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

Alan Rosenspan’s "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
Issue # 30: JULY 2004


1. Diamonds are Forever
2. I, I, I…
3. Free Issue
4. What’s the Frequency?
5. Beat the Control
6. Tested by Time
7. Reader’s Poll


Dear Friends,

Summer has finally arrived!

July and August are traditionally slow months for direct marketing, possibly because (A) many people are on vacation, (B) it’s too hot to think about trying anything new.

However, we’ve had good success when we’ve tied in with the summer season, and used that as part of our theme.

For example, for one credit card company, we did a package with flowers on the outer envelope. It asked, "Could you use an extra $200. this summer?"

Anyway, I wish you a good summer — and I hope the following newsletter gives you at least one or two good ideas.

As always, I am grateful for any feedback you can provide. Just
e-mail me at

Diamonds are Forever?

In my seminars, I always pose the question, "What’s the one thing to never put in your direct mail package?"

I get some interesting answers: …anything perishable…sharp things…anthrax! …anything that’s alive.

But the thing I always caution about — is confetti. I’ve received confetti in four mailings to date – to announce a new product or a store opening.

And after cleaning up every little piece of confetti from my desk and my floor — I resolved never to do business with any company dumb enough to mail it to me.

But here’s another thing you should never put in a direct mail package — real diamonds! My friend — Gorka Garmendia from Direct sent me this article, which I just had to share with you.

Diamonds binned in junk-mail error

By Geraldine Coughlan

BBC, The Hague

Thousands of Dutch residents have been rummaging through their dustbins in a diamond rush after a jeweler’s anniversary mail-shot was largely ignored as junk mail.

Jeweler Johan de Boer sent real and fake diamonds to 4,000 of his clients — telling them they could keep the real ones.

He couldn't sleep last night after his promotional effort backfired.

Amsterdam is famous for its diamond-cutting industry but it is most unusual for clients to receive real stones as a Christmas gift from their retailers.

So most of Mr. de Boer's clients didn't take him seriously when he mailed them stones to mark the 10th anniversary of his jewelry store.

It cost him 48,000 euros (£34,000) to send out 200 envelopes containing a small diamond - the rest with zirconium — a cheap diamond look-alike used in costume jewelry.
The letters asked the clients to bring the stone into the shop — if it was a real diamond, they could keep it.

Only 35 people turned up. After calling some of his clients, Mr. de Boer realized most had thrown the envelopes away without even opening them.

He told a newspaper he had been very naive and regretted it.

No doubt many of his clients regretted dumping the envelopes as well.

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I, I, I…

In the last issue of my newsletter, I recommended that you use the word "I" to start your letter.

I wrote "It helps make it sound like it’s coming from a real person," and makes it a true one-to-one communication. Nancy Harhut, the Executive Creative Director of Hill Holiday Relationship Marketing, wrote to disagree:

"I always advise people to not to lead a letter with "I" because they much prefer to see the word "you."

"The first sentence of the letter is so critical, I rarely take the chance of starting with "I"...or of acknowledging that I'm writing to them, for that matter.

"Now here's the funny thing: I thought I learned the above from you! "

Nancy may be right about this — and I have enormous respect for her professional opinion. I’m not alone. Nancy was just selected as the 2004 New England Direct Marketer of the Year.

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Free Issues
I was surprised to receive a copy of Rolling Stone magazine in my mail that came with a special mailing wrap.

The wrap read, "This is a Free preview Issue" and "You get 4 more Free Issues — just return the card below."

As you may know, Rolling Stone is a magazine with a heavy emphasis on music. On the cover of the issue they sent me, there was a photo of Ermine and D12 with the headline:

"American Psychos! Why he hates fame, and they hate the world."

I have no idea how Rolling Stone got my name. I’m not exactly in their demographic. I’ve ever subscribed to Rolling Stone — and the last concert I went to was Billy Joel.

So at first, I dismissed the mailing — thinking, boy did they waste their money on me.

But then I thought — this mailing actually achieved a number of important objectives.

1. It got noticed — and that’s the first objective of any direct mail piece. I didn’t throw it away without opening it — like all those people did with their diamonds.

2. I spent some time with it. I wouldn’t have spent a moment with a direct mail package from Rolling Stone. But I actually leafed through the magazine — and found a fascinating article on Ted Kennedy.

Ted Kennedy in Rolling Stone?

Apparently, the magazine also has a National Affairs section — no pun intended.

3. It delivered a compelling offer. Four free issues sounded like a good deal — especially now that I know that Rolling Stone isn’t just about music.

So — could you send a sample of your product to prospects? With all the proliferation of direct mail these days — it might really stand out. And it just might convince them to become customers.

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What’s the Frequency?

How often should you mail to prospects or customers?

Four times a year? Every two months? Once a week?

The fact is that most companies dramatically under-market and under-mail. Their reasoning is "We can’t send them anything now — we just mailed them something last month!"

Do you remember what you received in the mail last month?

Neither do your prospects.

David Ogilvy said, "You are not marketing to a standing army. You are marketing to a passing parade." What he meant was that people come in and out of your target market all the time, depending on their needs.

For example, I need a vacation — and so my wife and I have started looking at the mailings we receive from different vacation companies.

Last month, we were too busy to even think about going away. So those same brochures held absolutely no interest for me.

Several companies have found that mailing more frequently can be extremely profitable, especially to their customers. The catalogue company Paper Direct mails their best customers once every two weeks. Their reasoning is simple:

They want to be there when their customers run out of paper!

And my newest client, Viking River Cruises, mails former customers once a week.

It might be worthwhile to test additional mailings to your best customers. If that works, you can try mailing prospects more frequently.

A Word of Warning:

All of the above relates to direct mail — not e-mail.

Because e-mail is so inexpensive to produce and deliver, some companies abuse the privilege by bombarding prospects and customers with daily e-mails.

Not only is this ineffective — it can generate real anger and resentment towards your product or your company.

In my next newsletter, we’ll talk about how to build an effective e-mail campaign.

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Beat the Control

I just did an interview for Inside Direct Mail magazine about controls, and I want to share some of this information with you.Here are their questions and my answers:

Q. What makes a control a control?

A. Technically, a control is your best performing direct mail package — the one that’s worked best in a test.

However, a true control is one that has stood the test of time. It has consistently outperformed other direct mail pieces that have been tested against it.

Q. What do you do when you first set out to beat a control? What steps do you take?

A. The most important step is to dissect the existing control – take it apart and try to understand why it’s been successful and what makes it tick.

Often times, the control itself has the seeds of a better package – you just have to find them.

Q. What are some long-standing controls that you have created? What makes them work so well?

A. My favorite example of beating the control is for Systems Paving.— a company that makes and installs beautiful inter-locking stones for driveways, walkways and patios.In this case, we came up with an innovative offer for them. A Systems Paving representative will come to the house, take a digital photo of it and scan it into a laptop computer. Then the representative will show you how your home will look with a beautiful new driveway.

This offer not only blew away their previous direct mail – but also significantly increased conversions – since the homeowner could see exactly what they were getting.

Q. Are there any long standing controls by others you admire?

A. Of course, the Wall Street Journal "Two Young men" package is the classic example. I’ve also admired the work done for Blue Cross by Grant Johnson up in Milwaukee.

Q. Why hasn’t anyone been able to beat these controls?

A. For Systems Paving – we are currently testing a new package that I think has a good chance to win. It focuses on the problem first – and then the solution.

The package features an "Inspection Report" that will persuade people to go out and have a closer look at their driveway.

For the Wall Street Journal, and other controls – I’d like to believe it’s only because they haven’t given me a chance to beat them!*

Q. Do you have any advice on how to beat a control?

A. Let me summarize:

1. Figure out what’s working in the existing control, and build on it
2. Focus on the offer
3. Address the problem first – before you sell the solution
4. When all else fails – do something completely different
5. Test, test, test

*Do you have a control that’s no longer performing as well as it used to? Or would you like to establish a new control? Please e-mail me at

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Tested by Time
If the name John Caples sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because of the Caples Awards, which are given for the most creative direct marketing campaigns of the year.

Their namesake, John Caples was one of the world’s most highly respected and highly paid copywriters. But it wasn’t because of his writing skills or talent or creativity.

The reason for his success was that he was determined to learn what actually works, and then he applied those lessons for his clients.

Caples shared his learning in his most famous book, Tested Advertising Methods that was written before most of us were born. It was recently updated and available from Prentice Hall Publishing.

To give you an idea of just how valuable and useful this book can be, let me list some of the Chapter headings:

  • Chapter Five: 35 Proven Formulas for Writing Headlines and Direct Mail Teasers
  • Chapter Eleven: 20 Ways to Increase Selling Power of Copy
  • Chapter Thirteen: 32 Ways to Get More Inquiries from Your Advertising

In my opinion Tested Advertising Methods is the one essential book for every direct marketer.

As David Ogilvy wrote in the introduction, "Most great copywriters abandoned the hard slog of writing advertisements to become administrators. Not so John Caples. He has stuck to his knitting — for 49 years. That is how he has been able to accumulate his unique body of knowledge.

"This is without a doubt, the most useful book about advertising that I have ever read."

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Reader’s Poll

In my seminars — I always start by asking participants "What’s your biggest challenge?"

The answers vary. Some people talk about the limited resources they have — which doesn’t allow them to test. Some find it challenging to track and measure the results of their direct marketing.

So let me ask you — what’s your biggest challenge?

In our next newsletter, we’ll share some of the answers we receive — and we may even be able to assist you.

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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