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

Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter
Issue # 47: January 2007 Issue



1. Classified Ad Follow-up

2. Modern Marketing Days

3. Wall Street Journal Package Beaten!

4. Stick it to Them

5. Headlines for the Bible

6. Desiderata; the Truth

7. Direct Mail Desiderata

8. The Da Vinci of Direct



Dear Friends,

I hope you had a safe Happy New Year, and I wish you continued success, happiness and prosperity in the coming year.

This newsletter includes a couple of follow-up articles from our December issue, as well as some new information that I hope you will find useful.


All the best,



Classified Ad Follow-Up

Last issue, I wrote about two classified ads that a woman in Massachusetts ran to sell her cat. Just to remind you, here are the original two ads.


MORRIS, my yellow, double-pawed cat is making our son sneeze and wheeze. She is sweet, very patient and even eats spaghetti. $1000. or free to good home. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX OR read next ad.


And the bottom part read:


TED, our 14-year old son for sale. Allergic to our cat Morris. He is tall, quite patient (except with sisters) and eats almost anything. $1,000. or free to good home. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX OR read previous ad.


As you can imagine, the ads created quite a stir. If the Internet was around back then, it would have probably gone around the world.

I promised to share the follow-up ads she ran — and here they are:



MORRIS, double-pawed, yellow, sweet cat is still with us. Not a single call for her. Price has been reduced to $500 or free to a reasonably good home. Might consider a rotten home if you love cats. Call XXX-XXX-XXXX.  Forget about reading next ad.


The bottom part read:


TED is still with us, but not for a lack of takers. The lawyer he hired informed us that it was illegal to sell kids. We want to thank the 27 callers, who incidentally offered us from a high of $10,000 to a low of $325. He is still sneezing and wheezing. Please read preceding ad. Call XXX-XXX-XXXXX


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Modern Marketing Days

Modern Postcards is hosting a three-day marketing conference in San Diego from February 7-10.

The company has grown dramatically, by producing high-quality postcards at an excellent price.

The way they do it is print dozens of different postcards on a single sheet — and then sort them automatically.

Modern Marketing Days has become the premier direct marketing event on the West Coast and will feature over 25 different speakers. The keynote is Harvey Mackay, who wrote the book, How to Swim with the Sharks (without being eaten alive) — which is a classic on how to retain and grow customers.

Mackay is the President of Mackay Envelopes, and has long made it a practice to call a customer a day — just to see if they're being treated well. The customer is usually surprised to hear from the President of the company — then extremely impressed.

When's the last time you talked to one of your customers?

Modern Marketing Days will also give you the opportunity to hear Ken Schmidt, former director of communications for Harley-Davidson, Stan Slap, Steven Little, Keith Goodman, Ann Fishman and me.

The cost is only $495, and includes your choice of a Golf Tournament or a whale-watching trip. You can find out more at


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Wall Streeet Journal Package Beaten!

And not only that — but the man who wrote it, Martin Conroy, just passed away. His obituary appeared in the New York Times on Friday, December 22nd.

The famous "Two Young Men" letter, which I've written about before, was first mailed in 1975, and was in continuous use for almost 30 years.

It has been beaten once or twice along the way, but never conclusively until now. As Sharon Cole writes in Inside Direct Mail, the new control package is just a voucher attached to a simple half-page letter. The theme is "I Read it in the Journal." It also includes a guarantee — which was never part of the Conroy letter. And there's a bookmark/buckslip enclosed.

Voucher packages — meaning ones that simply list the benefits — have become very effective in today's fast-paced world, mainly for newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

It might be something you should test.

One caveat: it only works for a well-known publication — not a new one.

We scanned in the new Wall Street Journal package. If you'd like a PDF, just e-mail me at


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Stick it to Them

Our best-performing packages for THE MAILBOX and Teacher's Helper magazine use them.

Our ECHO-award winning campaign for Scotts LawnService uses one.

And we've started including them in more and more packages with impressive results. I'm talking about stickers.

Why do they work so well? I think they accomplish two things. First, they get people's attention. A sticker adds another dimension to a letter or even an envelope.

Second, they involve the reader. Instead of simply checking a box on a reply card, they have to lift the sticker up and place it below.

If you've never tested a sticker, here are three quick ideas.

1. Test a two-part sticker, which says, "Yes" and "No." Ask the reader to place the appropriate one on the reply form

(I've always wanted to test having just the "Yes" part as a sticker, and the "No" simply printed on the page — so they can't lift it up!)

2. Be creative about what the sticker shows. For Systems Paving, we used a sticker of a great-looking driveway.

The reader was invited to place it over — and cover — a cracked old driveway. This obviously dramatized the product benefit.

3. You can also be creative with what you put under the sticker. Why leave the space blank when you can surprise or amuse people?

For THE MAILBOX magazine, we put a big question mark on the sticker, and asked the question, "What makes THE MAILBOX so valuable to teachers?"

When they lifted the sticker, they saw the following:





Stickers were very popular at one time — and then they were over-used. Today they can be very effective — and may be worth testing for your next mailing.

By the way, the first time I did a sticker was about 25 years ago. Self-adhesive stickers weren‘t available, and I remember racking my brain for a polite way to tell people how to attach it.

"Lick the back" didn't sound all that appealing. But what else could I say? Eventually the answer came to me.


I wrote — please moisten it.


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Headlines for the Bible

In our last Creativity Test, I invited you to write a headline for an ad selling the Bible. And I promised the winner a free copy of my book.

