by Lois K. Geller
Oxford University Press
360 pages

Direct marketing has worked for Sears Roebuck, Sharper Image and Banana Republic, among others, and it could work for you. Lois Geller, the president of Mason & Geller Direct, explains that it can be the key to expanding your company's customer base and increasing its profitability. She and other direct marketing experts believe it is the single most effective way to sell, and Response explains how direct marketing can be tested, tracked and used to make a profit. Direct marketing campaigns sell billions of dollars worth of goods and services to consumers and businesses worldwide, and Geller lets her readers in on the secrets of its success.

Geller writes that anyone can use direct marketing tactics to create or improve business, and she offers step-by-step, scientifically planned, tested and proven direct marketing tools and techniques that can work for any type of business. By providing her readers with multitudes of examples of direct mail letters, reply envelopes, flyers, coupons, ads and television and radio campaigns, she demonstrates how these tools can be used successfully on both large and small scales. To back up her beliefs in these techniques and prove their effectiveness, Response also contains numerous interviews with the people who have successfully started and grown their own direct marketing enterprises.

Small Businesses Can Test, Too

Geller also explains the ins and outs of testing. Although big businesses have been very successful at performing this type of scientific experimentation, Geller offers tips to help small businesses get into the game. Instead of giving up after a single direct mail letter gets disappointing results, she writes, a small business can learn much from sending out the same letter with a small copy change. For example, she explains, a restaurant owner can send out one mailing that offers a free glass of wine with dinner, and in another mailing, the offer could be a 10 percent discount on weeknight dinners. The offer that gets the best response could be continued while the other one is dropped.

She writes that the most effective method of getting direct marketing to work for you is to "create small tests of several versions, calculate which produces the best return, and then do a larger mailing using those results." Because low-volume tests can be so useful, she writes that businesses of any size can benefit from this simple tool.

Since it is more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an old one, Geller also explains the importance of creating long-term relationships. She professes her faith in direct marketing as the perfect way to establish and maintain long-term customer relationships, as well as keep avenues open for referrals and new customers. She writes that any small business can benefit from sending out a flier or a postcard every few months to announce a sale, describe a new product or introduce a new staff member.

'What's in It for Me?'

Without an offer, Geller explains, direct marketing is merely retail selling by mail. To help companies answer the customer question, "What's in it for me?" she describes the elements of an effective offer that closes the sale. She writes that the three characteristics of an offer that works are:

  1. Believability: No one will believe they are going to get something very expensive for free. An offer must make sense to the customer.
  2. Involvement: Give the customer a special reason to buy. Get customers to visualize themselves already using a product or service. "Buy one and get one at half price," is a good way to help customers calculate how much they can save.
  3. Creativity: Be just a little different. An offer that is specific to a product or service being offered will get the highest response. Exclusive offers are also appealing.

The rest of Response delves into the fine points of identifying customers through compiled lists and list planning; creative techniques for successful direct mail packages, which include strategies for winning envelopes, letters, copy, design and order forms; direct response advertising; creating and mailing creative catalogs; fulfillment; determining costs and break-even points; and planning an effective direct mail campaign. She also helps big and small companies build relationships using modern technology, and sell internationally.

Why We Like This Book

Response covers the tactics and strategies of direct marketing from concept to long-term relationship by offering numerous examples and ideas that create customer interest. Geller knows her stuff, and in this updated and revised edition of her classic bestseller, she demonstrates the approach she has taken on her path to success as a direct marketing guru who has the tips and techniques that work in traditional formats as well as via the Internet and other electronic methods.

Copyright © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries