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


Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter

Issue # 51: Fall 2007 Edition



1. May I Have the Envelope, Please?

2. And the Winner is . . .

3. Flattery and Philately

4. Roses and Raises

5. How to Evaluate Copy (and Copywriters)

6. What Are You Selling?

7. "Junque Mail"

8. See You at the DMA



Dear Friends,

I discovered a fascinating way to generate new clients, and practically double your business.

It's worked for me — and it just might work for you.

Simply tell your significant other that you are working too hard and thinking about reducing your workload (as I told my wife, Laura, back in July.)

In the next few weeks, you will soon be besieged by more business than you ever thought possible.

Since that day, we have done seminars for over a dozen companies, and completed over 20 projects, for clients such as Advanta, Bank of America, Highlights for Children, Humana, HSBC,, Myron Inc., Oreck, UpToDate, and Wells Fargo.

And that's why this newsletter is a little late . . .

All the best,


P.S. In this issue, by special permission, I am reprinting an article by Denny Hatch called "Junque Mail". I think it is one of the best articles I've ever read about direct mail, and I wanted to share it with you.


May I Have the Envelope, Please?

Back when I worked at Ogilvy & Mather Direct, the agency had done some research on the most powerful part of a direct mail package.

The winner — as you might have guessed — was the letter. And according to O&M, the letter was responsible for 65-75% of the response.

I'm not sure exactly how they determined this — but I have never doubted it.

Until today.

15 years ago, I think most people opened most, if not all, of their mail. They scanned it (as they still do today) and if they found something interesting, they would begin reading (usually with the letter). I think this is still true.

However, what's changed is that I'm not sure that people still open most of their mail.

And that's why I think the outer envelope is more important than ever before.

And after all, if they don't even open your envelope — everything inside is obviously wasted.

That's why we strongly recommend envelope testing as part of any direct marketing program.

  • You could test a promotional envelope versus a blind envelope. This is particularly important to test with customers.
  • You could test different size envelopes. #10's and 9" x 12" seem to pull particularly well.
  • You could test putting the offer on the outer envelope. PeopleSoft increased response 40% by using this technique – everything inside the envelope was exactly the same.
  • You could test asking a provocative question. One of our most successful outer envelope headlines ever was for a business credit card. It asked, "Has your tax advisor shared this information with you?"
  • You could test anything that makes your envelope stand out; look important; look official; or look urgent.

The best part about envelope testing is that it's relatively inexpensive.

Remember: you don't have to change a thing inside the envelope — if it's working for you. But we have seen lifts of up to 300% simply by changing the outer envelope.

We have done "Envelope Exploratory" projects for many clients, showing them all their different options. Please email me at if you are interested in doing one for your company.


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And the Winner is . . .

Last issue, I invited you to come up with a headline for the New Zealand Department Prisons Service. The goal was to attract new Corrections Officers.

I promised a bottle of fine wine to the winner, and we received quite a few creative responses. (Click here for the opening copy.) The winner was Dennis Joseph in Auckland, who provided the following:


I like the headline because it is involving. However, I think the actual headline they used was even more provocative:


Um, not really . . .

Thank you to all those who entered. (Dennis, I will send you a bottle when I visit New Zealand again in March 2008, if that's okay with you.)


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Flattery and Philately

A study just published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology revealed some interesting information.

The study was conducted by researchers John Seiter and Eric Dutson, with two hair stylists who worked on 115 different customers.

The two stylists were instructed to randomly praise or withold praise from their customers, and then the effect on tipping was evaluated.

Here's what they discovered:

  • No compliment resulted in an average tip of just over 9% of the total bill
  • Use of a compliment resulted in an average tip of almost 13% of the total bill. (More than a 33% increase!)

No suprise there, but other studies have shown that when people percieve that the compliment is excessive or selfishly motivated, they tend to leave lower tips.

How is this relevant to direct mail?

I think it is always smart to assume that people are intelligent and usually make good decisions. And telling them so will almost always improve response. (Maybe not by 33% — but who knows.

