Direct Marketing, Mail Order, and E-commerce News from the National Mail Order Association
Global Direct Marketing from MLA Response www.MLAResponse.com
Don't be Shy: Test New Markets
For the life of me I can't understand why this inherent prejudice against mailing across borders persists. Average order values internationally are significantly higher than domestic. Response rates are higher (in nearly all sectors). The US dollar continues to be the standard currency which responders recognize and understand (although a local currency payment option can lift response), credit card orders can be processed offshore using Global Collect or PacNet and proceeds credited within the week to any onshore or offshore bank account.
As experienced practitioners know very well, mailing across many countries is no different to mailing across many states or counties. You simply geo select and de-select as in your domestic market. You can telemarket your customers across many markets from your headquarters at negotiated cheap rates (and there's no multinational “Do-Not-Call Register” to worry about). Consumers and businessmen these days give no attention whatsoever to the postal indicia on the outer envelope (you can print and post from anywhere to anywhere as long as you know you have low competitive costs and reliable suppliers) and consumers are perfectly happy to respond offshore and receive fulfillment from offshore.
There's a trend away from investing in local or regional offices overseas where you incur overheads, extra costs, management, training and staff problems and (in some places) extortionate taxes. Quite simply you can operate multinationally from your existing headquarters. So what's the problem? The only problem lies in the perception that cross-border is difficult and complicated. Not so. If you haven't already done it, test a multinational, Pan European or Pan Asian mailing step-by-step across several countries, quantify and compare response by country within list and find out for yourself just how straightforward it all is…(bear in mind smaller countries normally perform better than larger countries).
The multinational DM market as a whole will grow more quickly if smaller
markets around the world can create larger, more accurate local list
It was for this reason I was particularly interested to have breakfast
recently in Hong Kong and lunch in
They may well be right. But there's a practical consideration.
How can smaller national DMA's with smaller membership bases and lower
incomes possibly justify the cost of a full time executive officer and
One way this can be done is through corporate sponsorship from
“stakeholders” with a vested interest in the growth and success of a local
What larger possible “stakeholder” could there be than the national postal
administration? As members of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), almost
every single significant postal administration in the world these days is
being exhorted to help build their local DM industry to help fill the gap
left by personal mail which has gone online.
So why don't national postal administrations become major (but not
necessarily sole) partners of national DMA's? National posts would
benefit, the DMA's would benefit, the DM industry would benefit and so would
consumers in the market place.
How Such Partnerships Can Expand the International List Universe
Perhaps the single greatest limitation today in the growth of direct mail worldwide is the lack of good, accurate, constantly refreshed consumer databases.
One way this can change is through partnerships between national Postal Administrations working with local Direct Marketing Association secretariats along the following lines:
A “responder” file like this will always perform better than any “compiled” file and the income generated would help pay for the cost of the DMA's CEO and secretariat. Postal administrations shouldn't themselves manage the database as they have sometimes attempted to do in the past rather badly. They would be better focusing on their core business of delivering the mail in full and on time.
Consumers responding to the survey questionnaire would either be given the opportunity to opt-out or opt-in to receive good, legitimate offers from responsible companies. Segmentation would allow targeted mailings so direct marketers can in turn build and refresh their own customer files which would create an even larger responder list universe available to local and international mailers.
The local DMA (as an independent industry body) would rigorously prevent junk mailers from accessing the file. (The criteria used to quantify “junk” would be the decision of the DMA executive committee). Irresponsible and misleading mailers would then become the “pariahs” of the industry – as they should be.
Consumer Lifestyle Databases Would Then
There's a precedent for some of the above which was described by Peter
Rosenwald of Consult Partners (
In this speech he mentioned that Brazil Post generated a 20% response rate
from an incentivized questionnaire survey to gather consumer data along the
above lines which has now been completed by 3.5 million Brazilian consumers.
According to Peter this has become the most responsive database in
* * *
There's one final point about DMA membership around the world. The majority of members should really be direct mail users (paying a lower, preferential rate). Service providers should pay a higher rate. If meetings are dominated by service providers, then users will stay away.
By contrast DM users (especially experienced ones) will attract other users
who together will attract service providers much as nectar attracts bees!
One extra way to attract users into DMA's incidentally, is to make access to
the collective Consumer Lifestyle Database available to DMA members only.
* * *
Farewell to “Senor Goodloe”
Nearly all of us will by now have read the sad news of Al Goodloe's death in
February from a brain tumor. For many years he was one of the most
relentless, enthusiastic and successful supporters of international direct
marketing through his PDM Conferences held in
My last meeting with Al was at the IDMF in
He loved the cross-border direct marketing business and his face would
crease and light up with joy especially when recalling his days in
“Senor Goodloe” experiences would invariably be recalled during dinners I
had with him for many years at the Harvard Club (usually at the table in the
far left corner of the dining room) on the Sunday evenings before his PMD
We would then meet again for dinner the day following the program to discuss
exactly how it all went, the issues raised and to gossip about the
I would arrive on the afternoon flight from
During DMA'05 in
Farewell, Al! Your verve, energy and ready laugh will be sorely missed by all your friends in this industry.
* * *
Last week somebody mentioned they liked reading “DM Diary” because of the
international DM “know-how” it contained. This surprised me since this
“diary” (when I get around to writing it) has always seemed to me to be
rather long on “provocative” issues and rather short on “know-how” and
“how-to”! So here's some material to redress the balance:
The issue here is paper stock used for international direct mail.
