When I first started my newsletter back in 1999, I had modest hopes for it.
I thought it might be a good vehicle for sharing my thoughts and ideas — and also getting feedback from my fellow direct marketers.
I never thought it would grow so large (or even, that I could keep it up for 50 issues...)
Today, we have thousands of subscribers in 42 different countries, and we get about a dozen new subscription requests every week.
I'm proud that I have been able to add value for so many years, and that many subscribers have shared their thoughts, ideas and comments.
Writing each newsletter is time-consuming — since I have to squeeze it in between my ongoing projects and seminars — but I want to thank you for making it very satisfying and worthwhile.
All the best,
In my last newsletter, I asked for your feedback. I received a couple of hundred e-mails and I apologize if I couldn't answer each one of you personally. Here are some general observations about you:
You work all over the world. Direct marketing is booming — in Russia, in China, in the Middle East, in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea and throughout South America.
You love what you do. You find direct marketing challenging (especially in the U.S. with increased postal rates) but also very satisfying. You especially enjoy when you come up with a creative solution to a problem, and when you get great results.
You're keeping up in the field. You are interested in search-engine marketing, SMS text-messaging, print-on-demand and other developing technologies. That means you'll be well prepared for the future of direct marketing.
While I was judging the 2007 Echo Awards, I came across some outstanding work that I would like to share with you.
The pharmaceutical company Wyeth has a terrific web site at www.knowmenopause.com.
What makes it unique? When you open the site, you have an attractive older woman who is standing in front of a panel of experts.
She's your host, your navigator, and a friendly face that most women can immediately relate to.
The woman welcomes you and then invites you to click on any of the experts, to learn more about specific issues that might be important to you.
It's almost like a "live" discussion group — set up for your benefit, and it has been remarkably effective.
You can also click to watch real-life stories of women who have experienced menopause, and faced the same challenges and symptoms.
Most web sites (um...including mine) are just text or html — without using the power of a person talking directly to you. Wyeth's site is web marketing at it's best — personal, friendly, with useful information.
Would your web site benefit from using this technique?
I just did a seminar for Monster.com, the world's leading career network company, and they shared some of their samples with me.
Their work is outstanding — as you can imagine. And I wanted to share one example with you because it dramatizes an important point.
Monster was trying to reach HR Professionals in the defense industry. These people need employees who have security clearance.
The mailing arrived in a box with the words, "Classified Top Secret Confidential" printed on it.
Inside was a small combination safe.
A card invited you to "Open your safe for the secrets to procuring the best employees with active security clearance — quickly and cost-effectively".
Inside the safe was a small brochure about Monster and the call to action. Once you removed it, the safe could also function as a convenient bank you could keep on your desk.
The mailing was expensive — but the return on investment was exceptional because each HR Professional could hire dozens or even hundreds of people from Monster over the years. And that's my main point — let the value of the customer drive the cost of the mailing.
Monster has set up an entire organization — Military.com — to handle this industry, and has already worked with over 5,000,000 people.
Speaking of recruitment, I just came back from New Zealand where The Prisons Service is looking to hire new Corrections Officers. (And by the way, that's not why I was there.)
Corrections Officers work directly with prisoners in a variety of ways.
The ad talks about how you can make a positive difference in people's lives, and makes it all sound pretty simple. That is, until the copy asks:
"Do you have a knack for spotting and defusing potentially difficult situations?"
Think about that for a moment.
What I won't reveal is the headline — which is absolutely brilliant. And that's our creativity test. Come up with a headline for this ad, and the winner will receive a beautiful bottle of New Zealand wine.
Just e-mail your headline to email@example.com before August 1, 2007.
If you've ever attended any of my seminars, you know how I feel about self-mailers.
I believe that they never work as well as letter packages. So why do so many companies use them?
I originally thought that:
They're cheaper — but not really, since they don't generate as many leads or as much business.
They're easier to read — you don't have to open them. But then again, they are much easier to throw out.
Plus, whenever you get someone to actually open your envelope, they are getting involved with your package and will spend more time with it.
They are faster and easier to do — writing a compelling letter, and brochure takes more time and effort. Many agencies are too selfish to recommend them.
I have never recommended self-mailers. However, I recently learned one legitimate reason for using them — and that's for reaching your low value customers.
You want to stay in contact with them. You want to develop them into higher value customers. But you just can't afford to spend a lot on them. That's when a self-mailer might be the most appropriate format.
Low value customers are one thing — what about no value customers?
Sprint Wireless recently made the dramatic decision to fire subscribers who call customer service too frequently. See article.
They found that they were costing more than what they were worth, and even worse, hurting high value customers who had to wait a longer amount of time for customer service.
Sprint sent letters (not self-mailers) to these customers informing them that "the number of inquiries you have made to us during this time has led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs."
And they promptly cancelled their service!
But at least Sprint didn't charge them an early termination fee!
However, in direct marketing, one of your most important goals is to upsell customers. In fact, many non-profits ask you for just a token donation — just to get you started. They then try to get you to give larger and larger amounts.
This strategy seems to make more sense than simply "firing" customers who you know, will never, ever come back to you.
