Knowledge Library

30 Timeless Direct Marketing Principles by Bob Stone


  1. All customers are not created equal. 80% of repeat business will come from 20% of your customer base.
  2. The most important order you ever get from a customer is the second order. A 2-time buyer is at least twice as likely to buy again as a 1-time buyer.
  3. Maximising direct mail success depends 1st on your list selection, 2nd on the offers you make and 3rd on the copy and graphics you create.
  4. If, on a given list, "hotline" names don't work, the other list categories offer little opportunity for success.
  5. Merge/purge names - those that appear on 2 or more lists - will out-pull any single list from which these names have been extracted.
  6. Direct response lists will always out-pull compiled lists.
  7. Overlays on lists (enhancements), such as lifestyle characteristics, income, education, age, marital status,
    and propensity to respond by mail or by phone will always improve response.
  8. A follow-up or reminder to the same list within 30 days will pull 40 - 50% of the first mailing.
  9. "Yes/No" offers consistently produce more orders than offers that don't request "no" responses.
  10. The "take rate" for negative option offers will always out-pull positive option offers at least 2 to 1.
  11. Credit card privileges will out-perform cash with orders at least 2 to 1.
  12. Credit card privileges will increase the size of the average catalogue order by 20%, or more.
  13. Time limit offers, which give a specific date, out-pull offers with no time limit practically every time.
  14. Free gift offers, particularly where the gift appeals to self-interest, out-pulls discount offers consistently.
  15. Some form of sweepstakes, particularly in conjunction with impulse purchases, will increase order volume 35%, or more.
  16. You will collect far more money in a fundraising effort if you ask for a specific amount from a donor. Likewise, you will collect more money if the appeal is tied to a specific project.
  17. People buy benefits, not features.
  18. The longer you can keep someone reading the better your chances of success.
  19. The timing and frequency of renewal letters is vital. An attempt to hype renewals with "improved copy" will lead to failure. The product or service is the factor in making a renewal decision.
  20. Self-mailers are cheaper to produce, but they never out-pull envelope enclosed letter mailings.
  21. A pre-print of a forthcoming ad, accompanied by a letter and response form, will out-pull a post-print mailing package by 50%, or more.
  22. It is easier to increase the average Rand amount of an order than it is to increase the percentage of response.
  23. You will get far more new catalogue customers if you put your proven winners in the front pages of your catalogue.
  24. Assuming items of similar appeal, you will always get a higher response rate from a 32-page catalogue than from a 24-page catalogue.
  25. A new catalogue to a customer base will out-pull cold lists by 400-800%.
  26. A print ad with a bind-in card will out-pull the same ad without a bind-in up to 600%.
  27. A direct response, direct sale TV commercial of 120 seconds will out pull a 60-second direct response commercial better than 2 to 1.
  28. A TV support commercial will increase response from a newspaper insert up to 50%.
  29. The closure rate from qualified leads can be from 2 to 4 times as effective as cold calls.
  30. Telephone generated leads are likely to close 4 to 6 times greater then mail generated leads.

Winnifred Knight

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