But I do think you have to be careful . . . not to overdo it; not to bestow false praise; and not to strain your credibility.

Most importantly, I think it is always wise to thank customers and tell them how much you value their business.


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Roses and Raise

Let me give you a personal example of thanking your customers — except in this case, my "customer" was my first boss.

Her name was Reva Korda, and she was the Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather in New York.

Before joining O&M, I was working for a furniture moving company, and my best prospect was that someday I would own my own truck.

Rosenspan Removals? Moving Experiences?

Fortunately, O&M published a small ad in a local college newspaper with a "Creativity Test" you could take if you wanted to get into advertising.

A friend of mine saw it, and passed it along to me. I took the test, and Reva offered me a job as a junior copywriter.

She asked me if eight was an acceptable salary. (This was back in 1974.)

"Well," I answered, "I'm making $10 and hour now — plus tips. So I'm not sure if . . . "

"No, no," she said, "I mean $8,000 a year. Is that acceptable?"

I said, "Let me figure out how much that is an hour . . . "

She leaned over her desk, took the pencil out of my hand, and gave me the best advice I ever had: She said,

"Alan — take the job."

It was a big step up from moving furniture, and I always wanted to work in advertising, so I took the job. After three months, I received a raise of $4,000 — which brought me to $12,000 a year.

I went out and bought Reva a dozen roses. As I was writing the note, it occurred to me — "12 roses . . . $12,000."

And so I wrote,

"Dear Reva,

Thank you for the raise. Here's one rose for every thousand dollars I'm earning. Someday, I hope to send you 50 of them."

Reva loved the roses and the idea. And another four months passed by, but no raise . . .

. . . and so I sent her three roses.

There was no note — just my name. She called me into her office and said, "First of all, we don't give raises every three months. Second, that was very clever . . . so we are giving you a $3,000 raise — but no more roses!"

I appreciated the raise, but ignored her comment. And during my 11 years at Ogilvy & Mather, I sent her roses every time I got a raise.


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How to Evaluate Copy (and Copywriters)

One of my newsletter subscribers recently sent me an interesting question. She wrote:

"How can we evaluate our copywriters? Of course, we measure response and ROI, but there are other projects where we aren't asking for a response. So how do we know if their work is any good?"

It's a great question because anyone can declare themselves to be a copywriter — there's no test to pass, no copywriters union, no ongoing certification.

There should be. And I have long been an advocate of a direct marketing copywriting license.

It's probably because I have reviewed so many packages that were written by rank amateurs who didn't know the first thing about direct marketing.

But until they begin issuing licenses, here are five criteria on how to evaluate copy and copywriters:

1. Did the copywriter do his or her homework? Did they tell me something I didn't know, or present a new way of looking at or thinking about something I did know? 

2. Is the copy easily readable? Does it sound right when read aloud? (your ear is a better judge of copy than your mind — if something's well-written, you can hear it better than read it.)

3. Does the copy flow naturally, moving easily from point to point, and building the argument or the story? If it stops and starts, it's probably not going to work effectively.

4. Is the copy action-oriented? Is it written in an active rather than a passive voice? Does it sound like someone asking me to do something? 

Remember: general advertising asks for a "share of mind." Direct marketing asks for a "show of hands." We want people to do something.  

5. Is the copy compelling? Does it make a strong case for the product, service or offer?

By the way, we do have a copywriting workshop that we have done for several companies, most recently HCPro in Massachusetts.


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What Are You Selling?

I recently did a day of consulting with a major national manufacturer of promotional pens, calendars and other premiums.

They asked me to review their control letter — which described their latest (and very impressive) pen.

And that was precisely the problem.

I said, "You shouldn't be selling pens. You should be selling what the pens can do for the company that sends them out."

Sending out pens could create new customers and generate new business.

Sending our pens could be used to thank new customers — and build repeat business and loyalty.

Plus a pen with your company's name and phone number or website on it, could stay on someone's desk for an entire year. And help keep your company top of mind.

Those are the things you should be selling.

A pen probably isn't worth over $3.00. But a new customer can be worth much, much more.

