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

Alan Rosenspan’s "Improve Your Response" Newsletter


1. What’s Your Door?
2. Fortune Cookie Crumbles…
3. Brand on Demand
4. Adding Value
5. Member-get-Member
6. Creativity Test
7. Close Line

Dear Friends,

Please excuse me for not sending you this newsletter sooner.

Despite the economy, I’ve been incredibly busy — including seminars for Kessler Financial services, the DMA, Liberty Mutual and the Professional Insurance Marketing Association.

I also wanted to wait until I returned from the DMA Annual Conference in Orlando, so I could share some of the things I learned with you.

Anyway, thanks for your patience — and I hope the following information is useful to you.

What’s Your Door?

The first presentation I attended was Barry Gibbons, who is the ex-CEO of Burger King.

Gibbons has written a number of books — with terrific titles, including "If You Want to Make God Really Laugh, Show Him Your Business Plan" and "Warning: May Contain Nuts."

His main point was this: We can accomplish much more than we think we can, but we sometimes block ourselves.

And that’s the point of the story that I want to share with you.

Harry Houdini, arguably the world’s greatest escape artist, used to tour the United States and demonstrate his powers. He would visit the local prisons and have them strap him into a straightjacket, wraps chains around his arms and legs, and tie him down.

They’d stick him into their toughest cell — and he’d have 20 minutes to get out. The entire town would crowd around outside the cell, waiting to see if Harry could escape.

And he always did — with one exception.

In one small town, Houdini quickly got out of the straightjacket and the chains and ropes, but was stymied at the door of the cell. Try as he might, he just couldn’t seem to pick the lock and turn the cylinders. 20 minutes passed…then 30…then an hour.

Houdini tried every trick he knew — all without success — until at last, he admitted defeat and he called in the warden to free him. The man walked in and simply opened the door…

…the jailer had forgotten to lock it!

Houdini had actually locked the door while trying to unlock it.

How does this tie in with marketing? Gibbons says that we all have a door like that in our company…or in our personal lives. A door that we think we can never get through. A goal we think we can never accomplish.

His suggestion: go up and turn the handle - it just may open for you.

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Fortune Cookie Crumbles…

In my own presentation, I invited people to think of their next direct mail package like a fortune cookie. It’s a good metaphor because:

Fortune cookies need to be opened.

There’s a personal message inside.

But unlike most direct mail:

People are happy to open a fortune cookie.

They are usually very pleased by what they see inside

How can you make your prospects feel that way about your direct mail?

One suggestion is to focus on the prospect. The fortune never talks about the company that makes them, or the restaurant — it focuses on the person reading it.

Imagine how upset you’d feel if you opened a fortune cookie, and read the following message:

"Our fortune cookies are made with the finest ingredients."

But that’s what we often do in direct mail.

To prove the point, my wife and I recently ate at an Asian restaurant and at the end of the meal, she opened up her fortune cookie. There were three fortunes inside — she felt like she won something!

Each fortune was better than the one before. They read:

"You are appreciated by your company"

"You will have no problems in your home"

"You are the center of every group’s attention."

My wife was delighted, and I eagerly opened my fortune — to see what good things I would discover about myself.

Imagine my disappointment when I read the following:

"The weather is very good"

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Brand On Demand

Richard Rosen of AlloyRed in Portland, Oregon gave a brilliant presentation on the integration of brand advertising and direct marketing.

He says that traditional advertising is based on generating Awareness, then Preference, then Consideration — all of which lead to Sales.

And that works — if you have a $200 million advertising budget like Nike.

A smarter model starts with Awareness, but then leads to Engagement and Interaction. Because unless you give people a means and a reason to interact with your brand — awareness alone isn’t going to work.

The reason for interaction could be

  1. You offer them targeted information on things they’re interested in,
  2. You assist them in some way — maybe help them compare your product to others,
  3. You make them an offer.

The means could be

  1. Including your website on all your advertising,
  2. Inviting people to complete a short survey,
  3. Asking people to vote on an issue.

What was most fascinating about Rosen’s presentation was a series of ads for Taylor golf clubs.

The first ad was all image — no copy, not even a web address.

The next ad had the web address.

The third ad had the web address and copy that gave you more information about the clubs.

The fourth ad included all of the above — plus an offer.

The ads kept including more and more — until the image part was completely lost, and it became a junky "Golf Club" blow-out.

It may sell clubs, but the ad does nothing for the brand image — and may even hurt it.

Rosen shows his clients this range of ads, and asks them "Where on this scale do you think your ad should be?"

This gives both the client and the agency a sense of how important branding should be versus response, and makes sure they are all (literally) on the same page.

