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

Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter
Issue # 45: DMA Annual Conference Issue

1. The Power of You

2. That Was Easy

3. The Power of You 2

4. Why Our Work Works

5. Birthday Club

6. E-Mail Update

7. The Power of DM

8. Careful with Your URL

Dear Friends,

I just got back from the Direct Marketing Associations Annual Conference, in San Francisco, and I want to share with you what I learned.

The 2006 Conference was outstanding, with over 100 speakers giving "state of the art" presentations on direct marketing strategies, tactics and technology. If you haven't been, or haven't been for a while, I urge you to attend next year. It will be in Chicago from October 13 – 17, 2007 and you can get more information at

My contribution included five different presentations, including "All About You" which I'll touch on in this newsletter. We also won another ECHO Award for Scotts LawnService, which was very gratifying.

All the best, Alan


The Power of You

David Ogilvy once said, "Unless your advertising is based on a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night."

Sorry David, but that's no longer true. There is just too much marketing out there shouting at you and clamoring for your attention. Today, the idea has to be about you – and that was the focus of my new DMA presentation.

How can you take advantage of this? I have two recommendations.

1. Send out customized, personalized communications.

The technology to do this has been around for years – it's now becoming much more affordable.

  • The Farm Journal has been creating customized versions of their magazine for over 20 years. The reason is that different farmers have different crops, different animals and different-sized farms in different areas of the country. How different? The Farm Journal currently prints over 12,000 different versions of their magazine every month. Each version is a different combination of highly-targeted editorial and advertising.
  • The American Association of Plastic Surgeons uses Print-on-Demand customized fulfillment. I called their 800 number and requested information about hair transplant surgery. They sent me a lavishly printed brochure with my name on the cover. The headline read, "You Made The Right Choice. A Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Profile for Alan Rosenspan." But they didn't just customize the name – they also customized the images. On the cover were two photographs of guys with beautiful hair – the hair that I could have if I contacted one of the plastic surgeons near me, who were listed inside the brochure.

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

Instead of saying "We have..." or "We offer..."  think in terms of "You will..." and "You'll benefit by..."

I recommend that you include the word "You" in every headline and outer envelope. And also use the words, "You" or "Your" at least 12 times in every page of your letter. This may seem highly arbitrary (it is) but it forces you to avoid the "Us and We" trap and focus on the prospect and the benefits they will receive.

After my presentation, I asked people to count how many times I used the word "You" in my slides. The winner received a free copy of my book, Confessions of a Control Freak.

The number of times was 101 – just like my 101 Ways to Improve Your  Response.

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That Was Easy

Staples recently asked me to do a seminar for them – I have always admired their marketing, and I was happy that they contacted me.

As you may know, Staples recently featured an "Easy Button" in their TV campaign.  You simply press it and it says, "That was easy." Well, someone at Staples came up with the brilliant idea of selling the button in the stores.

They have now sold over 1.2 million of them (at $5.00 each) and people have modified them in some very creative ways. One customer re-wired it to use as his garage door opener.

And to their credit, the Staples Foundation plans to donate $1 million of the revenue from this product to the Boys & Girls Club of America.

Staples also encourages you to download an Easy Button application to your desktop, so you're always one click away from That was not only easy – that was smart.

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The Power of You 2

Let me give you an example of the Power of You - with our control package for, the largest genealogical search company on the web.

The brochure asks a provocative question on the cover. It says, "Who Are You? When you open it up, you see two additional questions, "Who Are Your Ancestors?" and "Where Did You Come From?"

When the brochure is fully open, it asks the final question – "Are You Related to Anyone Famous?" And then we offer a Free Family History Report.

This package worked better than anything we have done for  – but I was amazed to discover that it actually says nothing about the company at all.

The only time we even mention the company is in the tagline, Ancestry. Your Story Begins here.

Clearly it pays to focus on your prospect and your customer – and not on your product or your company, and to use the word "You" as much as possible.

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Why Our Work Works

I mentioned that we won another ECHO Award for Scotts LawnService – that brings our total to 20.  And so I tried to come up with the reasons why our creative consistently improves response.

I want to share them with you – not just because I want you to use us (of course, I do) – but also because I think it might impact how you work with other agencies or consultants.

1. Our work is never just our work

I know there are direct marketing creative people whose attitude is, "Stand back – we know what's best." But that's not the way we have ever worked.

We understand that you are much more of an expert on your product and your market than we will ever be. We respect your knowledge, your opinions and your gut instinct. So that the work we do together is a collaborative effort.

And some of our best-performing ideas have come directly from our clients.

2. We give you a lot of choices

The scientist Linus Pauling said, "The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas." I agree. We always show between 4-7 different concepts for every project we do, sometimes even more. 

