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

Alan Rosenspan’s "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
Issue # 29: MAY 2004


1. Advice from the King
2. The Sweetest Sound...
3. What Non-Profits Know
4. Flower Power Answers
5. Not So Obvious...
6. Opt in, Opt out, Options

Dear Friends,

I'm doing a seminar for a company in Massachusetts — and the first time I visited their offices — I was welcomed by a friendly receptionist who gave me her card. Her title was
Director of First Impressions

I knew I was in good hands.

The reason I mention this is that we have a large number of new subscribers — so if this is your first newsletter, I hope we make a good first impression.

And if you've been a regular reader, I 'd like to thank you for your continued support.
All the best, Alan

Advice from the King

Alan King, one of my favorite old-time comedians, just passed away at the age of 76.

In an interview in 1991, he told a story that I think is important to direct marketing writers.

King said he was working strip joints and seedy nightclubs in his early career, and not doing very well. Then he watched a performance by another comedian — Danny Thomas — and had a revelation.

"Danny actually talked to his audience," King recalled, "And I realized I never talked to my audience. I talked at them, around them and over them, but not to them."

"I said to myself, "This guy is doing something terrific, and I better start doing it." He did — and became a huge success.
How do you "talk to your audience" in direct marketing? I have five suggestions:

1. Use a conversational tone.

Don't get all stuffy and formal. Write like you're talking to people.

The surest test of good writing is to read something out loud. If it sounds smooth and easy to understand - it probably is. Your ear is a much better judge than your brain.

2. Use the word "I" to begin your letter.

It helps make it sound like it's coming from a real person. For example: "I am writing to alert you to an important change in your financial status."

3. Use the word "You." Use it a lot.

This forces you to think about things from your prospect's or customer's point-of-view. "You get this...You'll benefit from...You'll enjoy..."

In my seminars, I ask people to count the number of times the word "you" appears in their letters and copy. 10 times is good, 15 is even better.

4. Understate your claims and benefits.

Do you enjoy hearing people brag and boast about their accomplishments? Do you believe everything they say? I don't think so.

The same may be true in direct marketing. You'll gain far more readers and increase your credibility by taking a more reasonable, measured tone.

5. Write in a friendly tone and manner.

David Ogilvy used to say "you can't bore people into buying your product." You also can't bully them.

It's an old truism — people want to do business with people they like.
The same is true of your direct mail. If people like the letter, because it has a friendly tone and manner, they are much more likely to want to respond.

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The Sweetest Sound...

I've been receiving a number of self-mailers recently that use my name in the headline.

For example, for Bacon's Media Intelligence, the outside of the self-mailer has a photo of a desk overflowing with reports and newspapers.

The headline read, "Alan, did you manage to read all of this today?"

Inside it says, "We did."The headline read, "Alan, did you manage to read all of this today?"

Inside it says, "We did."

This technique is working exceptionally well — but that shouldn't surprise you. Because personalization almost always works (unless you get the name wrong — and even then it gets a lot of attention!)

In fact, the US Post Office estimates that personalized letters are 50% more effective than "Dear Reader" or "Dear Colleague."

One of my clients is — the largest genealogy company in America, with over 3 billion records in their database.

We recently did a mailing inviting people to find out more about their ancestors; where they came from; and how they lived.

The outer envelope read, "Now there's a website dedicated to the <SAMPLE Family> History"

The response vehicle also was personalized. We invited people to go to an individual website personalized with their name.

"Simply visit<SAMPLE>"

How could anyone not respond?

Dale Carnegie, who wrote the classic, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" said that the sweetest sound in the English language is your own name.

Don't you agree, <YOUR NAME HERE>?

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What Do Non-Profits Know

In most companies, direct marketing is only a part of their marketing plans. Sometimes it's a very small part.

Let's take one of the biggest companies in the world — IBM. IBM does a ton of direct marketing — and they do it very well. However, how much do you think it contributes to the bottom line?

Not much, I suspect.

Let's go even further: If IBM didn't receive a single response to any one of it's direct marketing programs in the coming year — how much do you think it would affect them as a company?

Would they go out of business? Probably not.

Therefore, IBM and other big companies can be careless about their direct marketing. It's not mission-critical.

However, there are a number of organizations that live and die by the response to their direct marketing — and that's where non-profits come in.
Imagine if Save The Children didn't receive a single response to it's direct marketing programs in the coming year — how much do you think it would affect them?

The answer is they couldn't survive.

And that's why it pays to study what non-profits do — and then apply those lessons to all our direct marketing efforts.
Here are three quick tips:

1. Mail the right people more often

The number of mailings you receive from a non-profit is directly proportional to the amount you give, or the number of times you give. They don't waste much money on non-responders.
Most companies under-mail to their prospects and customers. "We can't send them this - we just sent something to them last month." Do you remember what you received in the mail last month?

