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*A Book Review*

Secrets of Direct Mail

By Richard V. Bensen

by Michael C. Gray

June 6, 2005

Direct mail can be the most efficient and cost-effective way of promoting almost anything. The reason is a marketing message can be directed to an audience that is most likely to respond to the message. (Today, direct mail includes targeted email and fax messages, mostly sent to customers with which the mailer already has a relationship.)

Dick Bensen was one of the trail blazers of direct mail. He began his career in circulation at Time-Life in 1947 and then worked in promotion and circulation of magazines like American Heritage. In 1961, Bensen established Benson-Stagge, the first exclusively direct mail agency, which helped to launch Smithsonian, Psychology Today, Horizon and Learning magazines.

In 1967, he founded the Benson Organization and grew Contest Newsletter to the largest paid subscription newsletter in the United States. Contest Newsletter had a circulation of 750,000 when Benson sold it to McCalls in 1986. At his death, Benson was the co-owner of The University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter, with a circulation of 800,000 and was a consultant to more than 30 direct marketing companies.

During his lifetime, Dick Bensen was one of a handful of masters of direct marketing. Today, there are hundreds of consultants in this area.

Secrets of Direct Mail, in which Bensen shares many of the discoveries learned over his years of experience, was first published in 1987 and has long been out of print. Martin Edelston, President of Boardroom, Inc., which publishes the Bottom Line newsletters, has re-released the book for the education of a new generation. Boardroom, Inc. is also a former Bensen client.

Dick Bensen was known for his hard-boiled advice. People who worked with him said he was the most brilliant direct marketing consultant of his time.

Here are a few of Bensen's nuggets of wisdom from this book:

  • The mailing list is the most important ingredient for a successful marketing campaign.
  • Most business owners don't test as many mailing lists as they should.
  • A customer who makes a second purchase is twice as likely to make another purchase than a customer who makes their first purchase. Therefore, you should devote at least as much effort to making the second sale as the first sale.
  • The same product sold at different prices will result in the same net income per thousand mailed. (What's your objective - a higher initial sale or more customers?)
  • Sweepstakes will improve results by 50% or more.
  • A credit or bill-me offer will improve results by 50% or more.

Bensen illustrates these and many more points with examples of the many marketing campaigns he was involved with over many years.

I highly recommend that any businessperson or salesperson buy and carefully study this book. You can order a copy at www.boardroom.com.

Buy it on Amazon: Secrets of Successful Direct Mail.

For our new reviews of business and self-improvement books, subscribe to our newsletter, Michael Gray, CPA's Tax & Business Insight!

Secrets of Direct Mail, by Richard V. Bensen, imparts the wisdom of one of the early masters of direct mail.


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Michael Gray, CPA
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