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

Alan Rosenspan's "Improve Your Response" Newsletter
February, 2001
Issue #3: Questionnaires & More


• Answers to the Test

• The Direct Marketer's Dozen

• 3 Useful Links

• The Art of the Questionnarie

Hi -- I don't mean to interrupt you.

And I know you probably didn't expect to hear from me again this soon.

But -- many people have e-mailed me looking for the answers to the questions from the Famous Equation Analysis Test I sent out with the last newsletter. So let me share then with you.

d. 12 = S. of the Z Signs of the Zodiac
e. 54 = C. in a D. (C.J.) Cards in a Deck (Counting Jokers)
f. 9 = P. in the S.S. Planets in the Solar System
g. 88 = P.K. Piano Keys
h. 13 = S. on the A.F. Stripes on the American Flag
i. 32 = D.F. (A.W.W.F.) Holes in a Golf Course
k. 90 = D. in a R.A. Degrees in a Right Angle
l. 200 = D. for P.G. in M. Dollars for Passing Go in Monopoly
m. 8 = S. on a S.S. Sides on a Stop Sign
n. 3 = B.M. (S.H.T.R.) Blind Mice (See How They Run)
o. 4 = Q. in a G. Quarts in a Gallon
p. 24 = H. in a D. Hours in a Day
q. 1 = W. on a U. Wheels on a Unicycle
r. 5 = D. in a Z.C. Digits in a Zip Code
s. 57 = H.V. Heinz Variety
t. 101 = D. Dalmatians
u. 1000 = W. that a P. is W. Words that a Picture is Worth
v. 29 = D. in F. (in a L.Y.) Days in February (in a Leap Year)

And as long as we're sending this out, there are a few other things I'd like to take this opportunity to share with you.


The Direct Marketer's Dozen

It's been two years since Direct Marketing magazine published my list of "101 Ways to Improve Response." And what kind of a fool would I be if I hadn't learned anything else since then?

Here are 11 additional ways to improve response -- based on recent experience. And there's also one to avoid at all costs.

1. Repetition is everything

Let me say that again: repetition is everything.

Advertisers believe that you must be exposed to a TV commercial 12 times in order for you to fully understand it, know who's it for, and remember the message.

Yet, in direct marketing, we often mail just once -- and expect people not only to "get it" but also to respond.

I've had great success mailing a series of packages to the same prospect or customer -- often 3 in one week. We did it to re-launch New England Funds.

The trick? Make sure your mailings look similar, but not exactly alike. So people will recognize and remember the earlier ones, but not dismiss it because they've already seen it.

2. Show a satisfied customer

We recently did a direct mail campaign for American Management Equities that advertised a seminar called, "The Secrets of Selling Your Business."

There were three successive mailings, sent a week apart. Each focused on a different benefit of the seminar.

According to my clients, the program was four times as successful as anything in the industry.

The secret? Instead of the usual dry, business-like approach, we showed photographs of happy, successful business people on the cover and presented their stories.

For example, the first brochure had the headline, "This Man Sold His Business For $2 Million More Than He Expected."

If you can show customers -- and they don't even have to be real customers -- who look like they are enjoying the benefits of your product or service, you might dramatically lift response.

3. Show your product in use

Which do you think generates higher readership scores? Business-to-business advertising or consumer advertising?

You might guess B2B because the ads usually appear in more targeted publications. However, it is consumer advertising that typically gets significantly higher readership scores.

Why? According to INRA Starch, the research company, it's for one simple reason. Business-to-business advertising rarely shows the product in use. The sell is conceptual, not visual.

And so you may see an advertisement for computer systems that shows snowflakes, with a lyrical headline like,"No two are alike†" Instead of an advertisement for washing powder, which shows clean clothes, and says,"Gets Out the Deep Down Dirt."

So if you want to improve response, show your product, show your product benefits, and show satisfied customers using your product.

4. Humanize the product

We did a usage-stimulation campaign for American Express Connections Calling Card.
We wanted to remind people that they already had the card, and that they should start using it more often.
We tested seven different creative approaches. The winner was a postcard, which was a huge blow-up of the Connections Card.

