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

Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter

Issue # 34: March 2005

1. Don't Lose Your Soul
2. eMail Test Platform
3. Watch Weight Watchers
4. Reverse Testimonial
5. Involvement Devices
6. Are you a DM Professional?
7. Touch Points

Dear Friends,

Is the economy really getting better?

It looks like it from here. We've done more projects for more companies in the past two months than ever. And according to a recent DM News article, direct mail is still growing at a very impressive rate.

I hope this issue of my newsletter has something of value for you. And if you ever have any questions about anything I've written, please feel free to e-mail me at

All the best to you,


P.S. Would you like a free copy of my book, Confessions of a Control Freak? I'm looking to revamp my website in the coming months. If you can critique it and offer me any ideas I can use, I'll be happy to send a free book to the first 5 people to respond.

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Save Your Soul

I just did a seminar for a direct marketing agency out in San Francisco. They wanted to learn (1) How to better deal with their largest client and (2) How to present their work more effectively.

One of their main problems was that their largest client never buys any of their "good" or "creative" work. The client picks the safest concept, or picks a good one and proceeds to ruin it. And the agency's staff was rapidly becoming demoralized.

I had some practical advice for them — but also spiritual advice.

I said, "Just because the client doesn't buy your best work — that doesn't mean you should stop trying to do it and sell it as much as you can. If they don't buy it, that's immaterial. You did your best and you know it.

"If on the other hand, you keep showing them poor work and not investing your energy and your talent into it — you will lose your soul.

"Let me repeat that — you will lose your soul.

"I'm sure work isn't your whole life — but you probably spend more time here in the office than almost anywhere else. And if you don't do your best — in this, your life's work — you will never be happy."

It took me years to learn this lesson, which you may already know. You don't do your best work for others. You do it for yourself.

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eMail Test Platform

We just completed an assignment for The Education Center in North Carolina.

The Education Center is a wonderful company that markets publications and products for elementary school teachers. They hired me to do an advertisement and direct mail program for one of their magazines called Teachers Helper.

The approach we took was fairly innovative — and that's why I wanted to share it with you. Here's what we did, step by step:

1. Consulting and Brainstorming — we spent a day together reviewing what they had done in the past, the available research, and lessons learned.

It was a great way to bring me up to speed on their challenges, and the ideas covered everything from pricing to offers. My client ended up with 9 pages of notes.

2. eMail Test — because we were looking at new positionings for the magazine, we started by testing 5 different e-mails. Each had a slightly different approach.

The reason we did this is that it was much faster and much less expensive to test via e-mail than by direct mail.

And by the way, the message they had been using performed the worst of all the concepts.

3. The Ads — once we narrowed down the winning message, I created 7 different advertisements for them to consider. Some were pretty literal versions of the e-mails; some were more creative interpretations.

But the best part was — we all knew the main message had tested well.

4. Direct Mail — we haven't gotten to this phase yet, because we want the direct mail to tie in with the advertisement they select. This is important; when you have a similar message and graphic in both your advertising and your direct marketing, you can often improve the response to each.

We've just recommended a similar program — including the e-mail test — to American Express. It might be worth considering for your next project.

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Watch Weight Watchers

I just joined Weight Watchers — and lost 15 pounds in the first month — and I've been getting some unusual direct mail.

One package stood out for me. It came in an over-sized, full color envelope. On the front is a huge photograph (almost life size) of a Mint Brownie Ice Cream Bar.

A Mint Brownie Ice Cream bar — for Weight Watchers?

The message was "Eat What You Love... and you're on the way to a slimmer, trimmer new you."

Why did they do it? Weight Watchers is smart enough to focus on what their members will respond to.

They don't show photos of thin and attractive people; they don't show "before and after." These are things you don't get immediately with Weight Watchers.

What you do get immediately can eat these delicious foods right away, without feeling guilty. And you'll still lose weight!

And they know that overweight people (like me) will be attracted to the photographs of great food.

Next mailing, try focusing on what your target market really wants — and not on what you sell.

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Involvement Devices

...are back.

As you may know, an "involvement device" is anything that will encourage a prospect to spend just an extra three seconds with your direct mail package.