It reminds me of a package we did for Abbott Cards. Our letter begins with the following question.

"Do you want to double your sales next year?"

We weren't selling cards; we were selling increased business, and better customer relationships. It's been their control for over five years.

The lesson: think beyond your product. Think of the larger, more important benefits of your product.


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"Junque Mail"

If you don't get Denny Hatch's newsletter, you're missing a real treat.

Denny was the founder and of Target Marketing magazine, Who's Mailing What (Now called Inside Direct Mail) and several great books, including Million Dollar Mailings and Method Marketing.

He's an amazing guy — and his recent newsletter had an article so good, I asked for permission to share it with you, in it's entirety.

You can subscribe free at — just please mention my name.

Here's Denny's article:

* * * * * * *

Let's get this out on the table right now — I love junk mail.

Compared to spam — the ultimate time sucker —a little daily junk mail (which can be opened over the recycling bin) is dream stuff.

And by the way, I love the term, "junk mail."

Years back, any mention of the term "junk mail" in the media brought huffy letters from members of the direct marketing community demanding an apology from the offender.

When the great West Coast copywriter, the late Bill Jayme, was asked what he did for a living. "I write direct mail solicitations for magazines," he said, "such as Atlantic Monthly, BusinessWeek, Civilization, American Heritage and many others. High-class junk mail. I call it "junque mail.'"

Jayme went on to say people love junk mail — and junk.

"Vintage car buffs love junk yards," Jayme once said to me. "Antique collectors love junk shops. For a brief period, Wall Street had a love affair with junk bonds. Vacationers love to head for the Caribbean with a pile of junk fiction. And what would a Hong Kong fisherman be without his j**k?"

General agencies hate direct mail because it is accountable and for years have tried to persuade their clients that it is the ugly little step-sibling of advertising.

Junk mail — direct mail — is in fact the aristocrat of advertising.


Pankaj Shah's Master Plan

Pankaj Shah is founder and CEO of GreenDimes, a company that is hoping to put direct mailers out of business by generating anger at unwanted mail and its alleged destruction of trees and damage to the environment.

One of Shah's citations is the WildWest Institute's statistic that 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce 4.5 million tons of junk mail, with 44 percent of that thrown away unopened.

(For the record, more than 90% is thrown away unopened.)

According to the crawl on Shah's Web site, he has stopped 1.6 million pounds of junk mail, planted 320,000 trees and saved $4 million gallons of water.

Shah—with 50,000 members and 16 employees — has a dream: to stop 95% of all junk mail.

Actor Matt Damon, who sits on Shah's board, did the talk show circuit to promote the GreenDimes Web site. Included on his rounds: "Oprah," who mails tons of junk mail solicitations to get subscribers to the magazine that bears her name.


"Everybody gets junk mail, and nobody likes it," crusader Shah told The New York Times.


A Look at the Numbers

Stop 95% of all junk mail and a First-Class stamp would cost somewhere between $5 and $10 — maybe more.

Because of junk mail, the United States Post Office is in business, reaching every address in America every business day.

Does nobody like junk mail? According to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), direct mail generates $700 billion in sales.

That seems to me a lot of people like junk mail and happily spend money as a direct result of it.

When I tell people that my career was spent creating junk mail, more often than not the response will be, "I hate junk mail."

"Do you hate catalogs?" I ask. "No, I love catalogs."

"Then you don't hate junk mail."

In addition, nobody likes an empty mailbox. If I receive no mail (it very seldom happens), I get a brief pain in my gut. Nobody cares about me. My letter carrier is the one person from government who touches me every business day and lets me know the system is still working. Did he have a heart attack and die? Or is the system busted? Has the government run out of money? In short, mail is a good thing.


Junk Mail — Its Exquisite Efficiency

The DMA currently estimates that in order to generate $700 billion in sales, marketers will spend $56 billion on direct mail and catalogs this year.

That translates to every $5.60 in marketing costs bringing in $70 in sales — a glorious return on investment (ROI). The biggest expense is postage. Of that $5.60, maybe $1.50 is the cost of paper.

