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

Alan Rosenspan’s "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
Issue # 26: JANUARY 2004


1. Toll-Free Advice
2. The Future of Database Marketing?
3. Self-Mailer Controversy Settled
4. Blitz versus Orbitz
5. News about Newsletters
6. Spanish Creativity

Dear Friends,

I’m traveling a lot these days…with consulting assignments in Utah, Virginia, California, and upcoming seminars in Australia and the Ukraine.

On a recent trip, a striking young woman sat down next to me on an almost empty flight. My immediate reaction was to ask her to move, so I could spread out and sleep.

But as I was about to talk to her, I noticed she seemed upset, and was struggling not to cry.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"No," she said, "I'm not okay. I hate flying...I'm terrified. Can I hold your hand?"

"Absolutely," I reassured her. She clutched my hand to her..., well, she held my hand pretty tightly for about an hour or so. I encouraged her to talk — to take her mind off the flight — and she told me she had just graduated from college and was going to San Francisco to join a dance group.

Every time the place would bounce a bit, she'd practically crawl into my lap. And I'm feeling pretty good about the whole thing...until the end of the flight.

We stand up, and she kisses me lightly on the cheek. And then delivers the devastating blow...

"You remind me so much of my Dad!"

I don’t think I’ve ever felt older…

Have a great year,


P.S. I’d like to add a special welcome to our new subscribers in India, Israel, Rumania, Saudi Arabia, and the Ukraine.

Toll-free Advice

In recent weeks, I’ve had a couple of clients ask me how important it is to include a prominent 800 number in their direct marketing and advertising.

I’m astonished at the question.

As far as I know, the only companies who don’t use an 800 number are the book, video and music clubs. The reason: they don’t want to make it easy for you to cancel your membership.

In my experience, the use of an 800 number substantially increases response — in direct mail, advertisements and even e-mail. (I’ll come back to that last one in a moment)

The reasons are:

  1. You capture people who are interested but not quite sold. They may call for more information - and the telemarketer may be able to persuade them to respond.
  2. You capture anyone with a question. Even if you try to anticipate questions and provide a Q&A, there are some questions you might forget to address.
  3. You portray yourself as a customer-centric company. You don't want people thinking, "Gee, they don't even have an 800 number. What if I have a problem down the line? Will I be able to reach them?"
  4. You capture a subset of people - particularly older people - who need to talk to someone before they make a decision.

In e-mail, it doesn’t seem to make sense to include an 800 number. After all, people can just respond online.

But many people print out their e-mails. And tests we’ve done show that putting an 800 number in the e-mail can increase response twofold.

Would you like to discuss this further? You can reach me at our toll-free number — 1-866-559-0999.



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The Future of Database Marketing?

This imaginary telemarketing call was forwarded to me by my good friend, Ray Considine. It isn’t as far fetched as it may seem…

"Thank you for calling Pizza Hut. May I have your..."

Customer: "Hi, I'd like to order."

"May I have your NIDN first, sir?"

Customer: "My National ID Number, yeah, hold on, eh, it's


"Thank you, Mr. Sheehan. I see you live at 1742 Meadowland Drive, and the phone number's 494-2366. Your office number over at Lincoln Insurance is 745-2302 and your cell number's 266-2566.

Customer: "Huh? Where did you get all this information?"

"We're wired into the system, sir."

Customer: (Sighs) "Oh, well, I'd like to order a couple of your All-Meat Special pizzas..."

"I don't think that's a good idea, sir."

Customer: "Why not?"

Operator: "Sir, your medical records indicate that you've got high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Your National Health Care provider won't allow such an unhealthy choice."

Customer: "Damn. What do you recommend, then?"

Operator: "You might try our low-fat Soybean Yogurt Pizza. I'm sure

you'll like it."

Customer: "What makes you think I'd like something like that?"

Operator: "Well, you checked out 'Gourmet Soybean Recipes' from your local library last week, sir. That's why I made the suggestion."

Customer: "All right, all right. Give me two family-sized ones, then.

How much?"

Operator: "That should be plenty for you, your wife and your four kids, sir. That comes to $49.99."

Customer: "Let me give you my credit card number."

Operator: "I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid you'll have to pay in cash.

Your credit card balance is over its limit."

Customer: "I'll run over to the ATM and get some cash before your driver gets here."

Operator: "That won't work either, sir. Your checking account's


Customer: "Never mind. Just send the pizzas. I'll have the cash ready. How long will it take?"

Operator: "It'll be about 45 minutes. Will there be anything else, sir?"

Customer: "No, nothing. Oh, yeah, don't forget the two free liters of

Coke your ad says I get with the pizzas."

Operator: "I'm sorry sir, but our ad's exclusionary clause prevents us from offering free soda to diabetics."

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Self-Mailer Controversy Settled

Last issue, I asked you for your opinion about self-mailers.

Just to clarify what I mean, a self-mailer is any direct mail package that doesn’t require an envelope. The name and address are printed right on the piece.

It’s been my experience that they don’t work as well as letter packages. Most of you agreed with me — with a couple of exceptions that I’d like to share with you:


1. Double postcards can double your response

For certain kinds of companies, double postcards are extremely effective. I almost always recommend them for low-cost lead generation.

