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Fast Facts

The first credit card

Direct marketing boomed after New York ad exec Frank McNamara forgot his wallet at a dinner meeting in 1949 and vowed never to be embarrassed again. The next day he came up with a new idea: the Diners Club card, the first card in widespread use.

Extraordinary growth

Credit cards use grew exponentially. The first Diners Club Card was distributed to 200 people in 1950, mostly to those who knew creator Frank McNamara. By year-end, 20,000 people had the card. In 2006, Some 1.5 billion credit cards were carried in the U.S.

80-20 principle

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto first developed the 80-20 principle. The direct marketing translation: 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers. Smart direct marketers target that profitable 20% with special offers.

Lift Note

Originally used by the publishing industry to "lift" response, a lift note or publisher's letter can be very effective in direct mail. It's usually signed by someone other than the letter writer and offers readers extra reasons to buy.

Buckslip

This promotional piece, usually about the size of a dollar bill, is great for hyping special offers, limited-time deals and more. Often printed on a different color, it can be slipped into a mailing at the last minute to boost response.

Johnson Box

Frank Johnson popularized the practice of summarizing key sales messages at the top of direct mail letters he wrote promoting American Heritage Magazine. Today, any copy above the salutation of a letter is known as a Johnson Box.

Lifetime Value

This is a unique way direct marketers view the profitability of customers and mailings. Rather than focusing just on the cost of acquiring a new customer, you look at the average revenue you'll receive over a customer's lifetime. It can be substantial.

The Offer

It's what makes people say, "I gotta do this right now." It moves people from inertia to action. If you don't have a powerful offer, why promote your product or service? You're just wasting your money.

David Ogilvy's "first love"

Famed adman David Ogilvy called direct mail his "secret weapon in the avalanche of new business which made Ogilvy & Mather an instant success." After using postcards to fill an English hotel with guests, he said: "I had tasted blood."

The P.S.

Live eye-camera research performed by Professor Siegfried Vogele in West Germany showed that more than 90% of readers skipped down to the letter's signature and P.S. before going back to the top of the letter. So be sure you put key information there.

Pure Genius

Ad guru Claude C. Hopkins, author of Scientific Advertising, pushed Schlitz Beer from fifth to first place by explaining in detail what made the beer pure. All manufacturers used the same methods. Schlitz was just the first to talk about them.


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