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

Alan Rosenspan's
Improve Your Response Newsletter

Issue # 56: Winter 2008 Edition

1. It's the Economy
2. New Envelope Format
3. Teaser and Reminder Mailings
4. Talk to a Person
5. Do you Make These Mistakes?
6. The Non-Gift Card
7. FREE E-mail Tip
8. The Case for Direct Mail
9. Card Trouble
10. Happy Holidays


Dear Friends,

I just moved offices – so that's why I'm way behind on my newsletter. Actually, that's a lame excuse - but that brings up a great point. When people move – either in business or their homes – they are great prospects for virtually any product or service. The reason is more than just that they have to buy new products or services related to their move.

It's a huge psychological change – and that means that virtually every buying decision they have made in the past is up for review.

At AT&T, our New and Moving campaign was one of our most successful programs. Other companies report the same success. And these days, there are dozens of companies who can provide you with accurate and timely New Movers lists.

Of course, you do have to be timely. I recently received a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" package from The Pottery Barn that congratulated me on my new home.

The only problem – I've lived in the same home for the past 22 years.

But I did use the coupons. In fact, I probably paid even more attention to them because of the mistake. But they couldn't have been that smart, and done that intentionally, could they...?

It's the Economy

It's painfully obvious that we are heading for a recession. And I am reminded of an interview with Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, during the last economic downturn.

He was asked, "What are you going to do about the recession?"

He answered, "We don't plan to participate."

That's a great notion – but at a time when people are worried about making their mortgage payments, paying for health care, food and gas, I think we need to pay attention to that in our marketing.

I wrote an article on this several years ago, which I've recently updated. Here are the first few suggestions – just e-mail me at and I'll be happy to send it to you.

1. Promote savings and practicality

Tough to do if you're selling $10,000 home theatres, but it's still possible to point out the value of buying now, because prices have come down dramatically.

Several years ago, a financial services company asked me to create advertising for their Gold fund.

The only problem was that gold was at an historic low. I could choose to ignore this, and hope people didn't realize it. Instead I capitalized on it.

My headline read, "Will you catch Gold on the ground floor?" It was the most successful ad they ever ran.

2. Focus on "mission-critical" benefits.

This is probably something you should be doing all the time, but now it's even more important.

What are the most important benefits of your product or service? Are they simply desirable or are they "mission critical?" The more important the benefit, the more likely your prospect will respond.

You also want to focus on return-on-investment. If your prospect is weighing one purchase decision against another, they will probably go with the one that promises to generate a higher ROI.

3. Offer special financing deals.

You may want to offer this for prospects, but it may even be a better idea with your customers.

First, because it shows them that you are sensitive to their cash flow. Second, because you're more familiar with them – and you know whether or not you can trust them.

"Pay no interest for six months" or "Buy Now. Pay Later" can be effective, but you can also be more creative.

But be careful – these are dangerous times. Today, more businesses and more consumers are going Chapter 11 than ever before. And you need to be sensitive to your own cash flow too.

4. Use this time to build relationships.

Even if people are not ready to buy now, that doesn't mean you should stop marketing.

As a famous advertisement for the Wall Street Journal said, "Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of business." They cite a study that shows that companies that remain aggressive during a downturn gain share from their competitors.

This is an excellent time to build awareness of your company and add value. So that when corporate budgets are freed up and your prospects are ready to buy -- they'll know you and buy from you.

You should also be focusing more on your customers. In a downturn, it is important to remember that it is 5 times cheaper to get a sale from an existing customer than to find a new one.

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New Envelope Format

Going from the global economy crisis to a new envelope format is quite a leap – but if you haven't tested this one, you're missing an opportunity.

It's a number #10 envelope, with perforated lines going down each of the right and left-hand sides, visible from the front.

This little technique, which makes the envelope look more official - almost like a snap-pack, has increased response by 40% for some clients. And we are now rolling it out to several others.

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Teaser and Reminder Mailings

Recently, I received an inquiry from a company in Australia that asked about the value of teaser and reminder mailings. I thought I'd share a few best practices with you – if you are considering using these techniques.

