Direct Mail Consultant, Copywriter, and Coach Direct Mail Consultant, Copywriter, and Coach Direct Mail Consultant, Copywriter, and Coach Direct Mail Consultant, Copywriter, and Coach
Direct Mail Consultant, Copywriter, and Coach Ask Dr. Direct | Direct Mail Consultant, Copywriter, and Coach Email Alan Rosenspan | Free Consultation Direct Mail Consultant, Copywriter, and Coach


About Alan Rosenspan

How We Work

Client List & Projects

Beat the Control

Seminars & Speeches

Awards & Recognition

Recent Publications

Free Newsletter

101 Ways to Improve Response


Contact Us

Free Book

Read more »

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

Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter

Issue # 35: May 2005

1. Advance Notice
2. The Blink Test
3. Stan Schmidt
4. Incredible Benefits
5. Russian Pencil Test
7. Strategic Partnerships
Dear Friends,

You may remember the movie, "If it's Tuesday, it Must Be Belgium."

That was my life in April — and the reason you haven't received this newsletter sooner.

I went from Johannesburg to Moscow to Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Greensboro, North Carolina. I feel like the World's Most Frequent Flyer.

Anyway, I'm back now — and I've learned a few things that I'd like to share with you.

All the best,


P.S. Last newsletter, I asked whether or not you enjoyed receiving the newsletter and whether you got anything of value from it. I was overwhelmed with over 150 responses — all warm and positive — and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you.

Back to Top of Page

Advance Notice

Staples is an office supplies super store — based here in Boston.

Like most major retailers, they run a circular in the Sunday newspapers that alerts prospects to all the items they have on sale. Sounds typical — but Staples goes one step further.

On Thursday, three days before they run their Sunday circular, they alert their good customers to the sale via e-mail. Here's a recent example that they sent me just before tax time:


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dear Alan,
Print. Staple. Shred. Save.
April 15 is sneaking closer. So sneak a peek at hot deals that'll help you breathe easy.
- Save 25% - Staples(R) brand paper, 8 1/2'' x 11'' case (SKU 380479) - just $21.94 after instant savings, limit 2 per customer
- Save 50% - Staples(R) brand executive stapler (SKU 571112) - just $4.94 after instant savings
Click here to see even more awesome deals in Sunday's circular.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


There are two great things about this program:

1. It doesn't cost Staples any more. They are not giving their good customers any special deals. They are just giving them advance notice and first choice of all the items.

2. It makes these good customers feel special. They think, "Everyone else has to wait to go through the Sunday Circular. Not me — Staples personally alerts me…"

Is this something you could do in your company?

Back to Top of Page

The Blink Test

Malcolm Gladwell, the celebrated author of The Tipping Point, has just released a new book called Blink. The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

The book begins with the story of when The J. Paul Getty Museum was approached by a dealer who wanted to sell them a kouros — a Greek statue from the 6th century BC.

The museum commissioned a comprehensive investigation, and tested the statue with all the most advanced tools — including electron microscopes and microprobes, X-ray diffraction and X-ray fluorescence.

The kouros passed every test. And so, after 14 months, they finally agree to purchase it at the asking price of $10 million dollars.

A few months later, Evelyn Harrison, a noted expert on Greek sculpture, took one look at it — and instantly knew that it wasn't authentic.

How could she tell? She didn’t know. It was just a hunch, an instinctive sense that something was wrong.

And she was right!

The kouros was a fake — a highly sophisticated forgery that had fooled the world's most prominent art experts and scientists for months and months. But in just two seconds, in the blink of an eye, Evelyn Harrison somehow knew it wasn't authentic.

Blink is a book about those two seconds.

How is this relevant to direct marketing? When people open your direct mail package or e-mail, they quickly scan the contents — and make their decisions in that same blink of the eye.
They are deciding whether it's worth spending time with it — or to throw it away or delete it. That means you have just a second or two to capture their interest and their attention.

Why not put your direct mail to the Blink test?

Have someone who doesn’t know your product or service open your package and scan it for just a few seconds. Then have them try to tell you the main idea that's being communicated, or the most important benefit.

If they can't — your direct mail may not be working as hard as it can for you.

Back to Top of Page

Stan Schmidt

Stan Schmidt is the highest graded Western black belt in the world, and is acknowledged as one of the leading thinkers in Shotokan karate and martial arts.

I had the privilege of studying with Stan for many years, and I wanted to share a lesson I learned — which, believe it or not, may be applicable to direct marketing.

Once Stan led our class through an especially exhausting session. He kept us moving the entire time, making us throw hundreds of punches and kicks, over and over.

When the 45-minute long class ended — and we literally fell to the ground — Stan bowed to us and said one word.

The word terrified even the highest graded black-belts, and you could hear a collective gasp.

....The word was "Again."

Incredulous, we struggled to our feet and began the warm-up exercises once again. But something amazing happened. We could feel our energy actually growing with every exercise.

