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

Alan Rosenspan’s Improve Your Response Newsletter

Issue # 25: 2003 Holiday Issue


1. DMA Response Study
2. Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
3. The Great Self-Mailer Controversy
4. Response Study, Part 2
5. For Entrepreneurs Only
6. The Power of Advertising
7. Contact Information

Dear Friends,

Happy Holidays!

It really does seem like the economy is beginning to turn — more and more people are calling me for projects, and fewer people are calling me for jobs.

I hope your business is doing well, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you again for being one of our subscribers, and to wish you and your family the very best for the holiday season.

Cheers, Alan

DMA Response Study

The most frequently asked questions in direct marketing…

…now have an answer!

"What’s a good response to our direct mail or e-mail? What’s an average response in my industry?"

The Direct Marketing Association just published a 360-page book that answers these questions — and much more. Written in a clear and understandable way by Ann Zeller, Vice President of Information and Special Projects, this book is a must-have for any direct marketer.

The book covers 12 different media channels across 23 industries in four different campaign objectives — direct order, lead generation, store traffic and fundraising.

The book won’t predict what your response rate will be — too much depends on your choice of lists, offer and creative. But it should give you a good benchmark to determine budgets and quantities for your next mailing.

To order, visit the DMA’s website at

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Rotation, Rotation, Rotation

In real estate, the most important factors may be location, location, location.

In direct mail, it may well be rotation, rotation, rotation.

If you’re mailing over and over to the same market, you might want to consider this technique — used by most major credit card companies (including my clients.)

As you know, credit cards are probably the most competitive, most over-marketed category in the country — with many of us receiving 5-10 direct mail solicitations per week.

So just to get your envelope opened is a significant accomplishment.

The major credit card companies have learned that one way to do it is to rotate the outer envelopes — keeping the same letter and enclosures on the inside.

One might be a Kraft envelope; another might be white; another might have an unusual shaped window (portholes, diagonal shapes, etc.) You may also want to vary the headline on the outer envelope.

But by rotating which ones you use — and never letting the prospect see the same envelope two times in a row — you may be able to substantially increase your response rate.

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The Great Self-Mailer Controversy


I need to know what you think of this issue — because it comes up so often.

Whenever I give a seminar I always ask, "Has anyone here seen a self-mailer beat a letter package?"

Sometimes, rarely, a hand goes up. And I ask, " tested both - with the same offer to the same list - and the self-mailer generated a higher response?"

The hand invariably goes down - and the person usually says, "Um, no...but the self-mailer was cheaper."

In my opinion, the reason why letter packages outpull self-mailers are three fold:

  1. When someone opens your envelope, they are making a small commitment to you. They've taken a positive step. They almost feel obliged to read some of it, or at least scan it.
  2. It takes a bit more time to open an envelope, and it's been proven that the more time someone spends with your direct marketing package - the more likely they are to consider your proposition and respond.
    That's one reason why involvement devices like stamps or stickers work so well - they encourage the person to spend another 30-60 seconds with your package.
    Barnes & Nobles did a study a few years back to determine the most important factors that influence people to buy a book. The study revealed it wasn't the way the books were displayed. It wasn't the signage. It was simply this:
    The more time you spend at a bookstore, the more likely you are to buy a book.
    And that's why they started putting comfortable chairs and coffee bars in their stores. They're not being nice to you. They just want to keep you in the store for as long as possible.
    The same is true of a direct mail piece - the longer the prospect spends with it, the more likely they are to respond.
  3. A letter package has another significant advantage over a self-mailer - it has a letter!
    Research done by Ogilvy & Mather Direct showed that the letter is responsible for 65%-75% of your response. I don't know they figured this out - but I absolutely believe it.
    And even if you print a "letter" on the inside of your self-mailer, it's not really a letter. It doesn't look or feel personal.
    By the way, a letter package doesn’t just have to be a letter. It includes an envelope, possibly a brochure and reply device.

Then why do so many companies use self-mailers?

They’re cheaper. They're more "creative" - whatever that means. They’re usually faster and easier to produce.

But what do you think? Do self-mailers work? Please e-mail me your opinion at

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Response Study, Part 2

I recently gave a speech in Montreal on the power of offers. I began my presentation with the following (joke):

"Last time I was in Montreal, a beautiful woman came up to me in the hotel lobby and said, "I don’t usually do this, but I’d like to take you up to my room and make mad passionate love to you for the next two hours.

"I looked at her and said…

"What’s in it for me?"

And that’s the first question anyone will ask when they open your direct package or e-mail, or read your advertisement.

At this same conference, I attended a very valuable presentation from The Digital Printing Council.

The presentation was on direct mail response rates — and how they vary based on color, personalization, database use and other factors.

Here are the highlights of the results:


  1. The most basic mailings (static, black and white) had a response rate that averaged 0.46%.
  2. Adding a name to the piece - simple personalization–increased response rates by 44%.
  3. Adding full color increases response rates by 45% over the basic mailing.
  4. Adding both the name and full color increased response rates by 135%.
    Personalization and color appear to be a double whammy and produce a significant increase in response.
  5. Applying database information in constructing the offer and the piece increases response rates by over 500%.
    Tying the mailing into something you know about the prospect — such as past buying habits - appears to provide a significant benefit. Of course, the database information should be used in such a way as to respect the recipient’s privacy.
  6. The addition of a discount to the mailing has a positive effect. By adding the discount to the basic mailing, response rates jumped by over 1,000 percent.


If you’d like the complete study — please e-mail me at and I’ll be happy to share what I have.

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For Entrepreneurs Only

I recently gave a presentation to a group of young direct marketing students at Johnson & Wales University in Miami Beach.

On the walls, I saw a great quote that’s an inspiration to any entrepreneur:


"He casts aside his assurance

of 40-hour weeks,

leaves the safe cover of tenure and security, and charges across the perilous fields of change and opportunity.

If he succeeds, his profits will come not from what he takes from his fellow citizens, but from the value they freely place on the gifts of his imagination."

-- George Gilda


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The Power of Advertising

I was just reminded of the power of advertising when I saw the following in the Boston Globe. There’s a regular column where readers send in science questions and an expert answers them.

A recent question was "How is Jell-O made?"

The answer: "Jell-O or gelatin is a protein substance that comes from the bones of animals. To be rendered into gelatin, bones must first be free from grease. They are soaked in hydrochloric acid and washed repeatedly in plain water."

Can you imagine anyone buying this to eat?

But then again, as Bill Cosby used to tell us:

"There’s always room for a protein substance, soaked in hydrochloric acid, that comes from the bones of animals."

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Contact Information

We’ve received several requests for us to update our contact information — which is below.

Please note we currently have the capacity to accept work from new clients — and I’d like to know to whether you would be interested in working directly with us on your next direct marketing program.

You’ll find us easy to work with, much less expensive than any large agency, and most importantly: we are usually able to significantly increase response.

Alan Rosenspan
Alan Rosenspan & Associates
281 Needham Street
Newton, MA 02464
Tel: 617 559-0999
Fax: 617 559-0996

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We Respect Your Privacy

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" and I will understand. And please feel free to forward this newsletter on to friend or business associate.

Thank you, Alan

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Sharon, MA 02067
Phone: 781-784-8283