What about the destruction of trees?

Every paper company and saw mill spends a fortune on reforestation — planting multiple trees for every one cut down. The result, according to the American Forest & Paper Association: The United States has 20% more trees than it had on the first Earth Day celebration more than 25 years ago.

"Trees are a crop that must be harvested slowly," said Rush Limbaugh.

And unlike toilet paper, paper towels, cups and napkins, corrugated shipping containers, computer paper, stationery, throw-away diapers, airline and movie tickets and shopping bags, the paper used in junk mail creates wealth and jobs.


Junk Mail — the Aristocrat of Marketing Media

* Direct mail is the most precisely accountable of all advertising methods, measurable down to 10th and 100ths of a percent.

* Contrast this with what the general agencies do — try to create awareness by spending millions of dollars of television airtime and space advertising (for which they get fat commissions) without a clue as to its effectiveness.

* Unlike spam, direct mail is the rocket science of marketing. It requires enormous skill and discipline for one reason only: the cost. At roughly 50 cents a mailing — and up to $1 or more for a catalog — it does not take much direct mail sent to the wrong people or containing a poor offer to result in rivers of red ink.

* In the international marketplace where theft and piracy are rampant, direct mail is the best secret medium to use for testing the efficacy of a new product or service. If you announce a new product in a magazine, newspaper or on television, it becomes public knowledge instantly and fair game for the world's thieves and weasels that never had an original idea in their lives. They will steal it, manufacture it and sell it worldwide for less than your cost within a few weeks — or less.

* By contrast, a wee 20,000 test in four states will go unnoticed, as will the confirming tests of 200,000 and even 2 million. By the time savvy marketers have a fix on the ROI — thanks to judicious direct mail testing — they can go out via more direct mail, inserts, space ads, television, phone calls, the Web, billboards and skywriting. The market will be creamed before the rascally copycats can get an RFP out to their man in Taiwan.

* A consultant e-mailed me with the following question: What do I tell my clients who are upset when customers complain about receiving so many catalogs? The response:

If I had a store in your neighborhood, I would know when you are ready to buy because you would come in and make a purchase. As a cataloger, I don't know when you want to buy, so I have to periodically send you my "store" to alert you about new products and offers. You are able to shop my catalog from the comfort and convenience of your home without spending money for gasoline or wasting time going from store to store looking for just what you want, only to find the store is out of stock. My entire reason for being is to be able to get you what you want and save you time and money. I am honored that you are a member of my family of customers. Thank you.


What Goes Around Comes Around

Twenty-one years ago some sensation-seeking jerk like Pankaj Shah dumped on junk mail, and I ran a column much like this one in Peggy's and my cranky little newsletter, WHO'S MAILING WHAT! (now Inside Direct Mail). It triggered the following letter from Bill Jayme:

"Apropos of your excellent defense of junk mail in your September issue, here's another that we did back in the early 70s for the DMA when Congress was threatening to withdraw Third Class preferential rates. Change "dime" to "quarter" for that phone call and everything still holds, no?"

I found the mailing Jayme sent me — a stylish and persuasive 9" x 12" personalized mailing to every member of Congress that contained a ringing defense of junk mail sent out by the DMA (which, at the time, was called the Direct Mail Advertising Association Inc.). It was written by Jayme and designed by his partner, Heikki Ratalahti, under the direction of [Chris] Stagg, [Bob] Dale and [Dick] Archer.

If you'd like a copy of this famous mailing, simply e-mail me at


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See You at the DMA

I'll be doing my intensive workshops on Saturday, October 13th and Sunday the 14th, 2007.

I also have a presentation on Tuesday called "Creativity for the Rest of Us" that will:

  • Prove to you that you are a creative person (it's okay – it's not your fault)

  • Show you how to apply creativity to every aspect of your direct marketing – not just the copy and visuals

If you do attend, please come up and introduce yourself. I am always very happy to meet one of our subscribers.


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Thank you,



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Phone: 781-784-8283