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Adding Value

We all get so much direct mail these days — from companies who want us to accept a new credit card, refinance our mortgage, donate to a charity.

How can you make your direct mail stand out?

Two words: add value

If you can add something to your direct mail package that isn’t just designed to sell your product, but to help or inform or serve the prospect in some way, they will be grateful. And they may even respond.

Let me give you two examples:

  1. The Susan Koman Breast Cancer Foundation sent out letters requesting a donation.
    They knew that maybe 1 out of 100 people would respond, however they also had something important to share with the other 99.So on the back of the letter, they printed: How to do a monthly self-examination: How to recognize the symptoms of breast cancer; Ways you can prevent breast cancer.
  2. Add a tipping card. This is a card that shows you how much to tip when you use your credit card at a restaurant. We did this for one of our financial services clients and response went up significantly. The cost was minimal.

So what value could you add to your next package?

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Member-get-Member or referral programs are one of the most important opportunities for direct marketer.

The idea is that each of your customers knows another person with similar characteristics. They both may live in the same neighborhood. They both may have the same job.

They both may share the same interests.

And that other person could be a prime prospect for you.

There are two important benefits to a Member-get-Member program:

  1. It can generate highly qualified prospects and new customers for you.
  2. It reinforces your customers’ decision to buy from you, and increases retention and satisfaction.When you ask a current customer to refer another potential customer — make sure you give them the tools to do it, like a brochure they can share, or a referral form they can fill out

The program works best when you reward both the customer and the person they refer. So your customer can say,

"Look what we both get when you call this company…"

Even politicians are using Member-get-Member.

The Bush campaign has appointed 100 elite "Rangers," who have raised more than $200,000 each by collecting checks from their families, friends and business associates.

Democrats have done it too. Senator John Kerry has created a "Hall of Fame" for people who raise $100,000 or more.

So if you have a loyal base of customers, and you want to grow your business, a Member-get-Member might be a very effective program.

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Creativity Test Answers

In my last issue, I challenged you to come up with a way to reward a valued employee for $100. or less.

We received over a dozen very creative answers. Here are some of the best:


" For under $100, you could probably begin an employee of the month award. The winner would get their name on a plaque. A cover article about that employee could appear in an in-house newsletter or on the company bulletin board. He or she could be awarded use of a special "Employee of the Month" parking space. They could also be presented with a certificate and a ceramic coffee mug at a company-wide meeting. "
– Sandy Betley


"Since the person you mentioned is an art director, the first step is to come up with the name of a magazine that either really exists or doesn’t. For instance in this scenario the name could be International Art World Magazine.

Create a magazine cover, with this person’s face as the prominent highlight. Then create a main headline, such as This Month’s Feature Article "Who’s Who in the World of Creative Art Directors."
– Brad Tumas


"I’d make a tablet to hang on the Art Director’s room door,saying, "Name. The Best Art Director Alan Rosenspan & Associates Ever Had."
– Alexei


"I would pay to have the artwork or collateral materials designed by this person professionally framed and then affix a plaque to the artwork with that individual’s name attached to it as the creator of this great work. I would place the framed piece in the corporate lobby or conference room.
– Tim Gortsema


"Here are a few of my thoughts in recognizing outstanding contributions with a limited budget.

  1. Pay for fees to a workshop related to his career, and or hobby interests.
  2. Membership to a local Art Gallery or Museum for either them or their family.
  3. Gift certificate for a dinner somewhere funky - lower cost.
  4. Gift certificate for a local book store that is recognized for its material relating to their field of expertise.
  5. Purchase Article of Leisure Wear - sweat top or sweater — embroider with catchy saying of their own.
  6. Donate to their favorite non profit or sports organization.
  7. Round of golf - though perhaps not completely covering the costs would allow them to enjoy a course they would not normally play.
  8. Family pass to a day at the local theme park."

– Mike Sawisky

My answer was pretty similar: The person’s name was Mark Davis. His title was Art Director. I changed his title, and for less than $100, I had his business cards reprinted to read as follows:
Mark Davis Brilliant Art Director

Mark gave one to his mother and his girlfriend. He handed them out to everyone he met. He enlarged one and put it on his office door, where it remained for years.

The winner — and I hope you agree - for having the most ideas is Mike Sawisky. The Mystery Gift I promised is a small statue of a man bowing. It’s called "Your Personal Ego Booster."

Thanks for participating.

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Close Line

Haven’t thought of one yet — but I would like to leave you with a little poem from Shel Silverstein.

"Sandra’s seen a leprechaun

Eddie touched a troll

Laurie danced with witches once

Sally found some goblin’s gold

Donald’s heard a mermaid sing

Susie pied an elf

But all the magic I have known

I’ve had to make myself…"

Go make some magic!

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