And at the end of this second 45-minute class, we were transformed. After the first class, I felt I couldn’t even walk. Now I was bursting with energy.

Stan stood before us and said, "You must never quit. You must never give in. Now you know that even when you think you can't go on - you have so much more inside you."

I think of that amazing class, and Stan's point, whenever I am faced with a difficult challenge or an impossible deadline.

Back to Top of Page

Incredible Benefits

In my Improve Your Direct Mail seminars, I have an exercise that dramatizes the different between features and benefits.

I call it The Incredible Pencil Test.

The way it works is that people try to come up with three features and benefits for an ordinary #2 pencil. I ask them to write them down as follows.

"The feature is X, so the benefit is Y".

Let me give you an example. "The pencil is yellow - so you can find it easily on your desk."

How many do you think you can come up with? Five? 10? Maybe even 15? I'll share the world record with you in a moment.

The value of the Incredible Pencil Test is that it can help you identify important benefits for your product or service. You may even come up with some surprising new ones.

Let me give you a recent example.

Uni-ball is a pen manufacturer that makes a line of gel pens. As you may know, gel pens allow the ink to flow more smoothly. It's not an important benefit, but after all, how much can you say about an ordinary pen?

It turns out that there is another benefit to a gel pen — the ink saturates the paper. But why is that important?

Uni-ball's recent advertising explained why, with a very timely message:

"Uni-ball Helps Prevent Check Fraud!"

The copy went on to explain that the ink becomes trapped in the paper of the check, making it virtually impossible for a criminal to wash away the writing and mis-use your check.

Maybe I should use The Incredible Pen Test in my seminars.

The point is that brainstorming features and benefits can lead you to surprising new selling points.

And by the way, the world record for The Incredible Pencil Test is 242, set in Auckland New Zealand.

SPECIAL OFFER: If you can come up with a feature and benefit that I haven't heard before, I will send you a Free copy of Richard Goldsmith's excellent guide, Direct Mail for Dummies.

Back to Top of Page

Russian Pencil Test

As part of the Pencil test, I talk about the benefits of coming up with simple solutions. The example I use is from the American space agency, NASA.

Apparently, NASA spent $2 million dollars coming up with a pen that would work in zero gravity — so they could use it in outer space. The Russians came up with a simpler, less expensive solution.

They used a pencil.

I never knew whether or not this story was true, but I talked about in my seminar in Moscow. Everyone nodded their heads and confirmed it.

I also have an article about The Incredible Pencil Test, which I'll be happy to send you. Just e-mail me at

Back to Top of Page

Whenever I make a speech — I make sure to listen to all the other speakers at the conference. I never fail to learn something.

This was especially true at a recent event in Moscow, where I had the chance to hear Simon Bond, who is the Managing Director of an agency called Proximity in Singapore.

Bond talked about the penetration of new technologies, which have changed consumer behavior and how they access new media.

What's the key to success with these new technologies? Bond believes that the answer lies in creating compelling content; advertising that people want to download or e-mail to their friends or participate in.

For example, have you ever been to This is an amazing site, created by BMW, to showcase their cars in a way that they could never show on television.

The website says, "Brace yourself for intricate plot twists, riveting car chases, and a dose of wit. All eight short films of The Hire, created by Hollywood’s finest talent, are available now for downloading and streaming".

"These brilliantly produced films star Clive Owen as the driver. Hired for his superb driving skills and unshakable poise, the driver encounters unexpected obstacles that put his abilities to the test. Watch as each film reveals new depths of character, intrigue, and cinematography."

BMW can spend a fortune on these films (and they have) because they don't have to pay a penny in media costs.

They're not running these films on TV or in a cinema. They are just available on the website. But millions of people have watched these, downloaded them and sent them along to their friends.

Bond also talked about SMS Text messaging, gaming and blogging. I'll share more of his thinking with you in another newsletter.

Back to Top of Page

Strategic Partnership

Go Ahead Vacations is a company that sells vacation packages for people 45-years or older. (I've worked with them for a number of years — and finally I qualify!)

When you sign on for one of their vacations, they send you a package with all the information about your trip. This includes your itinerary, a reading list (which I think is an excellent idea) and all the forms you need to sign.

…and one thing extra.

Inside the package is a catalog from TravelSmith, which describes itself as "The Official Outfitter to the World's Top Travel Companies."

There is also a note from Go Ahead Vacations president, Chris O'Brien, who assures you that "TravelSmith has everything you need for your upcoming tour."

Very smart — and I'm sure it's working very well.

Is there another company that your company could partner with on a marketing program? They may be selling a complementary product or service — or targeting the same market.

And you could come up with a very successful and cost-effective program.

Back to Top of Page

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

Back to Top of Page | Back to First Page of Newsletters Section


© Alan Rosenspan & Associates
5 Post Office Square
Sharon, MA 02067
Phone: 781-784-8283