1. Teaser mailing rarely work. But that's because they don't usually give enough information to intrigue or respond. They usually say "Watch your mail for the details." or some other non-sequitur.

However, you can make them work when you include a prominent offer and call to action.

And by the way, your teaser must have the same look and feel of the direct mail that follows. And it cannot be more than 3-5 days before. (Otherwise, I've forgotten it already)

2. Reminder mailings can work well - provided you send them out quickly. Most people forget what they got in the mail even a day or two later.

It's not a reminder mailing, if I don't remember it.

Some companies don't want to do this, because they want to scrub their list and pull out all the people that responded to the original mailing. That's a huge mistake. Instead, I recommend including a P.S. or Buckslip that says, "Please forgive us if you have already responded to this valuable offer. We just wanted to make sure you received it." and even, "You might want to pass this along to a friend or business associate."

Your reminder package can be the same as the original package - but stamp the outer envelope "Second Notice."

You can also have a yellow Post-it note on the letter that reads something like "We sent you this 5 days ago. I just wanted to make sure you didn't miss out." We've gotten good lifts in response from that.

3. A reminder mailing works best when it "sweetens" the deal in some way; increases the value of the offer, adds a second offer, etc.

4. In general, re-mailing the same package with no alternations produces 50% of the response to the original mailing - but you can boost that with some of the techniques I've suggested.

5. We are seeing more and more "teaser" and "reminder" marketing using e-mail and direct mail - that seems to be even more effective. The case history I'm most familiar with is Victoria's Secret, where they have increased sales from their catalogues by 30% by using (and testing) different approaches.

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Talk to a Person

Are you frustrated at having to punch in buttons whenever you call for company service?

"Press 1 for this, press 2 for that..." and while they are keeping you waiting (and seething) they have the gall to interrupt the music with "Your call is very important to us, please stay on the line."

Now you'll never have to do that again. There is a website that shows you how to get an actual human on the phone.

A man named Paul English maintains a website - that shows you how to get to a live person without pushing a lot of buttons.

There's no research that I know of that shows how many people abandon their calls when they have to wait too long. However, based on my own experience, it might be a significant number of lost leads and sales.

That's why you might consider offering this as a benefit to your best customers. It seems like a little thing, but it will make them feel valued and important.

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Do you Make These Mistakes?

One of the most famous ads of all time was written by Max Sackheim (who also wrote the classic book My First 60 Years in Advertising). It was for a language course and it outpulled every other ad they ran for over 40 years. The headline, which you may recognize was "Do you Make These Mistakes in English"

Recently, a list of the most irritating expressions in the English language was compiled by Oxford University. They didn't include specific phrases like "We're going to audit your taxes" or "You break it, you bought it." Instead they identified phrases that we all say from time to time – and sometimes include in our writing.

The top ten most irritating phrases:

  1. At the end of the day

  2. Fairly unique

  3. I personally

  4. At this moment in time

  5. With all due respect

  6. Absolutely

  7. It's a nightmare

  8. Shouldn't of

  9. 24/7

  10. It's not rocket science

It might be worth going through your letters or brochures, and making sure any of the following phrases don't appear.

Oxford University concluded that people quickly grow tired of anything that is repeated too often. Which is why one of the cardinal rules of good writing is to "write something that's never been written before."

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The Non-Gift Card

As we head into an economic downturn, the temptation is to offer people cash – usually in the form of a gift card.

I'd be very careful about that, for a few reasons:

1. So many stores have gone out of business (at least in the States) that millions of people are holding totally worthless gift cards.

2. Gift cards have a high slippage rate – meaning a lot of people lose 'em, or don't use 'em. This is usually desirable, since it costs your company less. But these days, I believe that people may be more sensitive about it – and perhaps even resent a company that offers one.

3. And on a personal level, you should know that some stores that are planning to close after Christmas are still selling the cards through the holidays even though the cards will be worthless January 1.

