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

Alan Rosenspan’s "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
Issue # 25: APRIL 2004


1. Turning Green Into Gold
2. Post Office Tips
3. Ukraine Daze
4. Mail Preference
5. Flower Power Creativity Test
6. Obvious Alan
7. New Zealand Bound

Dear Friends,

You might be interested in how I began my recent seminars in Australia.

I started by telling people that the average response rate for most large American companies was .5%

They were shocked —as many of you might also be. Of course, you can often do better than that — especially if you’re mailing to customers. But for the purposes of planning, .5% is the number to use.

I then asked what the average response rate was for Australia. The answers varied — 2%, 5%, 7% — all much higher than .5%

And then I said:

"Aren’t you glad you have an American expert here to teach you about direct marketing?

"Just listen to me, and in no time at all, we’ll have your responses down to a more manageable level…"

They loved it.

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Turning Green into Gold

Scotts LawnService, a division of Scotts, is a $100 million company that wants to take care of your lawn.

Their control package promised you a "thick, green Scotts lawn…without lifting a finger" and it performed well for many years.

However, even the best package can become tired and response started to go down.

And what’s great about Scotts is — they were willing to test a number of different solutions.

Our testing covered three different areas:

1. Improvements to their existing control.

This involved changing the outside envelope, streamlining the copy and focusing more on the offer, which was a free Lawn Analysis.

2. Adding to their existing control.

We developed a number of different "lift notes" that could be inserted into their existing control.

3. New creative.

Here we completed 4 different executions, including:

"Reveal" where we focused on before and after. We showed people what a typical lawn looks like before Scotts, then asked them to unfold the brochure to reveal what it would look like after Scotts.

"Neighbors." This was a humorous approach that said, "Your Neighbors Will Turn Green With Envy…"

"Invaded" which showed all the different kinds of weeds and bugs that are trying to destroy your lawn.

"Proposal." This was a 9-inch X 12 inch envelope personalized with the message "Lawn Analysis Enclosed for Your Address."

Inside, it included a mock "Lawn Analysis Form" The letter copy began with the questions: What’s wrong with your lawn?

Not many companies are willing to test so many executions. But the results proved that the investment was well worth it.

• The package that had the offer on the outside envelope pulled 31% better than the control.

This was the only change in the package. I’ve seen similar lifts with other clients. If you have a good offer (and you should) tell people about it right away.

•The package with the existing service lift note pulled 21% better than the control.

This lift note read "Please read this if you used a lawn service last year… and you weren’t completely satisfied.

It pointed out that the customer was not locked into their current lawn service, and they could switch to Scotts immediately.

• The "Proposal" package beat the control by 51%.

I wasn’t surprised. Size does matter — at least when it comes to direct mail, and larger packages seem to consistently outpull smaller ones.

Scotts mails close to 10 million packages every season, so these incremental lifts in response are worth a fortune to them.

If you’re not testing, you may be missing a similar opportunity.

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Post Office Tips

The USPS has just developed a series of brochures that could be very valuable to you in your business.

They include:

• 12 Secrets for getting More Response to Your Mail
• 5 Plans to Partner For Savings
• 8 Tactics to trim printing and mailing costs
• A Customers’ Guide to Mailing.

All are free, all are worthwhile reading. And you can find all of them at your local Post Office or at It always amazes me just how willing the Post Office is to help – and how few of us actually take them up on it.

The Australia Post also has a lot of helpful information too. They publish case-histories, research reports and a lot of other useful information at

Not all of it applies, of course, but Australian companies do some of the most innovative and successful direct mail programs in the world – and they may be worth copying.

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Ukraine Daze

I was in Australia for two weeks – and then took off for Kiev, which is on the absolute other side of the world.

I not only couldn’t speak the language — I couldn’t figure out what time it was. My head and the hands of my watch were constantly spinning.

However, I did manage to judge their Direct Marketing Award Show, and the work was exceptional. Smart, creative and well-designed.

One of the winners used a technique, which I’ve recommended in my seminars – and one that just might work for you.

The mailing was created by the Business Software Alliance, comprised of companies such as Adobe, Corel and Quark and their excellent agency OS-Direct.

The objective of the mailing was to alert large companies that the software they are using may not be legal and may have been pirated.

Their idea was to send out highly personalized letters to the two or three senior people within each company.

But each letter had something unique — it included the names of the other people within the company to whom it had been sent.

So the Head of Technology picked up the letter and probably said, "It’s just another direct mail piece, I don’t have time to read it — wait a minute — they sent it to the President of the Company!

Let me read this more carefully…"

The response was excellent, as you can imagine. I’ve used this technique three or four times, and it’s always worked well. You just have to make sure your database is up-to-date.

By the way, direct marketing is fairly new in the Ukraine and people are passionate about using it.

Each participant in the Ukraine DM Award show had to come up and show their work to the audience, and answer any questions.

When the Business Software Alliance piece was presented, there was a lively discussion. Some people were delighted, others were outraged. One person yelled out, "You’re calling these people criminals!"
Even my interpreter dropped his headset and began to argue! It was wonderful to meet so many people who care so much about direct marketing.

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Mail Preference

Speaking of help, Pitney Bowes also has a wealth of information to share with direct marketers.

Their website has a number of valuable white papers for both large businesses and small businesses.

I just did an e-learning "webinar" for them, and they shared the results of a recent survey with me.

Let me quote from their findings:

"Despite the significant increase of households with access to e-mail (from 34% in 1999 to 62% in 2003,) the majority of consumers (66%) prefer regular mail for documents, letters and messages.

"In addition, three-fourths of respondents (76%) considered mail more secure than email.
"Three out of four respondents (75%) preferred regular mail for receiving new product announcements or offers from companies they do business with.