We received dozens of responses — here are a few I especially enjoyed, plus the winning headline:

  • biblesIf God Wrote A Book, Would You Read It?
  • Life and Death of a Hero
  • Eternal Salvation Can Be Yours For Only $19.97; Free Bible With Every Purchase.
  • The Syllabus For Your Final Exam. 
  • The Best Rule Book You'll Buy For The Most Important Game In Your Life

The winner was Anne Morin — who came up with five different headlines. (My favorite was the last one)

  • Destination Heaven: A Step By Step Guide To Achieving Eternal Life
  • Do You Have Your "Required Reading" For Life?
  • The Top 10 Commandments — And More!
  • God For Sale, Cost — Priceless
  • Dancing With The Devil? Need A New Partner?


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Desiderata: The Truth

Last issue, I shared Desiderata with you — which prompted Barbara Mikkelson to follow-up with this correction:


"Almost every copy of Desiderata carries the claim that the original was found in Old Saint Paul's Church in Baltimore in 1692. It's comforting to believe that some truths are universal, that the beauty of the human spirit is unchanging, ever present, and inviolate."

"That it's an unsigned piece makes it all the more beautiful: one sees these inspirational words as the anonymous writer's gift to the world.

His humility kept him from signing it ... and maybe there's another lesson for us in that."

"As pureheartedly meaningful as its words are, Desiderata's history doesn't quite match up with the fable built around it.

The poem was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann, a lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana."

If you'd like to know the full story — just e-mail me at and I'll share it with you.

Barbara's e-mail prompted me to write my own version of the poem, which I hope you will enjoy:


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Direct Mail Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste of new media, and remember what power there is in direct mail.

As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all vendors. They can harm you as well as help you.

Speak your benefits quietly and clearly, and listen to your customers, even those who leave you, for they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive copy, for it is irritating and almost never works.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter — instead compare yourself with yourself.

You are your own "control."

Study your failures as well as your successes.

Learn something from every mailing you do.

Keep interested in your own career. Keep learning and growing. Remember that this job is just a stepping-stone to your next job.

Exercise caution in your copy, for the world is full of trickery, and you don't need to add to it.

Avoid exaggeration and hyperbole!!!

Rather try to appeal to people's higher interests. Many people strive for high ideals and everywhere, life is full of heroism. Use it.

Be yourself. Keep your copy simple and down-to-earth. Write like you would talk.

Pay close attention to offers, because after list, they are the most important element in a direct mail campaign.

Unless you have an offer they can't refuse, refuse to do direct marketing.

Nurture case-histories and testimonials to use when you need them. This increases credibility.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You will fail with up to 99% of your direct mail — but that's okay. Think ROI, not response.

As a direct marketer, you are a child of the universe, no less than general advertising people; and frequently much more. You have the right to be here. 

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

If not, make sure you test.


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The Da Vinci of Direct

Leonardo Da Vinci is universally known as a remarkable artist, a master scientist and inventor...but he was also a canny direct marketer.

In 1482, he wrote a letter to the Duke of Milan, Lodovico Sforza. His reason for writing — he wanted a job. I don't know whether resumes were invented at that time, but Leonardo knew enough about direct mail to list all the benefits he could provide to the Duke.

bronze horseThe letter read as follows:


Dear Excellency,

Having, most illustrious lord, seen and considered the experiments of all those who pose as masters in the art of inventing instruments of war, and finding that their invention differs in no way from those in common use, I am emboldened without prejudice to anyone, to solicit an appointment of acquainting your Excellency with certain of my secrets.

1. I can construct bridges which are very light and strong and very portable, with which to pursue and defeat the enemy; and others more solid, which resist fire or assault, yet are easily removed and placed into position; and I can also burn and destroy those of the enemy.

2. In case of a siege I can cut off water from the trenches and make pontoons and scaling ladders and other similar contrivances.

3. If by reason of the elevation of the strength of its positions a place cannot be bombarded, I can demolish every fortress if its foundations have not been set in stone.

4. I can also make a kind of cannon which is light and easy of transport, with which to hurl small stones like hail, and of which the smoke causes great terror to the enemy, so that they suffer heavy loss and confusion.

5. I can noiselessly construct to any prescribed point subterranean passages either straight or winding, passing if necessary underneath trenches or a river.

6. I can make armored wagons carrying artillery, which shall break through the most serried ranks of the enemy, and so open a safe passage for his infantry.

7. If occasion should arise, I can construct cannon and mortars and light ordnance in shape both ornamental and useful and different from those in common use.

8. When it is impossible to use cannon I can supply in their stead catapults, mangonels, trabocchi and other instruments of admirable efficiency not in general use — In short, as the occasion requires I can supply infinite means of attack and defense.

9. And if the fight should take place upon the seas I can construct many engines most suitable either for attack and defense and ships which can resist the fire of the heaviest cannon, and powders or weapons.

10. In times of peace, I believe I can give you as complete satisfaction as anyone in the construction of buildings both public and private, and in conducting water from one place to another.

11. I can further execute sculpture in marble, bronze or clay, also in painting I can do as much as anyone else, whoever he may be.

But Leonardo knew even more about direct marketing than that. He even included an offer! The last sentence read as follows:


"Moreover, I would undertake the commission of the bronze horse, which shall endue with immortal glory and eternal honor the auspicious memory of your father and of the illustrious house of Sforza."


Leonardo got the job — and kept it for sixteen years. And it was during this period that he painted his masterpiece, La Gioconda, also known as the Mona Lisa.


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Thank you, Alan

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