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

Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter

Issue # 53: Holiday 2007 Edition

1. Update on Jordan's

2. You Are Here

3. New Business Market

4. The Milwaukee Master

5. International Success Story

6. Award Reform

7. The Best Direct Mail


Dear Friends,

Let me take this opportunity to wish you a happy holiday season, and a wonderful New Year.

As you may know, I usually do the "Incredible Pencil Test" in my seminars. I ask people to list as many features and benefits as they can for an ordinary pencil.

The creativity that comes through is amazing. The group is always able to brainstorm dozens of different benefits — for just a pencil. Why am I mentioning it here?

One of the features that usually comes up is the ability to sharpen the pencil. The benefit is that you can start fresh.

With a newly sharpened pencil in your hands, you feel like you are just beginning . . . anything is possible. You can write down whatever you choose.

And that's the way I urge you to look at the New Year.

Your pencil is sharpened — you can start with a fresh sheet of paper. You can write your story anew.

And with that attitude, you can accomplish anything and everything you want.

All the best, Alan


Update on Jordan's

In Newsletter 49, I wrote about Jordan's Furniture — and their amazing offer last Spring. As you may recall, their big idea was that you could win all your furniture absolutely free . . .

. . . but only if the Boston Red Sox win the 2007 World Series.

If you follow baseball, you know that they did win, and Jordan's had to return almost $40 million to their customers. (They were insured for this, so it didn't cost them anywhere near that amount.)

And they did it with class.

When the Red Sox looked like they were on the brink of winning, Jordan's aired a TV commercial that looked just like a press conference.

Their spokesperson (and co-founder of the chain) appeared on TV and gravely reminded people that it looked like Jordan's would have to return all that money as promised.

He shrugged, and admitted, "There's only one thing I can say about it . . .

"Go Sox!"

In that moment, he won the hearts and minds of millions of people all over New England.


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You Are Here

Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have been around for awhile — but as costs have dropped, sales have really taken off.

As a late adopter, I am simply amazed at how they work, and I am delighted that I no longer have to be a slave to MapQuest.

How can this idea be used in direct mail?

I just saw a remarkable example, in a digitally-printed mailing for a major retailer. (It hasn't been printed yet, so I can't reveal the name.)

Their mailing included a small map on the back of the brochure, that showed the reader exactly how to get to the store — with personalized driving directions from their address.

Research has proven that when you include a map that shows your location, more people will show up. I'm willing to bet that a personalized map will have even more pulling power.

Is this an idea you can try in your next mailing or e-mail?


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New Business Market

Actually, I mean the New in Business Market.

Every quarter, almost 300,000 new businesses open across the country. And if you're not targeting them — with mailings that specifically address their "newness" — you're missing an important opportunity.

These new businesses are prime prospects for . . . just about everything!

We just proved it with a mailing for one of the largest credit card companies in America, with a package that beat their control by over 25%.

If you do target "new" in business companies, here's what we have found works best:

  • Congratulate them on starting their own business. It takes vision and courage. If said sincerely, this message resonates with them.
  • Offer them something extra because they are new in business. It could be a discount. It could be an information offer, like "10 Mistakes to Avoid."
  • Avoid using the term "small business." This can sometimes offend people. Instead, you may want to call them "growing businesses..."

There are many list companies that can sell you new in business names. You want to find one who can get you the names first — before your competition has a chance to talk to these new names.


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The Milwaukee Master

In my opinion, the best direct marketing agency isn't in New York or Chicago.

It's Johnson Direct up in Milwaukee. From starting as "the little agency that could" they've grown to attract several huge national clients, and have done an excellent job with each.

I was fortunate enough to hear their CEO Grant Johnson speak at a recent conference, and I wanted to share some of his comments with you, which you may find as valuable as I did.

  • Marketing now has "C"–level attention (CEO, CFO, CM). It's not an expense, but rather an activity that now is measured as an investment, with its own Profit & Loss column.
    • That means your work is more important and more visible than ever.
  • Research has shown that it takes an average of 6-7 different messages to influence a prospect or even generate a lead.
    • Multi-channel marketing is now essential, and if you're just doing direct mail, or just e-mail, or just telemarketing . . . you're not doing what's best.
  • Grant also showed quite a few extremely creative ads, some of which I didn't understand. He quoted Lester Wunderman, industry legend, who said "Stop being clever! Tell me something I want to know."
    • This is great advice for any media and any communication.

I have been a friend of Grant's for several years, and I admire him and his work. He also has a free newsletter, with terrific information and case-histories. You can subscribe at


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International Success Story

American direct marketing used to be considered the best in the world...and it usually was.

