attitude is as contagious as the plague.

My best clients — and those invariably that get the best work — take a different approach.

In their brief for a new project, they provide as much information as possible. They may include previous packages, along with the results; competitive packages; an analysis of the market; plus any other important information.

It was obvious how much these clients care about their program and the results — and I do my best to live up to their expectations.

By the way, if you'd like to see the entire article - just e-mail me at

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Letter Perfect

Freelance copywriter Diane Huff just put together a terrific article about direct mail letters that was published in WildeTips, the newsletter of the W.A. Wilde company.

Here are some of the highlights:


Letters are the "secret" to higher response rates

When a company wants to send a direct mail piece, most tend to think "self-mailer." They're easy to produce, easy to mail, and cost-effective.

Yet, as direct marketer Alan Rosenspan points out, self-mailers aren't all that effective. "In the 100+ seminars I've done, no one has said a self-mailer beats out a letter package."

Tom Tringale, Director of Design and Innovation for Massachusetts-based database marketing company, Epsilon, Inc. agrees, "I've been in this industry 20 years, and I have never heard of a self-mailer outperforming a letter package."

Why would a "lowly" letter out pull a creative self-mailer? The reasons, say Rosenspan, may be as follows:

1. A letter package needs to be opened. Once someone opens the envelope, he or she has made a "mini" commitment to spending a little more time with it.

2. A letter package includes a letter. Ogilvy and Mather did research that showed the letter is responsible for 65-75% of response generated.

3. A letter package usually looks less like advertising — and more like something important. People can confidently throw away a self-mailer and know they won't miss anything important. They usually can't do that with a letter package.

4. A letter is written (and personalized) to an audience of one. Self-mailers are written to the masses.

Another important reason letter packages generate a higher response rate is because they are written for an audience of one — versus a self-mailer which is usually written for many.


By the way, you can subscribe to WildeTips by sending an email to or you can subscribe online at

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