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

Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter
Issue # 40: Holiday Season 2005

1. VistaPrint Viral
2. Postal Increase
3. InfoUSA Test
4. Future Responders
5. Out of the Box Ideas
6. The Mystery Cougher
7. Remembering Ray

Dear Friends,

This has been a busy time for me — with seminars in Belgium and then Italy, and also a trip to the West Coast.

It's also been a sad time — as my good friend Ray Considine passed away.

But I wanted to get this newsletter out before the holiday season, when your schedule is probably more hectic than ever.

I also wanted to be the first to wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season, and a productive and profitable New Year. I hope you move from strength to strength in the year ahead.

All the best, Alan

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What's the fastest way to build a business with 6 million customers?

Turn every single one of them into a viral marketing opportunity.

That's what VistaPrint did with their incredible business card offer.

VistaPrint is a terrific company that prints and produces everything from business cards to holiday cards, letterheads, postcards, magnets, brochures and more.

They do excellent work — but they built their business with one simple offer:

VistaPrint will print 250 business cards for you — absolutely free. You can choose from different colors and designs. You can have anything you like on the front of the card, but you must include one simple line on the back.

It says,"Business Cards are FREE at"

And that means that everyone who takes advantage of this offer (and millions of people have) now has the potential to generate 250 extra customers for VistaPrint!

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It's still an incredible bargain.

I mean — think of it. You can drop a letter in the mail in Boston, and just three or four days later, it will arrive in San Francisco. And all it will cost you is 37 cents.

...until January 8th, that is.

The next postage increase is due to hit that date. And the cost of a one-ounce first class stamp will go up 2 cents to 39 cents. Other classes of mail will go up 5.4%, including Standard and Non-Profit.

But bargains aside — as the cost of direct mail goes up, it is absolutely imperative that we do everything we can to improve response.

That's the one side of the equation that we can control.

And if you still don't have a copy of my free booklet, 101 Ways to Increase Response, please e-mail me and I'll be happy to share it with you.

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Since we are talking about improving response — let me share a quick tip with you.

Do you want an easy way to make your direct mail work much harder for you?

Take whatever you are sending out, whether it's a self-mailer, a catalog or a booklet — and stick in an envelope and add a letter.

Sounds simple? It is — but when InfoUSA did this with one of their catalogues — response tripled.

I learned this at one of my recent seminars. I also learned that InfoUSA is an excellent source of both B2B and B2C lists. You can find out more at

(You can also find out how many potential customers you have in the categories you select. And it's free — until you actually order the list.)

Adding an envelope and a letter does increase the costs — but in my experience, it can pay for itself many times over with increased business.

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The holiday season has many wonderful joys; being with family and friends; buying gifts and receiving them...

...but there's another wonderful joy.

Millions of children all over the world are being turned on to the power of direct marketing!

I am speaking, of course, of letters to Santa Claus.

• In Sweden, any child writing to Santa Claus is guaranteed a personal reply and a small gift via a new dedicated Santa service. Last year, the Swedish Post Office received over 200,000 letters.

• In Canada, the Post Office operates the special North Pole post code (which is appropriately HOH OHO.) Over one million letters are received — and answered by a small army of 11,000 volunteers.

(And times are changing — they also handled 30,000 e-mails!)

• In Australia, where Christmas Day comes right in the middle of their summer, over 120,000 children wrote to Santa and received replies and gifts.

And in the United States, the United States Postal Service runs their "Secret Santa" program that enables businesses to answer children's letters and donate toys and gifts.

My company has participated in this worthwhile program for the past couple of years. There's still time to join in by contacting your local Post Office and asking about the program.

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In the seminars I do for the DMA, I have an interesting group exercise.

The attendees break up into groups of 4 or 5 and I challenge them to go back in time just a few years ago...

...and launch the Post-it Note.

Everyone knows what a Post-it Note is nowadays, but that wasn't always true. Imagine trying to describe a Post-it Note to someone who had never heard of one.

"'s a little piece of yellow paper, and it has glue on it. It's not good glue comes off when you pull it."

"How many do you think we can sell?"

The groups in my seminar have to come up with strategic recommendations (based on what we've covered), determine whether the launch should be B2B or B2C, decide who to target; and one thing more...

I also ask them to come up with at least one completely out-of-the-box idea.

"You'll probably never hear this from anyone else in your career," I say,"...but budget is NOT an issue. Spend as much as you want."

The exercise usually generates dozens of wild and creative ideas. A couple of examples:

1. Put billboards all around the city with photographs of beautiful male and female models. The only things they are wearing are a few strategically-placed Post-it Notes.

Then, every week, remove another Post-it note...

2. Put people in front of every major train station in the country. As commuters walk by, simply slap a Post-it Note on their backs. The message could be "Forget something? Use a Post-it!"

3. Create a "Tell Us Where to Stick It" Sweepstakes, where people could suggest the most creative and unusual uses for Post-it Notes.

The exercise is a lot of fun — but that's not why I include it.