Across the face of the card was this message, "Remember Me?"

5. Be topical

You are not marketing in a vacuum. You can take advantage of the things that surround your prospect -- things in the news, the season, the holidays.

  • For a retractable awning company, we sent out a special Mother's Day package. The outer envelope read, "This Mother's Day, give her a gift she'll love to open."

  • For CreditAware from American Express, we did a campaign that focused on a very topical issue, "Identity Theft." This is when someone steals your name or social security number and uses it to open phony accounts and credit cards.

    The mailing substantially beat their long-standing control.

  • For a high technology client, we came up with a very topical offer -- a free box of Dilbert "Manage-mints."

These are real mints in the shape of the cartoon characters in the Dilbert comic strip -- a perfect offer for engineers. We received over 6000 responses.

6. Use a referral device

One of my clients uses a double reply card in every mailing. It reads,"One for You. One for a Colleague."

It lifts response an average of 40% -- for very little incremental expense.

You can use the same idea when you do a magazine advertisement by including a multiple response card. This can be one panel with three reply cards that readers can tear off and send in.

It is particularly effective in business-to-business advertising where there is a great deal of pass-along readership.

7. Push personalization

Personalization doesn't have to be limited to using the prospect's name in the salutation.

You can also take it further.

In my CreditAware from American Express package, I used a highly personalized letter with the following Johnson Box:
"They say they're (YOUR NAME HERE). They're using your name to open credit accounts, take out bank loans and commit fraud. How would you even know?"

8. Involve your audience

I'm a consultant to an e-marketing company called BeNow. We wanted to do something dramatic to launch the company, create awareness and generate leads.

I came up with the following idea for a box mailing:
The outside of the box read "We'd like to have a word with you." Inside the box was a dictionary with a yellow post-it note on top.

The note said -- Look up "visionary." When the prospect turned to that page, they found their name listed in the definition.

We also had a remarkably innovative response device. BeNow created a personalized website for each prospect -- with their name on it. For example, your address would be www.

At the site, you would be welcomed with a big banner -- "Welcome (YOUR NAME)" and it would give you more information about our unique e-marketing solutions.

And every time someone comes into their office, they will probably hand them the dictionary and say, "Look up visionary. It has my name!"

9. Address a barrier

One of my clients is a major affinity card marketer. They included a lift note in one of their packages with this message: "It's okay to have more than one MasterCard."

Response jumped 17%.

Apparently, a lot of people believed that they couldn't accept the card because they already had a card.

If you can figure out the main reason why people aren't buying your product, or taking advantage of your offer, and overcome it -- you will almost certainly improve response.

10. Test a blind envelope

I've just attended a dizzying round of focus groups in New York and Florida, where people talked about direct mail.

Now you can't always take what they say as true. But time after time, I heard, "If it looks like advertising, I just throw it away without even opening it."

You might want to take your control letter and other elements of your direct mail package, and test them in an envelope with no message on the outside. Just your company name and logo.

This is particularly effective if you are dealing with existing customers. They have to open the envelope because it might be a bill or have an important message inside.

It is also very effective for financial institutions, for the same reasons.

11. Consider a box

Boxes always get opened, and often are saved and remembered.

A box mailing will cost more than an ordinary mailing, but it will stand out as the most unusual one that a person receives that day, or even that week.

For a checklist on boxes -- and how to use them most effectively -- e-mail me at and I'll be happy to send you an article called, "Boxes I have Mailed, Received and Admired."

12. Here's the one to avoid

For years, I've been preaching that you should never, ever send an unsolicited CD-ROM or software package through the mail. (The only exception I know of is America OnLine, but they had to send out hundreds of millions of them.)

People either toss them away, put them aside to look at later, or use them as coasters for all I know. But they never seem to work -- and they cost a lot more to produce and mail.

Of course, it's very different when someone requests your CD-ROM. Then it can be very effective, and deliver an enormous amount of text, visuals and even multimedia.