"Regular mail was also preferred by more than two thirds (70%) of respondents for receiving unsolicited information on products and services.

"For confidential communications, such as bills, bank statements and financial reports, regular mail respondents overwhelmingly preferred mail (86%) as their channel of choice."

Their conclusion is one that I share: People prefer direct mail. It is still the most powerful and effective tool you can use when communicating with customers and prospects.

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Flower Power
Creativity Test

Ian Kennedy is considered to be one of the pioneers of direct marketing in Australia and still one of the leading thinkers.

His book, The Power of One-to-One, is one of the best books on direct marketing I’ve ever read.

In a recent speech, he talked about the power of giving customers "unexpected rewards."

Unexpected rewards aren’t like frequent flyer points, or bonus miles. They are little extras that you can use to surprise and delight your customers — and they can go a long way.

For example, a large transportation company in Germany subscribes to all the American trucking magazines. When an important article comes out, they translate it into German to send to their clients. That’s an unexpected reward.

Ian described how Hare Krishna supporters used this same technique in airports and shopping malls.

They would come up to you and give you a small flower — an unexpected reward.

And because of this, many more people would stop and listen to what the Hare Krishna’s had to say.

But eventually people caught on, and they expected the flower. So most people walked a little faster to avoid them, or worse simply took the flower and tossed it on the ground.

What could the Hare Krishna supporters do?

And that’s our Creativity Test.

The best answer before April 15th wins a surprisegift.

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Obvious Alan

Marketing people rarely do the obvious, because, well, it’s not clever, or creative, or sophisticated. It doesn’t make us look good. And besides — it’s so obvious.

In fact, one of the main problems I see with creative executions is that they go so far beyond the obvious, they cannot be appreciated — or even sometimes understood — by the consumer.

As someone once said, "If you can’t write down your idea on the back of a business card, you don’t have an idea."

Here are some "obvious" questions to ask about your next direct marketing program.

1. What do you want people to do?

That’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? We want them to respond.

Great — did you ask them to respond? Were you absolutely clear on what you wanted them to do, and how to do it? Did you tell them exactly what they get when they respond?

One of my clients is a company that makes measuring instruments. They had a large number of leads, but relatively few converted into sales. They weren’t sure why.

"Why don’t we ask them?" I suggested. We sent out a brief questionnaire to our prospect base, achieved a very high response, received valuable feedback and generated a larger number of sales than any other mailing they had ever done.

As someone once said, "The solution to this problem, when it is solved, will be simple." Or obvious.

2. What is the simplest possible way of getting them to do it?

When I worked on the Kibbles & Bits dog food account, our goal was to increase sales.

Kibbles & Bits is a "reward" brand, with most customers purchasing an average of two bags a year. So how could we increase sales?

The simplest possible way was getting our existing customers to buy just one more bag a year.

That would increase sales by 50%. Plus it was relatively easy -- we’re talking to people who we know have dogs, plus they already know and like Kibbles & Bits.

The result was the newsletter program I shared with you last issue.

Now if any of this intrigues you, I’d like to introduce you to a terrific little book called" Obvious Adams." by Robert R. Updegraff. It was written in 1916 but it still has important lessons for anyone in business.

Updegraff was a business consultant for over 40 years, to such companies as General Foods, John Hancock Insurance, Kellogg, Lever Brothers and many other major companies. After his death in 1977, his son Norman was cleaning out his office, and discovered dozens of requests for this 60-year old book.

"Obvious Adams" tells the story of a man who became a huge success simply by seeing the obvious thing to do in every situation, and then doing it. But not everyone recognized the wisdom of this approach.

Adams wrote an advertisement for a paper company that talked about the quality of the paper. The president was very disappointed.

"Young man," he said finally, "Every good bond paper is made of carefully selected rags. Every good bond paper is made with pure filtered water. Every good bond paper is hand inspected. What I wanted were some original ideas. Every one knows these things about bond paper."
"Why, is that so?" said Adams. "I never knew that! Our agency controls the purchase of many thousands of dollars’ worth of bond paper every year, yet I venture to say that not a single man in our organization knows much about paper making...

"You see, Mr. Merrit, we aren’t any of us paper makers, and no one has ever told us these things. I know there is nothing clever about these advertisements. These are just simply statements of fact. But I honestly believe that the telling of them in a simple, straightforward way as qualities of your paper, month after month, would in a comparatively short period of time make people begin to think of yours as something above the ordinary among bond papers."

Mr. Merrit was evidently impressed by the logic of Adams’ argument, yet he hesitated. "But we should be the laughingstock of all the paper makers in the country!"

Adams bent forward and looked Mr. Merrit squarely in the eyes. "Mr. Merrit, to whom are you advertising -- paper makers or paper users?"
"Obvious Adams" ends with the author musing on what made Adams such a successful businessman.
"What was the secret of this man’s success?’ I asked myself. And then I recalled the little boy’s composition on the mountains of Holland. He wrote:

The Mountains of Holland

"There are no mountains in Holland."

"That is the answer, I decided. There is no secret — it is obvious!"
If you’d like to order a copy of "Obvious Adams" yourself, please write to Norman C. Updegraff at The Updegraff Press, 2564 Cherosen Road, Louisville, KY 40205. It costs about $3.95 a copy, but it’s worth a great deal.

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New Zealand Bound

I know, I know — I travel way too much. But I’ll be in New Zealand in July, doing a couple of presentations for my friends at the New Zealand Direct Marketing Association.I’ll also be available for consulting during that time. If you’re interested – please e-mail me at Thanks

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Thank you, Alan

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