7 Rules for Direct Marketers: Part 2
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 Iíd 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 ďrulesĒ and lessons Iíve learned over the years.

4. Donít ever promise results
When the famous author Kurt Vonnegut taught writing, he cautioned his students.

"Donít ever attempt to explain why someone did something. You can never know why. You can only write about what they did."

The only time you can promise a specific response rate is when you are mailing out the exact same package to the exact same list.

And even then, you canít be sure Ė because you are mailing at a different time.

Every direct marketing effort is different Ė with different goals and objectives. And the world has changed. Remember when the "average" response rate was 2 percent? Virtually every large company Iíve worked with would kill for that average today.

Promising a specific response rate sets up expectations that will be very hard to fulfill. Iíve had clients, new to direct marketing that were disappointed by a 17 percent response (!)

"I just canít understand why everyone didnít respondÖ" the client lamented.

On the other hand, Iíve had large financial services companies that were positively thrilled by a 1.2 percent response.

Direct marketing amateurs promise response rates. Direct marketing professionals never make that mistake.

5. Do what you say youíre going to do
This is the mantra of my good friend Ray Considine Ė one of the few people I know who always lives up to it.

Mark Twain once said, "Tell the truth. It will please some people, and astonish the rest." The same is true of doing what you say youíll do.

So few people actually manage to accomplish this Ė it will make you stand out from the crowd. You may even get a reputation for it.

The second reason to do what you say youíll do Ė it makes you much more cautious about making commitments and agreeing to things in the first place.

If youíve promised the work by Tuesday Ė do it by Tuesday. If youíve agreed to include a testimonial in the direct mail package, or make certain changes, donít complain about it or explain why you couldnít.

Just do it.

6. Donít be biased about media
As someone once said, "If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

Just because you specialize in one media, donít turn your back on other media, which may be even more effective.

You do direct mail? Terrific Ė but donít ignore telemarketing and e-mail, both of which work very well. And of course, a combination of different media can be amazingly effective. As a direct marketing professional, you have an obligation to know about the advantages and disadvantages of all the tools at your disposal.

And this leads us to the last and most important rule of all.

7. Know your stuff
11 years ago, I started teaching Direct Marketing at Bentley College. I had given speeches before, but this was the first time I was responsible for a class.
I began by giving an overview of the direct marketing industry Ė tossing out statistics I only half-remembered from my reading.

I was astonished when everyone in the class began taking notes.

Were my statistics accurate? Um, I think soÖ Was I absolutely sure? After that class, I checked them a little more carefully than I had in the past Ė because I realized that people were depending on me for accurate information and knowledge.

The same is true in business.

When clients come to you, they are coming to an expert. Or at least, they should be.

As a direct marketing professional, you have an obligation to keep up with new developments in your field. You need to get and read the industry magazines and newsletters; you have to read the latest books.

Youíre not only being entrusted with your clientsí money Ė their jobs or careers or the future of their company may be at stake.

The average agency has 20-40 clients. The average client has only one agency. They deserve your very best efforts, your knowledge and your best and most-informed advice.

Didnít get to read Part 1 of the article? Click here!

---Source: Alan Rosenspan is president of Alan Rosenspan and Associates. Email him at










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