The reasons for this were (1) we sent more direct mail to more people than any other country (2) we tested more, and (3) the level of direct marketing education was the highest in the world.

This has changed dramatically.

Let me give you two examples. In the most recent Caples Awards, there were 40 winners. Only one was an American company, winning a third place award.

Patrick Pulles, COO of the Awards, was forced to issue a press release begging for more American companies to enter.

And at the ECHO Awards, it's almost as bad. The "Gold Mailbox" Award for the most innovative mailing went to a company outside the U.S. for the second year in a row.

Ironically, this award is sponsored by The United States Postal Service.

For years, I have seen brilliant, innovative work coming from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, and Spain, just to mention a few countries that come to mind.

And I give them complete credit for doing truly creative and outstanding work.

But there's another reason why American companies are not doing so well in the award shows...


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Award Reform

Just as we have had Post Office Reform in the U.S., we clearly need "Award Reform."

What do I mean by that?

Last May, I met with members of the DMA ECHO Committee in New York to discuss what I felt was an unfair bias in the ECHO Awards. I was particularly upset at the USPS Gold Mailbox Award going to a company that didn't mail in the U.S.

My point was not that the award should go to a U.S. company.

My point was it should go to a company mailing in the U.S.

This wasn't misplaced patriotism on my part, it was because of the following:

  • The U.S. is the largest direct mail market in the world. Every American receives a dozen or more direct mail packages a day, much, much more than in any other country in the world. That makes it that much harder to stand out.
    • When I have judged the "Best of Europe" awards or the "RSVP" awards in New Zealand, I am consistently amazed at just how little direct mail the average person receives. It can be two or three packages a week! Of course, they pay more attention to each one, and respond at a higher rate.
  • U.S. direct mail budgets are often the smallest in the world. I don't mean total budget – I mean per person budget.
    • If you are mailing to 100 executives (which a recent Echo winner did) and you get 92 responses, I don't think you can fairly compete with an American company that sends out 10 million direct mail packages in the same category.
  • The U.S. is the most competitive direct mail market in the world. Did you get a credit card offer in the mail last week? Chances are, you received over a dozen of them — several each day.
    • In the U.S., over 50% of all advertising expenditures are in direct marketing. Your company is probably doing more of it than ever before, and so are every one of your competitors. It's just not the same in other countries.

The ECHO committee listened, and then sent me a gracious letter that included the following:

"Thank you for your thoughts, suggestions and input about the DMA International ECHO Awards and its Gold Mailbox Award. We have given your comments serious consideration in a sub-committee of the DMA International ECHO Committee as well as in the full Committee and on a staff level."

As a result, ECHO is:

— Exploring ways to recognize U.S. companies. For example, the idea of a separate U.S.-based direct marketing awards program has been broached.

— Considering ways to address judge understanding of differences in market conditions (U.S. vs. International) in judge selection and training. ECHO reviews and refines these areas annually in keeping with its commitment to excellence.

I will keep you posted of any developments in this area — but more importantly, I'd like your opinion.

  1. Do you think we're all on a level playing field?
  2. Do you think an American company that sends out 20 million mailings can be compared to an international company that sends out 10,000 or 1,000 or even less?
  3. Do you think American direct mail should be judged by the same standards as International direct mail?

Please let me know, and I promise that I will forward your individual or collective thoughts to the ECHO Committee.

And please remember:

I love the work I see internationally, and because of my seminars, I probably get to see a lot more than most people.

And this isn't because I lost out on an ECHO (I've won 20 of them.) I just think it's unfair, and I would hate to read a future headline that says:

"John Greco pleads with U.S. companies to enter the ECHO Awards"


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The Best Direct Mail

According to the DMA, more money will be spent on direct mail than any other form of direct marketing . . .

. . . until 2011.

That's only three years from this New Years!

I wrote an amusing article called "A Visit to the Direct Mail Museum" about 15 years ago, that may unfortunately come true.

(I'll be happy to send you a hard copy if you e-mail your address to me at

But before that comes to pass, I am trying to assemble examples of truly great direct mail and collect them into a new book.

In my opinion, the best direct mail doesn't always come from the biggest companies. And it may not be the most creative or most expensive direct mail.

So if you have (A) developed a package that has worked exceptionally well, or (B) received a package that you think is just terrific, please send it to me.

In return, I will credit you and/or your company in the book, and be very, very grateful.

And of course, if you have a package that isn't working as well as you'd like...I'd be happy to review it and make suggestions at no cost to you.

Happy New Year.


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Thank you,


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