On the other end of the spectrum are high-value customers, and reaching them has just become much easier.
During the recent Australian Direct Marketing Association Forum, I attended a brilliant presentation by Ross Honeywell of the NEO Group.
NEO stand for New Economic Order and they are a group of individials that drive the world economy. For example:
NEO's spend more than other groups. They may not be the highest earners, but they have more disposable income and they use it.
NEO's read more and are better educated than the rest of the population.
NEO's devour the Internet and use it much more than others.
The NEO Group has identified 194 different factors that identlfy someone as a NEO and they transcend simple demographics — like age.
For example, Lexus increased sales about 20% by targeting NEO's. Lexus division manager Scott Grant reported, "What we were finding with Lexus was that we were selling cars to people with similar attitudes and zest for life, whether they were 28-year-old professionals or 55-year-olds with a new girlfriend and a ponytail."
Information on NEO's is now available in three markets — the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. To download special reports on how to use this information, just visit www.neogroup.net.
The Welsh National Opera just put together a terrific promotion, where they mailed out a box of tissues.
The mailing went to people who had attended Madam Butterfly the previous night.
As you may know, this is a tragic opera telling the heartbreaking story of a fragile geisha and an American army officer.
Printed on each tissue was a simple message that read,
"If Madam Butterfly made you cry last night...
...you may wish to book tickets to another one of our upcoming operas."
Even more clever was printing the message on each one of the tissues — so they generated "pass along" readership.
But I've learned a few additional lessons in the past few years, and I want to share them with you in this, my special 50th issue.
1. Use A Double Window. A 2nd window can include a "Respond by <Date>; a signature; the offer. It makes the envelope look intriguing and more likely to be opened.
2. Use A Larger Window. We've used them for UpToDate and also First National Bank. It shows the return address through from the letter, which allows you to version each letter without going to a lot of extra cost.
3. Use A Window With A Color Tint. We've used both yellow and red, sometimes tinting the cellophane, sometimes just using color on the window to give the appearance of a tint. It makes the envelope stand out more.
4. Use Highlighter On The Envelope. It can dramatize an important point — such as the deadline for responding. You can even highlight "Personal & Confidential."
5. Put A Privacy Message On The Envelope. People are so concerned about this issue that you can re-assure them even before they open it. The message can be identical to the privacy message on your emails or web site. This technique has been used with great success by non-profits in Australia.
6. Rotate Your Outer Envelope. The second or third time I see your envelope, I already know what's inside it. Take your control letter, brochure and offer and simply put them into a different envelope. And change it regularly. You'll get more people to open it.
7. Put A Label On It. The new control for the Wall Street Journal uses a larger, glorified address label with their logo on it. So do the controls for other businesses. We've also tested labels with the offer on them, or even the words "Important Information." It usually works very well.
8. Allow The First Line Of Copy To Show Through The Window. This only works when you have a great leading line. And never use the entire sentence. Make sure they have to open it to see how you finish the...
9. Test The Next Size Up. People receive so much mail these days, an ordinary #10 can get lost. We've seen lifts of up to 300% by moving to a 9" x 12" outer envelope, and keeping the inside elements exactly the same. It's worth a test.
10. Stamp Your Outer Envelope. Almost any message will do, provided it looks like it was stamped before delivery. You could test "Received" or "Urgent" or even "For Address Only". I RECOMMEND ALL CAPS AND RED.
11. Test A Vellum Or Plastic Envelope. Just make sure your advertising message doesn't show through. Otherwise, there's no reason for the person to open it.
12. Bulk Up Your Envelope. Anything that makes it look "puffy" and not flat will increase your opening rate. One bank used a crumpled up dollar bill with the message, "If your business cash sits in a typical checking account, it's just like throwing it away."
13. Put The Benefits In The Margin. It allows people to quickly "scan" the letter for benefits, and then decide to read. This technique is now considered "best practice" for many financial services companies.
14. Then Put An 800 Number Or Call To Action Right Underneath Them. If the benefits are compelling — they may not have to read the letter at all!
15. Test Different Paper. Vodaphone in New Zealand produced a highly successful package on computer printout paper (to demonstrate they were cutting the cost of your service.) We just prepared a letter written on a yellow legal pad for the New York State Bar Association.
16. Use Only A Letter. American Express has lifted response by eliminating the brochure in some mailings. It forces people to focus on the letter — the most persuasive element.
17. Test An Unusual Salutation. If you can't personalize it, why settle for "Dear Colleague", or "Dear Friend"? An antique magazine began their letter with, "Dear Lover of Beautiful Things,".
18. Don't Exaggerate. Nobody likes a bragger — not even in direct marketing. Exaggerating your claims and benefits makes your copy unbelievable.
19. Use White Space. Makes it easier to read. As someone once said, "A letter needs a layout." Make sure your letter has at least a 1 1/4" margin on both sides.
20. Use The Back Of The Letter. This is valuable real estate you should never waste. We use it to include a Q&A, testimonials, even a summary of benefits.
21. Version Your Testimonials. For one client, we used to say, "Here's what our customers say about us." We changed this to "Here's what your neighbors say about us." And we version it by state, town, or even block, if possible.