We then go through them with our clients, share our thinking, and then together decide which one to pursue. And we often pick different elements from one concept and combine it with another.

3. We work only on a project basis – not a retainer

Several of our clients have been with us for many years, but we still work with them one project at a time. That means we have to do our best every single project – or else we won't be hired again.

It also gives new clients an opportunity to "try us out" without any ongoing commitment on their part.

Our current costs are $3500 per day for onsite consulting, and $12,500 - $15,000 for every direct mail package.

And one more thing: you own all the 4-7 concepts we show, and you can use them at any time and for any reason. Some of our clients are still mailing packages we did for them five years ago.

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The Birthday Club

Arthur Hughes gave an excellent presentation on Database Marketing. He wrote the book on it, called Strategic Database Marketing, which is essential reading for any direct marketer.

His main tenet is  "Database marketing only works when the customer benefits from it" and he gave a remarkable example from Ridgeway Fashions, an upscale women's clothing store in Virginia.

Arthur's wife  apparently joined their Birthday Club, and so he received the following letter, which I think is just amazing:


Dear Mr. Hughes,

I would like to remind you that your wife Helen's birthday is coming up in two weeks on November 5th.

As you know, she loves Liz Clairborne clothing, and we have an absolutely beautiful new suit in blue, her favorite color, in a fourteen, her size, priced at $232.

I can gift wrap it and send it to you, or I will put it away for you to pick up, when it's convenient.



Name of Manager


Now that's database marketing!

So is the Birthday Club for women or for their significant others?

I'm not sure – but it's remarkable how a few bits of personal information can transform a letter from junk mail to a powerful selling tool.

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E-Mail Update

Stephanie Miller of Return Path gave an excellent presentation on the latest trends in e-mail marketing. Here are a few of the lessons she shared:

  • The most important driver of e-mail open rates is "Prior Value." In other words, if the prospect or customer has already opened e-mails from you – and found them useful or valuable – they will open the next one.

However, if they did not find value in it, they will not open another one from you. This is why you can hurt your response by sending e-mails without value.

  • You can also hurt your brand by sending out too many e-mails. In a Return Path research study, 50% of people agreed with the following statement, "SPAM is any e-mail that comes from any company that e-mails too frequently."
  • The magic number for subject lines in e-mail should be + - 49 characters (including spaces.) According to Miller, this length performs about 75% better than shorter subject lines or longer ones.
  • The word "Free" may be okay to use – especially in B2C. I've always avoided this word, because I thought it would be blocked or filtered out, but Return Path's research shows that doesn't happen very often.

Stephanie also talked about the growing use of Preview Windows. These are in Outlook and Yahoo, but will soon be adopted by AOL.

A Preview Window allows the recipient to see the top 1 or 2 inches of an e-mail, and then decide whether or not they want to open them. Research shows that 80% of people will do this, when it's available.

That means you need to design your e-mail (especially one in HTML) so that the offer, the headline and the call to action can be seen in the Preview Window.

She also advised that you design the top portion of your e-mail to be no wider than 600 pixels. That will ensure that the Preview Window displays your entire headline and won't cut it off.

One last tip: According to another source, the most powerul Subject Line word is now "Update", which is why I used it as the title of this section.

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The Power of DM

At the Annual Conference, John Greco, President and CEO of the DMA, gave a rousing presentation on how direct marketing has grown and where it is going.

A few highlights:

  • Direct marketing-driven sales now make up 10.3% of the US gross domestic budget. That's about 1.939 trillion dollars.
  • DM sales have increased 7.4% over 2005.
  • 7.5% of all US employment is now direct-marketing driven. That's over 10.5 million jobs.

John also talked about the DMA's important initiatives in battling "Do Not Mail" legislation, supporting Postal Reform and protecting access to marketing data. If you would like a copy of his speech, just send us your address and we'll be happy to mail you a copy.

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Careful with your URL

Should you send people to a landing page that includes the name of your company, or should you send them to one without your company name?

If you include your company name as part of your URL, the problem is that some people will simply stop there – and go to  instead of all the way to

If you send them to a completely different URL – they may not remember it at all.

My recommendation – make the URL part of your name. Some people may not "go all the way" but at least they will be at your site. But, as the following examples show – you need to be careful with your URL.

All of the following are legitimate organizations that didn't spend quite enough time considering how their URL would read:

  • Do you want to contact a movie star? Who Represents is a website that will tell you the name of the agent that represents any celebrity. Their web site is
  • Do you want to talk it over with a therapist? Therapist Finder will provide a list of them at

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Opt out, Opt in, Opportunity

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

2. This is issue #45. To access all our back-issues on our website, click here.

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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