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

Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter
Issue # 49: May 2007 Issue



1. John Deere Premium

2. Life Takes VISA

3. New Thinking on Newsletters

4. Mea Culpa

5. Should You Screw Up?

6. Back Up, Please

7. Jordon's Big Bet

8. Adding Value

9. DM Days in New York




Dear Friends,

I'm on the road again...

I have just returned from an exhausting trip, which included my two-day DMA seminar in Chicago, three different presentations for the Midwest Direct Marketing Association in Minneapolis, and a one day "Improve Your Direct Mail" seminar in Seattle.

But I didn't just talk all that time — I listened; to my seminar attendees, and to other speakers. And I picked up a few ideas I'd like to share with you.


All the best,



John Deere Premium

In my seminars, I've always urged people to "make an offer that money can't buy."

I use, as an example, a project we did for Quaker Oats.

We ran a sweepstakes called, "The best seats in the house" and the grand prize was a week in Hollywood.

But anyone can buy a trip to Hollywood — What could we do to make the prize unique?

We added a visit to the set of the most popular TV show at the time, which included having breakfast with the crew and meeting the stars. This was a prize that money couldn't buy — and it worked very well.

But you don't have to have a sweepstakes to offer something money can't buy. You can also offer a premium — especially if you have a great brand name.

American Express has been doing it for years — offering passport holders, canvas bags and other items featuring the American Express logo. They've always worked well.

John Deere, the legendary farming equipment company, did them one better. They offered their customers a John Deere collectible toy tractor just for completing a survey.

There was no other way to get this beautiful collectible. And Jennifer Haxton, Manager of Marketing Communications for John Deere Credit reports it was the most successful mailing they've ever done.

So next time you're putting together a direct mail program — ask yourself — can we include an offer that money can't buy? If you can, you may be very successful.


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Life Takes VISA

At Midwest Direct Marketing Days, I saw a brilliant presentation on branding, by Maggie Rae Shepard, Vice President of Branding at VISA U.S.A.

VISA used to focus on worldwide acceptance with their line, "It's everywhere you want it to be."

They have since migrated to a broader platform of "With VISA, I can do the things I want to do, but never thought possible."

This, of course, is their new campaign, "Life Takes VISA."

Maggie also shared some background information on loyalty and branding, which I found very valuable.

According to research done by Bain:

1. Over 80% of companies polled believe they deliver "a superior experience to their customers." But only 8% of their customers agreed.

  • Moral: It's very tempting to believe you're better than you really are, but that can be dangerous. The 20% of companies who didn't believe they were superior are probably doing something about it!

2. 80% of customers who defect to the competition score themselves as "satisfied with their current company" just before jumping ship.

  • This means that customer satisfaction alone may not be sufficient to gain their loyalty. Bain goes on to assert that the most accurate way to measure customer loyalty is to ask, "Would you recommend this product or service to a friend or colleague?"
  • Moral: Ask for referrals and actively encourage viral marketing. If you meet with resistance, you may have a bigger problem that you think.

3. Long term sales do not equate with loyalty, and even your oldest customers may be vulnerable. Truly loyal customers exhibit the following behaviors:

  • They passionately recommend you, and extol your virtues freely.
  • They forgive dips in service and quality (which are a fact of life for any company).
  • They don't just buy your product when they are rewarded. You can't "buy" their business, and you shouldn't try.
  • They feel part of something bigger than they are.

This last point is why so many financial services companies have migrated to a "more than money" positioning. This includes: MasterCard reminds you "Some things in life are priceless, the rest take MasterCard." Citibank urges you to "Live Richly." And American Express extends their brand to everything you do — with "My Life. My Card."


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New Thinking on Newsletters

If you ever watched the TV show Seinfeld, you may remember Kramer's coffee table book about coffee tables. This part of the newsletter is about newsletters.

I recently received an e-mail asking about "best practices" in newsletters, and I wanted to share 5 of them with you.

Before I begin, a newsletter is a great way to stay in front of prospects and customers — especially for products and services with a long sales cycle.

That's because — when they finally are ready to buy, they will remember you.

However, newsletters can actually be detrimental to your business and your brand, if it only focuses on you and your company and not your customers.

And that leads me to a short list of best practices.

1. BE RELEVANT. Above all, the content has to be relevant to the reader. It should not be about you, your new vice president, or your new brand office in Cleveland. The newsletter should be about the customer, and focus on helping them.

2. SUMMARIZE. The best way to present a newsletter is in a series of article summaries, which you can click to for the whole story. This allows your reader to quickly scan your newsletter, decide what's relevant to them, and get to it quickly, without having to scroll all the way down.

3. PRIORITIZE. Just like a newspaper, the first article of the newsletter should be the most important or the most current one.

4. INVOLVING. Every newsletter should have (A) an involvement device such as a survey, or "send us your story" and/or (B) a feedback mechanism, where people can let you know whether the newsletter was helpful and what else/more they would like to see, plus (C) an opt-out and a referral option.

5. MAKE ME AN OFFER. If you are using your newsletter for marketing purposes, you should always include a special offer to your readers.

IMPORTANT: If you are just starting a newsletter, I recommend that you don't immediately commit to a weekly or monthly issue.

If you commit to a certain time frame, you will receive e-mails asking "Where's my newsletter?" and worse, be forced to put out a hastily-assembled sub-standard one.