22. Test A Script Font. It's used by many non-profits to make the letter seem more "real". But make sure the font is easy-to-read. You might also use a script salutation — but make sure it matches the signature at the bottom of the letter.
23. Don't Use A Word I Don't Know. Your reader won't be intrigued — they'll feel stupid. And they won't continue reading. And don't use a word you don't know.
24. Indent Each Paragraph.
This makes the letter easier to read. But the most important thing to indent is...
25. Indent The Offer.
And make sure it's right up there in the first three paragraphs. It invites people to "keep reading — we got something for you."
26. End The First Page Of The Letter With An Incomplete Thought Or Sentence. This is the best way to make sure people turn the page. You can also write (over, please.)
27. Use Short Words And Simple Language.
Why? It works.
It's not that people are stupid — they just don't want to go to the effort of figuring out exactly what you mean.
28. Put Your Strongest Benefit On The Cover. Otherwise, they'll never open it to look inside.
29. Show A Photograph Of Your Target Market On The Cover. The first question anyone will ask when they pick up your direct mail is, "Who is this for — for people like me?"
30. But Remember The 20% Rule. Show photos of people who are 20% younger than your target market, 20% more attractive, 20% better dressed — because that's how most people see themselves.
31. Personalize The Cover. Digital printing makes it easy (and not that expensive) to put the person's name on the cover of the brochure.
32. Come Up With A Great Visual. Most direct marketing solutions are verbal. Most people are not great readers. An unusual or unexpected visual can make a big difference in response.
33. Show Before And After. Our brochure for Scotts LawnService had a lip at the bottom of the brochure. It had a picture of a bad-looking lawn with dandelions. The caption read "Before Scott's LawnService." When you lifted the flap, a beautiful green lawn was revealed. The caption read, "After Scotts LawnService."
34. Involve Them In Your Brochure. For one client, we used check-off boxes and asked, "How many of these benefits do you think are included?" When they fully opened the brochure, they saw that all the boxes were checked.
35. Use Problem/Solution. But make sure you use at least three of them — your prospect is bound to identify with at least one.
36. Promote Pass-Along Readership. "Do you know anyone else in your company who might benefit from this information? Please feel free to pass it along." Research shows 70% of people are willing to forward an email — many might do the same with an interesting brochure. In B2B, you might even consider putting two brochures in the same mailing.
37. Ask Three Provocative Questions. For one of our controls for American Express, we ask three questions before we get to the product. All we want to do is get people to say "yes" to any one of them — then we can sell the product.
38. Be Creative. Three-fold brochures are boring. Structural Graphics in Connecticut has over 25,000 designs on file, including pop-ups, reveals, and some amazing dimensional pieces.
39. Clearly Label It As A Reply Device. Otherwise, the reader may be confused as to what to send back. For credit card mailings, we usually put "Acceptance Certificate" at the very top.
40. Tell Them When They Can Expect To Hear From You. If you can give them a time frame (5-10 business days) that's great. Otherwise, write, "We'll rush you the information you requested..."
41. Make The Offer Sound Exclusive. Our control for one collectible company includes a "Yes" and "No" box. But the "No" box says "No, please give this offer to another collector."
42. Show A Smiling Telemarketer. It's corny, but it encourages more people to call in. And when they do, you can answer their questions; qualify them for your sales force; upsell and cross sell them. And make sure you list the hours that people can call.
43. Make The Boxes Big Enough. If you want people to give you their credit card information, their phone number or anything else – make sure they have enough room.
44. And Don't Use Glossy Paper. Their pen will smear, and they may decide not to respond.
45. Consider A Stamp Or Other Involvement Device. The reader can lift it from the letter, and place it on the Reply Card. It has always increased response.
46. Consider What You Put Under The Stamp. For one client, we used the stamp to reveal the offer that was underneath.
47. Don't Settle For An Ordinary BRE. Your Business Reply Envelope doesn't have to be white — it can be bright yellow or red. (One company generated a 40% lift just by making their BRE stand out in this way.) The BRE can also have the offer right on it, "Please rush me my free report." It can include "Priority Processing" or anything else to make it seem important.
48. Put A Prize In The Package. I call this the Cracker Jack connection because it's the only reason that the snack has been around for almost 100 years.
Adding something extra, something unexpected will always increase response. The non-profit World Vision has included a pack of seeds in their mailings for years – it's never been beaten.
49. Re-mail Quickly. If you're planning to do a follow-up mailing, don't wait longer than 3-5 days. Otherwise, people will completely forget what they received before. And don't worry about people who have responded in the meantime. Simply include a sentence that says, "If you have already responded, thank you. If not, here's another opportunity..."
50. Involve Your Reader. And that's exactly what I'd like to do with you...
Do you have a technique that you've used or found successful? Just send it to ARosenspan@aol.com and I'll be happy to share it with our readers in the next issue.
1. Please feel free to forward this newsletter on to a friend or business associate. I'd appreciate it.
2. Click here to access all our back-issues.
3. To unsubscribe, just send me an email 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.
© Alan Rosenspan & Associates
5 Post Office Square
Sharon, MA 02067