So knowing this, what do I do when a client insists on sending out a CD-ROM demo of their product?

I argued. I cajoled. I begged and pleaded. And ultimately, I ended up saying to myself, "Okay, Alan, if anyone can make it work, you can†"

Um†it turns out I couldn't.

So the next time someone suggests sticking a CD-ROM into the package, tell them to save their money.

Three useful links

Do you want to see what your company name will look like on a premium before you order 10,000 of them?


Do you want to see some of the best print advertisements in the world? My friend Joe Vitale just sent me a link to the world's largest searchable database of print ads --

And Murray Raphel has a new newsletter that you might be interested in receiving. If you don't know Murray, he's written 10 books and has a regular column in Direct Marketing magazine. I have always admired Murray enormously, and I'm happy to introduce you to him.

You can subscribe at


The Art of the Questionnaire

This is an excerpt of an article that is due to appear in Target Marketing magazine.

For the full text, including a section on on-line questionnaires, please e-mail me at

Do questionnaires really work?

Do they ever!

A typical questionnaire or survey gets response rates as high as 10-20%. And if you're mailing to customers, and not prospects, you can do even better.

We did a questionnaire for Lucent Technologies that generated a 28% response. We did one for Datawatch that generated over 4,000 responses.

And I'll let you in on a secret -- questionnaires and surveys work so well, they can be used to boost response -- even when you don't care about the answers.

Three questions you should ask

The first question is "When do you plan on making a decision or purchase?" It is a great way to prioritize needs and determine which prospects or customers to contact first.

The second question is, "Do you want someone to contact you?"

Your questionnaire will reach a certain number of prospects or customers who have an immediate need for your product or service. By all means, give them a chance to hold up their hands.

The third question is, frankly, the one you probably haven't thought of.

What I mean is -- no matter how smart you are, or how carefully you design the questionnaire, there will be some question you'd never even anticipated.

That's why it is essential to leave a space for the person to write in comments or suggestions at the end of the questionnaire. You will be amazed at the valuable feedback you'll receive.

11 Ways to Improve the Response to Your Next Questionnaire

1. Make the questionnaire the "hero" of the package, not just another element.

2. Fewer questions are better -- 7 - 11 are ideal. For some reason, odd numbers seem to work better then even numbers.

3. Include a letter to "Thank you in advance." Tell them why their answers are important. Tell them what they get.

4. Have the letter come from someone high-up or important at your company.

5. Give them an offer. It could be entry into a sweepstakes, a premium, or even the fact that you will share the results with them.

6. Include a "Thank you" message on the actual questionnaire.

7. Include the offer on the actual questionnaire. Use a photograph of it, if possible.

8. Make the questions very simple, "Yes" and "No" works best. Asking people to estimate their projected sales revenue for 2003 might be too difficult -- and give them a reason to toss it.

9. Make sure you include a space for comments or suggestions. No matter how smart you are, you'll never be able to anticipate every issue. Give them room to write in what they want.

10. If appropriate, reassure them that their answers will be kept confidential and will not be used for solicitation (unless, of course, they will be)

11. Give people a way to respond on-line.

What should you do with the answers?

If you're like most companies, the only thing you do is tabulate the results, and put them in a report for future generations.

Unfortunately, that's the worst thing to do.

You need to (1) Let people know you received their answers, and thank them (2) Respond to their comments or suggestions, and (3) Try to fix any problems they've reported.

Should you do a questionnaire?

Questionnaires can accomplish a number of important functions in a direct marketing campaign. They can help you identify issues that are important to your prospects; prioritize leads; ensure customer satisfaction; promote interaction; and build better relationships.

Most importantly, they can generate a mountain of leads.

So should you do a questionnaire? Do you even have to ask?

We'd Love Your Comments

Please feel free to forward me your comments and suggestions on the newsletter or any of the topics I've touched on here.

You can reach me at:

Alan Rosenspan & Associates
281 Needham Street
Newton, MA 02464

Tel: 617-559-0999
Fax: 617-559-0996
E-Mail: Please visit:

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Thank you


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