7 Rules for Direct
Marketers: Part 1
By Alan Rosenspan, Alan Rosenspan
There are many rules about what works in direct
marketing. In fact, I have published a booklet with
101 of them, which I’d be happy to send you. Just
e-mail me at ARosenspan@aol.com.
However, there are no rules (as far as I know) for
direct marketers. Here are some of the “rules” and
lessons I’ve learned over the years.
1. Respect your Audience
How should you think about the people you’re
First of all, they’re people – just like you.
Your goal shouldn’t be to fool them, or trick them
into responding. Your goal should be to give them
information that can help them, or improve their
lives, or make their jobs a little easier.
I’ve known direct marketing professionals who had
the very lowest regard for the people they marketed
to. I’ve heard them say things like, "They’ll really
fall for this" or "This will trick them."
People who feel like this usually don’t last very
long. And they’re not happy being in the business.
On the other hand, when you respect your target
market --- and their taste and intelligence – you
will almost always be successful.
And never send something out in the mail or e-mail
that you wouldn’t want your mother to receive.
2. Respect your clients
My wife Laura sometimes gets upset by the amount of
direct mail we receive. This is particularly true
when I come home from a business trip, and there’s a
huge box of accumulated direct mail waiting for me.
Whenever this happens, I tactfully point out that
"direct mail built our house."
And that’s also how I feel about my clients.
They pay my salary; they’ve helped me take care of
my children; they’ve made it possible for me to buy
things and travel and enjoy my life.
Your clients have done the same for you – and even
though they may not always know as much about direct
marketing as you do (Thank goodness, or they
wouldn’t need you!) they still deserve your respect,
if not your affection.
People do business with people they like. When you
like and respect your clients, you will never have
to worry about new business.
3. Respect your clients’ knowledge
When I first got to Boston, I was the Creative
Director of the Direct Response group of a large
The general agency went through a terrible period
where they lost 7 major accounts in the space of a
year. No one had any idea why, and so the agency
called in an outside consultant.
The consultant spent 30 days talking to people
within the agency and all our ex-clients.
He then reported back to the agency management
board, of which I was a member. His presentation had
only 14 slides – two each for every one of the
clients we lost.
He began by saying, "I talked to Friendly
Restaurants (one of the lost clients) – and this
first slide is what they said about you: "Your
creative work is good. However, you charge more than
other agencies. And they don’t feel you’re
responsive to their needs."
Now this slide is what you said about them: "They’re
stupid. They don’t know good work when they see it."
The consultant went through lost client after lost
client. And while each client said different things
about the agency, the agency had the same thing to
say about every client.
The consultant concluded, "If you continue to think
that your clients are stupid, you will lose every
single one of them."
I learned an important lesson that day – but they
didn't. Today that large Boston agency is out of
Your clients, even if they are relatively new to
their job, know a lot more about their business –
and their industry, and their customers, and their
market -- than you do.
When Bill Bernbach started working with Avis
Rent-a-car, there were two cardinal rules.
1. Avis knows more about renting cars than the
agency will ever know. That’s why Avis will have the
last word about anything having to do with car
2. The agency knows more about advertising than
Avis. That’s why the agency will have the last word
about any advertising issues.
This formula produced a long and productive
relationship and dramatically successful
You should not only respect your client’s knowledge,
you should use it.
The more you listen to them; the more questions you
ask them; the more likely you are to be able to help
them solve their problems.
Check back for the remaining four rules next month!
---Source: Alan Rosenspan is president of Alan
Rosenspan and Associates. Email him at