I send my newsletter out "regularly" which means, it comes out when I feel I have enough important information to share.


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Mea Culpa

As you read the previous section on newsletters, it mights have dawned on you, "Alan doesn't do any of these things!"

Guilty as charged.

We just don't have the resources or the time to change the way we do newsletters. In fact, this one is being written on a train to New York, which is the only time I had to do it.

So please, just this once — do as I say, not as I do.


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Should You Screw Up?

In my last newsletter, I told you the story of the calendar that had the wrong dates (Remember April 32nd?) and how a travel company used a very creative solution.

This prompted one of my readers to share their own story.

This is from Mike McCormick of Mason Geller:


"Your most recent issue reminded me of a similar problem I had years ago with my all-time favorite client, Ford of Canada.

"We'd sent out their very expensive spring truck package early that year and had to rush everything. The database house told me they had to write a software patch (whatever that is) to overcome a problem with the million-package mailing — huge for Canada.

"The result was that 50,000 names got switched so that 25,000 fire-breathing French-Canadian nationalists in Quebec got the English version and 25,000 rednecks in Alberta got the French version. Oops.

"A politician actually brought it up on the floor of the Quebec provincial legislature! Everyone panicked and the client decided on a mea culpa, mea maxima culpa kind of letter. I talked them out of it and, at my agency's expense, just ran 25,000 more of each version and mailed them with a little note that said simply "A computer glitch caused you to receive this in French/English so I'm mailing it to you in English/French." And that was it.

"Six months later I tracked those 50,000 and it turned out they bought twice as many trucks per capita. Ford paid me back for the extra expense but they wouldn't let me screw up the mailing on purpose for the next campaign."


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Back Up, Please

I've been evaluating a lot of direct mail lately for various clients, and I consistently find a simple but important mistake.

They don't use the back of their letters.

This is prime real estate — since the letter is the most important part of any direct mail package, and the first thing that people read. So wasting the back of the letter is almost criminal.

And besides, it costs you almost nothing extra to put something there.

What should you put on the back? Here are three suggestions:

1. Customer testimonials. Every single letter we have ever done for our Echo-award winning campaigns for Scotts Lawn Service included testimonials on the back.

2. A Q&A. If you're selling a complicated product, people will have questions that may prevent them from responding. If you can anticipate these questions and then answer them, this will improve response.

What should you do if you are not sure of the questions to ask? Talk to your telemarketers or your sales force, and ask them which are the questions that most frequently come up.

3. Summary of Benefits. This allows the reader to quickly scan down the page and get a complete picture of all the reasons they should respond.

Or you can simply continue the letter on the back. Research shows that longer letters almost always outpull shorter ones. Just make sure you break the letter so that the first page ends in the middle of a sentence...
. people must turn the page to get the complete thought.

You should also add (OVER, PLEASE) in the bottom right hand corner.

And by the way, you should also use the back of your Outer Envelope.


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Jordon's Big Bet

Jordan's Furniture has always been one of New England's most innovative marketers — but they may have topped themselves with their recent promotion.

Here's what they did.

They held a week long event where the customer would get all their money back on everything they bought — if the Boston Red Sox win the 2007 World Series.

This generated a tremendous amount of publicity in the Boston area, and one of the most successful weeks in the store's history.

Why did this work so well?

It was newsworthy. The PR alone may have been worth the entire promotion. They didn't have to spend much money on advertising — every local newspaper promoted it, some on page one.

It capitalized on the deep interest and passion that most New Englanders have for the Red Sox. And it made people feel like Jordan's Furniture was a real fan.

What most people didn't realize, of course, is that Jordan's is really betting (and hoping) that the Red Sox will lose.

The odds against any one team winning the World Series are substantial, and it's a long season. But as of this writing, the Boston Red Sox have the best record in major league baseball.

I'll keep you posted on how this all comes out — but I'm rooting for the Red Sox!


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Adding Value

While I respect and value all my clients, one of the most important companies I work for is UpToDate.

Their mission is to improve the quality of medical care around the world, and they are succeeding admirably.

UpToDate aggregates all the medical information available from over 270 medical journals every month as well as textbooks, and makes it accessible to doctors via CD-Rom, the Web, Pocket PC and Palm Pilot.

They don't just provide information. Their team of over 3,500 expert physicians synthesize it, and organize it in a way that makes it easy for doctors to find answers to even the most complex questions.

About a year ago, during the SARS scare, UpToDate did something they had never done before. The company believed that it was critical for every doctor to be up to speed on this rapidly spreading medical issue.

So they developed an 18-page brochure with all the latest information needed to diagnose and treat SARS.

And they mailed it, at considerable expense, to virtually every doctor they could find — not just their customers.

What was the result? Doctors greatly appreciated the timely update, and word-of-mouth quickly spread about UpToDate.

It was so successful, the company continued the program and now mails Topic Cards 6-8 times a year. These build awareness, good will and sales. Today, over 270,000 physicians use UpToDate.

You may want to think about how your company could add value in your next mailing. I have never seen it fail.


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DM Days in New York

My next speaking engagement in the United States is in New York at DM Days, June 19th.

If you'll be attending, please stop by and say hello. I am always happy to meet anyone who subscribes to my newsletter.



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Thank you,



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