Neither do they.

2. Longer works better

Have you ever received a one-page letter from a non-profit?
Probably not — because they know that longer is usually better. A two-page letter typically outpulls a one-page letter. A four-page letter does even better.

Why do so many for-profit companies use a one-page letter?It's easier — or they just don't care about the response.

3. Testing is essential

Non-profits continually test what they do - because their cause depends on it.
If you're not testing lists, offers and creative on an ongoing basis - you will never achieve real success in direct marketing.


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Flower Power Answers

In the last newsletter, I invited you to come up with an idea for Hare Krishna supporters. (I'm not one of them — I just wanted to dramatize the power of unexpected rewards.)

As you may remember, Hare Krishna supporters used to come up to people in airports and shopping malls, and present them with an unexpected reward — a small flower.

It worked at first, but then 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?

We received about a dozen answers — from as far away (from me) as Moscow and India. Here are three that I think would work:

1. Stick a little yellow note to each flower so when the supporters came up to you they'd say something like, "Here's a flower with a couple of lines for you that might change your whole life."

Make each note different so people don't catch on and don't know what to expect. Each note would have a few lines of Hindu wisdom that'd make you think and some contact info in case you want to learn more wisdom.

2. Change their appearance of the Hare Krishna - have them wear normal clothes or better, a suit and tie.

  • Upgrade the gift: a life plant in a flowerpot, or a flower-necklace like you get when you arrive in Hawaii.
  • Change the gift: a lollipop, a key-ring, a free shoe-brushing, a free participation in the Spanish Lottery (with a cheap 10 cent ticket you could win up to 1000 dollars!)...

3. Instead of giving away the flowers, entice people to come to you and get one.

For example, have a bunch of different color flowers and a sign with a spirit-lifting saying, like "Brighten your day with a flower today." or "Pick up a flower- Lift up your heart."

People like free stuff. They just don't like it being shoved in their faces.

And the winner... is Sourav Roy from Kolkata, India. His answer:

4. They can start giving away saplings instead of flowers. People will hopefully be less cruel on living things.

  • it should be neatly packed so that the mud doesn't stain the hands.
  • the sapling should have a flower or buds.

It would also serve as a reminder — long after a picked flower would die.

What did the Hare Krishna supporters actually do?

They began giving away little flags of the country they were in — something no one would be likely to throw on the ground or toss away. It worked very well for them.

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Not So Obvious

I received an astonishing e-mail from one of my newsletter readers that read:

"Alan, who are you? What's your company, what do you do, and why should I care? You tell me I can contact you for consultation, but what should I want to consult about? Is it obvious?"

I guess not.

I've tried to be very careful with my newsletter — and never turn it into a promotional piece for me or my company. And that's why I've saved this part for the end.
Here's a brief answer to those questions. If you'd like to skip this part — I absolutely don't blame you.

To begin with, Alan Rosenspan & Associates is a direct marketing and e-mail creative and consulting company.

We offer a number of different services to our clients — with one overriding benefit: we are usually able to increase response significantly.


We can help you refine your direct marketing plans for the coming year; identify opportunities and show you how to capitalize on them. We'll work directly with you to work to develop more effective and more successful programs.

Creative Review

We can review your direct marketing packages, advertising, e-marketing and fulfillment materials and give you an unbiased analysis. We'll also suggest new ideas, identify offers, and give you dozens of ways to improve response.

Creative Work

We create highly successful direct mail packages, e-mail campaigns, advertising and fulfillment.

Our approach is to develop a range of concepts for each assignment, and then work with you to select the most effective one. We then complete the copy and layout - ready to release to your printer or publication.

Seminars and speeches

I have a number of highly-interactive seminars on direct mail, creative strategy and creativity. These have been sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association, NEDMA, New Zealand Post and other organizations.

Each of these seminars is also available on-site to individual organizations. This offers the opportunity to participate in a team-building, motivational seminar that focuses on your specific work, issues and opportunities.

In fact, we just received this e-mail from one of our attendees,

"Thank you so much for leading the Creative Strategy Seminar in San Francisco the past two days. I swore I wouldn't go home until I got this email out to you."

"I took away so much useful information, I can't believe it. I am trulyinspired to work at a higher, more creative level and the knowledge you shared with me has me so excited about discovering a component of my work that can turn my job into one I love. I'm not sure I'll ever sleep again!"

Opt in, Opt out, Options
1. Please feel free to forward this newsletter on to a friend or business associate. I'd appreciate it.

2. You can access all our back-issues on our website at
3. To unsubscribe, just send me an e-mail that says, "Remove."

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.

Thank you, Alan


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