By numerous accounts, Dick Benson was the most successful direct mail marketer of all time.
Put simply, Dick Benson’s view of direct mail marketing is quite simple: The promoter’s goal is to get prospects to raise their hands and say they’re interested in what you have to sell. Secrets of Successful Direct Mail emphasizes this lesson and everything Dick Benson learned in over 40 years in the business.
Benson never gave a seminar and never advertised for clients. Actually, he didn’t need to. Most of his clients put him on permanent retainer. Clients included Time Inc., Dow Jones, Hearst Magazines and World Book, to name a few.
Benson advised on effective testing, creative, timing, pricing and premiums. One of his main tenets was that direct marketers spend too much time on the appearance of packages and not nearly enough time on lists or testing. He also drove home the power of effective creative, noting that even minor changes in the offer, copy, envelope contents or appearance of the letter can make a big difference in response and must be tested more than once before each new roll out.
And while he focused on the ROI of direct marketing, it wasn’t his only focus. He emphasized that marketers test also to learn. The more learned, the better marketing can be done to segments that emerge as marketing programs evolve. To that end, he encouraged marketers to place a value on the information they learned through direct marketing tests and campaigns.
Benson’s 25 Principles
The following outlines Dick Benson’s 25 core principles of direct marketing, demonstrating the core ideas he proposed in his writings and consulting efforts with clients:
1. A two-time buyer is twice as likely to buy as a one-time buyer.
2. The same product sold at different prices will result in the same net income per thousand mailed.
3. Sweepstakes will improve results by 50 percent or more.
4. A credit or bill-me offer will improve results by 50 percent or more.
5. Tokens or stickers always improve results.
6. Memberships renew better than plain subscriptions by 10 percent or more.
7. “Department store” pricing always pays except for membership offers.
8. You never can sell two things at once.
9. Self mailers almost never work.
10. The more believable a special offer, the more likely its success.
11. The addition of installment payments for an item over $15.00 will increase results by 15 percent.
12. Dollar for dollar, premiums are better than cash discounts as incentives.
13. Adding elements to a mailing package is more likely to pay out than cheapening the package.
14. For magazines a “soft” offer (“Try it at our risk”) is better than a hard offer.
15. A Yes-No option will increase orders.
16. FREE is a magic word.
17. Two premiums are frequently better than one.
18. Long copy is better than short copy.
19. Personalized letters work better to house lists than to cold lists.
20. Brochures and letters should stand alone and each of them should contain all the information.
21. Direct mail should be scrupulously honest.
22. Subs sold at half price for at least eight months will convert at renewal time just as strongly as subs sold for a full year at full price.
23. Lists are the most important ingredient to success of a promotional mailing.
24. The offer is the second most important ingredient.
25. Letters should look and feel like letters.