It teaches an important lesson that I think you can apply to your own direct marketing programs. The lesson is this:

After you've come up with your strategic direct marketing plan...after you've chosen your list, selected an offer, and designed your direct mail or e-mail...

Try to come up with just one completely out-of-the-box idea.

It might turn out to be the most important part of your program. And the following story is a great example of that...

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The next time you hear someone cough — it might be worth $1 million to you!

As you may know, Ricola are the makers of medicated cough drops, and they came up with a completely out-of-the-box idea.

Ricola sends a Mystery Cougher to cities around the United States, whose job it is to cough in public places. (Lots of people do that anyway without getting paid for it.)

If you hear the Mystery Cougher, and you are the first person to offer her a Ricola cough drop, you can win anything from $1,000. to a cool $1 million.

It's all part of Ricola's "Thanks a Million" competition — and it's an excellent example of innovative and creative out-of-the-box thinking.

Want to enter — without being coughed on? Simply go to

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My good friend Ray Considine just passed away prematurely.

I say prematurely — because even though Ray was 84, he never stopped learning, and listening and speaking. He did a number of presentations in Singapore and Estonia just a year or two ago.

Ray was a remarkable man in many ways — and a long time friend.

I tried to visit him in California at least once a year, and we spoke every couple of weeks on the phone. If he didn't hear from me — I'd always get an indignant message.

"It's Considine," he'd growl, "I just wanted to see whether or not you got hit by a bus or something!"

Ray knew everybody — and everybody knew Ray. He had lunches with Ray Bradbury, dinners with Bill Jayme, and coffee with anyone who wanted or needed a little help or advice.

Ray was a gracious and generous friend.

Let me give you three examples:

1. I first met Ray in South Africa, many years ago, That day, I gave an absolutely abysmal presentation at a conference. It may have been jet lag — it may just have been inexperience.

But as I just about crawled from the stage in embarrassment, Ray put his arm around my shoulders and cheered me up. He pointed out the one or two parts of my speech that went well. At that moment, I became a life long fan and a devoted friend.

2. When I ran the New England Direct Marketing Conference back in 1992, I invited Ray to come out and give the keynote presentation.

The Conference also included an Award Show. And before the Show, we had to pin up the hundreds of entries on the walls. This was a massive job that took hours and hours.

Ray arrived, and without a word, put down his suitcase, rolled up his sleeves and began to work alongside with us. He was 70 years old at the time.

3. When I wrote my book, Confessions of a ControlFreak, Ray offered to have a look at it.

He spent hours with it and edited every single page, adding ideas, clarifying my thinking, and improving my writing. I think he worked just as hard on the book as I did — and I couldn't have finished it without him.

And all he wanted from me were a few extra copies to send to friends.

Ray was a brilliant speaker — on and off the stage.

He gave hundreds, if not thousands of presentations — to groups all over the world. He wasn't just listened to; he was loved. Ray made you feel that he was talking only to you — even if you were sitting in an audience of a thousand people.

I gave a presentation with him once in Las Vegas - and it was like opening for Frank Sinatra.

Ray was an Irishman, with a booming voice and a twinkle in his eye that let you know he never took himself too seriously. He was one of the most literate men I've ever met, a Harvard graduate with a degree in Economics, but could talk to anyone about anything.

And he could be very persuasive...

He once needed to make an impossible last minute change to an airline reservation. He walked up to the ticker counter and said, "I need to speak to someone in the Miracle Department."

They changed his ticket on the spot — no charge.

Ray never stopped growing and sharing ideas.
He wrote "The Great Brain Robbery" with Murray Raphel about 20 years ago. And if there's ever been a book with more good ideas about selling or advertising, I haven't come across it.

He wrote "W.A.Y.M.I.S.H." with his friend Ted Cohn a few years ago. (The title is an acronym - "Why Are You Making it So give you my money?") and the book was filled with wonderful anecdotes about good and bad customer service.

Whenever I talked with Ray, he always had a new project he was working on; a new book that he wanted to send me; a new way of thinking about business or selling.

And every couple of weeks, I'd receive another package in the mail — ads he ripped out and improved, copy so bad it drove him crazy, ideas he wanted to share, or things he thought I should know.

Ray was a person with deep integrity.

His mantra was simple — "Do What You Say You're Going to Do." It was more than just a saying.

In the business world, where promises of "I'll call you," or "Let's do lunch" don't mean a thing — Ray's word was sacrosanct. If he said he would do it — he did it. It was that simple.

Ray's style wasn't something you could aspire to — you had to be born with it. But when you knew Ray and you were lucky enough to be counted as one of his friends, you always tried to live up to his high expectations of you.

When I hit a recent significant birthday, I received a wonderful postcard from Ray. He wrote, "As soon as the news of your birthday reached LA, there was dancing in the street and a general feeling of joy.

"Why? Because you have so much time left to be productive and creative!"

Ray used all of his 84 years so well and so wisely. And I know I'm only one of his many, many friends and associates who are proud to have known him, and will miss him so very much.

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Thank you,


Alan Rosenspan & Associates
281 Needham Street
Newton, MA 02464

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