There is no law preventing them from doing this. On the contrary, it is referred to as "Bankruptcy Planning".

Here is a quick list of Gift Cards you might want to avoid:

  • Circuit City (filed Chapter 11)
  • Ann Taylor – 117 stores nationwide closing
  • Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, and Catherine's to close 150 stores nationwide
  • Cache will close all stores
  • J. Jill closing all stores
  • Pacific Sunwear
  • GAP closing 85 stores
  • Wickes Furniture closing down
  • Levitz closing down remaining stores
  • Bombay closing remaining stores
  • Whitehall closing all stores
  • Piercing Pagoda closing all stores
  • Linens and Things closing all stores
  • Movie Galley closing all stores
  • Wilson Leather closing down all stores
  • Sharper Image closing down all stores

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FREE E-mail Tip

I just returned from giving a copywriting workshop for UCLA, and they gave me an interesting tip about e-mail that I'd like to share with you.

For the last few years, people have been trying to avoid using the word "free"in their Subject Lines – since it was often filtered out or blocked.

UCLA has had good success with the word "free" but with guidelines:

1. You should never put it in ALL CAPS. Nothing screams SPAM like all caps.

2. You shouldn't use it at the beginning g of the subject line – but rather somewhere in the middle. Again, this will get past most filters.

What's been your experience with this? I'd love to know. Just e-mail me at

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The Case for Direct Mail

I recently gave a presentation for the USPS in Kansas City, and spoke to about 800 sales representatives for the U.S. Post Office. Before I spoke, I had sent an e-mail to every representative, asking them about the benefits of using direct mail. I received dozens of great answers, the best of which I want to share with you.

  • In today's "overcharged" and over hyped media world, Direct mail can provide Marketers a high ROI as it cuts through media clutter to reach busy consumers who still want to make informed, value-driven, buying decisions.

  • Direct mail is a medium that targets the audience and then delivers the message right to their front door, making it personal and compelling.

  • Direct mail is the fabric of America. It is the most intimate communication between a business and their customer.  It is one of the fewest ways business can communicate directly with their customer without interruption reaching every address in America six days a week. My best argument for direct mail is that it is targetable & measurable & integrates/interfaces great with other media plans. It can speak directly to the customer one-on-one when done right (variable data printing.)

  • Direct Mail can be a personal, relevant, "high-touch" effective driver of consumer buying behavior when it makes a highly targeted, compelling offer to the right target audience at the right time and place.

  • Nothing replaces the warm human experience (and strong behavioral drive) of holding a creative Direct Mail piece and reading the message that was targeted to my home.

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Card Trouble

With so many people using personalization these days, I just want to remind you to be careful.

I was recently offered The American Express Business Card, which I accepted. It came in the mail a few days later.

Now, I didn't think they could include the entire name of my business on their little card, but I certainly didn't expect what they did include. My new credit card reads exactly like this:


And the worst part is - I wrote "Check for ID" on the back.

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Happy Holidays

I want to wish you a Happy Holiday, and a safe, successful, peaceful and rewarding New Year. I know that 2009 may be a difficult one – several of my friends have been laid off; and some of my clients have cut their budgets. But maybe this is a good time to be grateful for what you have, what you've accomplished, and how many people whose lives you've touched.

My friend Murray Raphel just told me a wonderful story about a business friend who did him a huge favor, when he needed it most. Murray was overcome with his generosity. And as his friend was driving him to the airport, Murray asked "What can I ever do to pay you back?" His friend waved him away, saying "it's nothing." And as Murray stepped out of the car, his friend pulled away. Then the car came to an abrupt halt. His friend backed up the car, opened the window, and leaned out to talk to Murray.

"Do you know what you can do to pay me back?", he asked . . . . . . "Help someone else".

Since that day, Murray has dedicated a great deal of time and money to helping other people.

This coming year would be a good time for all of us to embrace that philosophy.

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Thank you, Alan

New Mailing Address!
Alan Rosenspan & Associates
5 Post Office Square
Sharon, MA 02067
Tel: 617-559-0999



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