7 Rules for Direct Marketers: Part 1
By Alan Rosenspan, Alan Rosenspan & Associates

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

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 marketing to?

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 general agency.

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 business.

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 rentals.

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 advertising.

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










Melissa Data

Enhance your website, software or database with easy-to-integrate data quality programming tools and web services.

Save money on postage using leading mail preparation software and other direct marketing products.

Update & standardize addresses and find out more about contacts in your database.


Find new customers perfect for your business with our online and specialty mailing lists.

Locate the business information you need such as ZIP Codes, address verification, maps.

Melissa Data Catalog - Your partner in data quality

your free copy of the Melissa Data product catalog.


Follow us on:

Facebook           Twitter


Article Library | Direct Mail | Copywriting | Data Quality | eMail | Case Studies | Technical | Postal
Marketing Strategies | Internet & Web | Industry News | Subscript to Newsletters