It's one of the advantages that direct mail has over e-mail and any other form of media.

Involvement devices were used quite frequently by Reader's Digest (who included a penny in their package) American Family Publishers (who used stickers) and even B2B companies.

However, involvement devices began losing their lift, and most companies stopped using them for a while. But the reason I'm writing this now is that companies have had great success with them in the past few months.

  • A recent American Express package included a sticker on the top of the letter. The prospect had to remove the sticker and place it on the Acceptance Form — it worked very well.
  • Many of the best performing packages for The Discover Card have stickers. They have been on the outside envelope and on the letter.
  • We are currently testing a sticker for the American Association of Aircraft Owners and Pilots. The sticker is in the shape of their logo, and looks like wings. The message — "Do You Have Your Wings Yet?"

One of my favorite involvement devices was a small flipbook that the MathWorks used to include in their mailings. Engineers loved them.

When I think of involvement devices, I am reminded of a poem that refers to children, but also might be useful to direct marketers.

Tell me and I'll forget
Show me and I'll remember
Involve me and I'll understand

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Reverse Testimonial

I've always recommended testimonials — but here's a new approach to them. I just received a mailing package to subscribe to a new magazine called The Nation.

What kind of magazine is it? The outside envelope had a photograph of George Bush, with a silly-looking crown on his head. The copy read:

So you helped crown this guy?
(If your answer is YES, DO NOT open this envelope)

This was a very gutsy message — to the right market — but they went even further inside the envelope. There was a lift note, with this message on the cover:

"I wouldn't recommend The Nation," Says Rush Limbaugh.

As you probably know, Limbaugh is a conservative talk show host who is a big supporter of George Bush. And the fact that he wouldn't recommend the magazine is the best testimonial the magazine can have.

I'm not interested in The Nation — and I enjoy Rush Limbaugh — but I've never seen a reverse testimonial before.

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Are You a DM Professional?

I just received an e-mail from Mal Decker. Mal, who is one of the true direct marketing professionals, made news about a year ago when he beat the famous Wall Street Journal control letter.

(If you're interested in how he did it, the full story is in my Newsletter #20 — available at

So how does a top DM pro feel about his work? He sounds like he just started in direct marketing. He wrote, "I actually learn something new with every job. I guess that has a lot to do with why I'm still at it."

Why are you still at it?

Are you still learning and growing?

As a direct marketing professional, you have an obligation to keep up with new developments in your field. You need to get and read the industry magazines and newsletters; you have to read the latest books.

You're not only being entrusted with your clients' money — their jobs or careers or the future of their company may be at stake.

The average agency has 20-40 clients. The average client has only one agency. They deserve your very best efforts, your knowledge and your best and most-informed advice.

When clients come to you, they are coming to an expert. Or at least, they should be.

And by the way, here are the industry publications that I believe are absolutely essential to anyone in direct marketing:


Inside Direct

1 to 1 Magazine — email:


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Touch Points

The way my business has worked in the past few years is that I'm on a project basis with most of my clients.

It's a better system than a retainer relationship, because I only get paid when I actually do the work. I don't have to worry about earning my monthly fee. And I'm only as good as my last package.

The reason I mention this is that recently, I was cleaning out my office and came across a list of clients from a couple of years ago.

I started calling them, just to see how they were doing — and I was amazed at the response.

Not one, but two of them said, "I'm so glad you called. We're planning a project right now where we'd love to get you involved."
No matter how good your product is — it makes sense to stay in touch with your customers and your best prospects.

Because you never know when they might need you. And you just can't depend on them remembering you at that moment.

You might want to look for appropriate "Touch Points" to contact your customers and prospects.

These could be driven by time — for example, you can contact people every three months. Or you could structure your contact plan around how people evaluate or buy your services.

It sounds so simple — but I believe keeping in contact might be the single most important driver of a successful company.

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5 Years Later...

Assuming you have read this far, this was Newsletter #34. I've been writing them for the past 5 years — and all together, they come to over 320 pages, and represent weeks of work.

Am I wasting my time?

Or do you get something out of receiving them? Please let me know with a brief e-mail to

And if not, 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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Sharon, MA 02067
Phone: 781-784-8283