If you’re not familiar with the format, they are two postcards, with a perforation between the two cards. One side of both cards is personalized, and the prospect simply tears off the reply part and sends it back.

Double postcards have worked very well for magazines and newsletters, as well as for travel companies and even business-to-business.

In his book, Million Dollar Mailings, Denny Hatch shows 71 of the most successful direct mail packages of all time.

Four of them are double postcards.

Worth a test?

2. Self-mailers can work well when you have an untargeted list.

When you’re mailing to large numbers of (yet) unqualified people, a self-mailer may be your best solution. This is particularly true of retailers and catalog companies.

As one person wrote, "Our main client, a Spanish cataloguer, uses self mailers as the most cost-efficient tool for prospecting. It seems that prospecting has like a ceiling, a maximum response rate. The extra response of a letter package doesn't pay the extra cost of the mailing."

3. There is a case where a self-mailer flat-out beat a letter package.

…but it’s the only one I’m aware of.

Grant Johnson of Johnson Direct did a self-mailer test for Blue Cross & Blue Shield United of Wisconsin.

The first solution took the form of a traditional package, with five different elements — including a glossy four-color brochure and a personalized letter.

However, the agency also designed a three-panel, four-color self-mailer as an alternative solution, and because they know the importance of testing.

The traditional letter package was sent to 75,000 recipients. The results were 858 leads, for a 1.14% response rate.

The self-mailer was sent to 50,000 recipients. It pulled 1,091 leads and almost doubled the response rate of the letter.

Not only did the self-mailer work better than the letter package but the cost per lead dropped from $75 to $17 each!

As I said, this is the only case history I’m aware of where a self-mailer outperformed a traditional letter package — but now I know: never say "never" again!


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Blitz versus Orbitz

I used to book most of my airline tickets on — but the only time I ever heard from them is when they wanted to sell me another ticket.

They constantly send me e-mails about special offers, last minute deals, anything and everything I might possibly be interested in.

Recently, I used, and I had a different experience. actually seems to care about me as a customer — with exceptional (but not obtrusive) customer service.

  1. They sent me an e-mail entitled "Prepare for your Trip — Richmond" that reminded me I’d be flying in a few days, and gave me all the trip details again.
  2. They continually send me "Travel Brief Updates" and "Flight Status Notifications" to alert me to delays or potential problems relating to my trip.For one (horrendous) trip, they send me 6 separate e-mails — each time the flight was officially delayed.
  3. Each e-mail was short, to the point, and also included my Orbitz record locator number, in case I lost it or had any questions.
  4. When used properly, e-mail is a great way to provide cost-effective customer service and value. It’s not an excuse to blitz customers with a relentless stream of offers.

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News About Newsletters

In most companies, a prospect holds up his or her hand, fulfillment material is sent, and then a salesperson may or may not call.

If that person doesn’t buy right away, they usually go back into the database, where they are treated the same way as any other prospect.

They sometimes keep getting the same mailing they responded to!

A better strategy is to keep in touch with that prospect — and keep giving them information and adding value. So that when they are ready to buy — they’ll buy from you.

Newsletters are an excellent way to accomplish this goal. They’re also a good way to stay in touch and communicate with your existing customers.

If you’re currently doing a newsletter, or planning one, here are three important things to keep in mind.


1. Publish a paper version, not just an online version.

"But it’s so much cheaper to do it online…" you might think.

Yes, but a print version makes it more likely to be noticed and read. It makes it feel real. It allows people to more easily save them and share them with other people. Also they can read them wherever they are - they don't need a computer.

My recommendation is to offer people a choice. But you’ll find that

most prefer a printed version.*

2. Make it "customer-focused."

The best newsletters are about customers and solutions - not about your company, or how good you are.

People want to read about how other companies have solved problems, used the product, benefited, etc. They don't care that Susan Lewis just made Vice President.

3. Make it interactive

Newsletters should always have an interactive part - someplace where readers can vote, share an idea, an opinion, etc. This gets them involved.

It could be as complicated as the "Creativity Tests" which I’ve done a number of times in my newsletter. Or it could be as simple as "Do You Have Any Suggestions?"


*Alas, the Shoemaker’s children never have shoes.

I really should publish a printed form of this newsletter!

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Spanish Creativity

Creative Director Gorka Garmendia of C’Direct in Barcelona recently came to visit me, and showed me an outstanding mailing campaign for his agency.

The mailing consisted of three envelopes, sent to one prospect within a short period of time.

  1. The first one included a small buckslip that talked about all the benefits of working with the agency. 9 out of 10 people would probably just throw it away…but that’s what they counted on!
  2. The second mailing had the exact same buckslip as the first mailing — ripped and crumpled up as if it was discarded.A yellow Post-it note is on it with a handwritten note - "Don’t throw me away again!""Call me and I’ll show you how to improve your results." It’s hand-signed by Gorka along with his telephone number.
  3. The third mailing is in a similar envelope — but very bulky. Inside is obviously something thick and substantial. The envelope reads, "Try to Crumple This Now!"
  4. Inside is the same buckslip — printed on a small block of wood! The message: "This time, it’s easier to call me than to destroy this!"

Some of the best work in the world is coming out of Spain these days, and this campaign is a great example.

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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 a friend or business associate.


Thank you, Alan


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Sharon, MA 02067
Phone: 781-784-8283