Those of us long in the tooth in mailing across country borders do
everything we possibly can to keep the weight of a DM package below 20 gms
(or .7 ounce) (which was one of Al Goodloe's favorite topics!).
This usually requires outer and reply envelope paper stock of 60 gsm which
makes it look and feel like what it is – an airmail package.
Those used to mailing domestically (and we talk to many of them) have a hard
time reconciling themselves to using such lightweight stock for the
envelopes and only slightly heavier stock for the cover letter, order form
etc. The fact is recipients expect mail received from overseas
to be lightweight and they respond better to lightweight packages especially
when the outer envelope has red and blue airmail flashes and/or a dark blue
airmail indicia. Such envelopes are more readily opened, receive
better attention and generate higher response. Very many tests by many
international mailers have confirmed and reconfirmed this. Lightweight
envelopes not only pull better, they cost less to print and less to post.
* * *
In terms of envelope design and copy we all have our preferences and
prejudices based on numerous tests on what works best in getting DM
envelopes opened. But it was interesting to see the results of a
recent survey on envelope design arranged by the Envelope Manufacturers
Association Foundation (who else?) who surveyed 1,800
Here's what influenced them most to open up and look at content inside the envelope:
Handwritten addresses are worth a test. Fundraisers report 25% plus
increases in response when handwriting is used on the outer envelope
(this can be done cheaply out of developing countries). Tests have
also shown clearly that machine applied handwriting (which looks perfect)
pulls less well than personally handwritten addresses (with all the
corrections, deletions and smudges) which look less than perfect. In
fact, I know mailers who go out of their way to make sure the handwriting
looks less than perfect so it appears to be what it is – patently authentic
– thereby pulling higher response rates.
While on the subject (one of my favorites) on what most lifts response I was
reminded by one of my copywriters the other day (who has 39 years experience
in direct marketing) that if you offer consumers too many purchase choices,
they end up making no choice at all!
He advocates two options only, maximum three, (but there must be a big
incentive if you use three). Historically two options ALWAYS outpulls
5 or 6 options.
Another point about offers mentioned by Eugene Raitt of AIG during a recent
HKDMA luncheon presentation I attended is that “Buy One, Get One Free” is
the well tried and tested ultimate offer in both domestic and international
mail. It's the offer you have to beat!
* * *
In the last issue of DM Diary I wrote briefly about our “spat” with Australia Post over complaints from some mail-order companies who had found in tests that an unacceptable percentage of their domestic and overseas mail (especially envelopes containing orders and cash) was not being received.
Australia Post denied strongly that mail was being intercepted by staff and before commenting we decided to carry out an independent test of our own. Between October 10 -18 (before our last issue of DM Diary was published) we dispatched a total of 420 pieces of conventional airmail pieces (via both Hong Kong and Singapore Post) to contacts in Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast. The monitoring of the mail was found to be unreliable in Sydney and Melbourne which left Gold Coast as the only destination upon which we could fully rely for data accuracy. This is what happened:
This negative test result was, of course, of enormous concern for any
Australian mail-order company expecting to receive orders and cash through
So we decided to carry out a further test using scanned US$100 notes only
positioned outside folded letters in standard DM envelopes. This was
done between February 9 15, 2006, some weeks after our earlier piece
had appeared in DM Diary.
The result was so much more positive in this respect for Australia Post that we wonder whether an “Operation Clean Up” had been instituted within Australia Post after our earlier report was published!
Out of 20 pieces (with scanned US$100 notes) sent to a single
All 20 pieces sent to one
Out of the 20 pieces sent to a single addressee in the Gold Coast, only one
piece was not received at all. Three other delivered pieces had all
been opened with the scanned US$100 note left inside!
Bottom line the second test reflected a massive improvement in Aussie Post
security procedures. What happened?
One of our more cynical addressee contacts however, believes we should conduct one further test using only printed “BRE” envelopes since these are perceived by postal workers as more likely to be valuable and contain cash than plain envelopes.
This we shall do, and so that Australia Post does not accuse us of singling
them out unfairly we shall extend the test to other countries (and therefore
other postal administrations).
* * *
It was recently reported in the
Judge Andrew Goymer of Southwark Crown Court told the two culprits:
“It's agreed by all sides that fraud in your industry is rife – indeed the
word “endemic” has been used. But that is no excuse for the way you
You can say that again! If any small, private mail consolidator offers
you a low, attractive rate for your international bulk mail, be careful.
The only way they can usually profit from the low rate they offer is not to
deliver some – or not to deliver all – of your mail. It's quite
simple, really! In my view it's best to stick with large, well known
brand names for your international postal consolidation requirements.
* * *
Last month saw the largest judgement so far against a spammer. Based
McCalla chose to defend himself without an attorney claiming he was
insolvent, that the accusations jeopardized his reputation and that he would
be counter-suing for defamation. He later sent a letter to the court
accusing CIS Internet of “taking advantage of their ability to afford
lawyers in order to prey on smaller start-up companies and innocent people”!
Americans would call him a “chicken-boner”. But
his story contrasts with a Nigel Roberts in the
The financial penalties for sending spam may vary on either side of the
* * *
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