Direct Marketing pioneer, Bob Stone, wrote one of the most in-depth direct marketing books ever; Successful Direct Marketing Methods. This book sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide and went to eight reprints. He also built a successful Direct Marketing agency and sold it for a king's ransom. 

Over his long career, Bob Stone identified 30 Direct Marketing principles that proved true better than 90% of the time. Taken from the Direct Creative Blog, we list 20 of those principles here.

1. All customers are not created equal. Give or take a few percentage points, 80 percent of repeat business for goods and services will come from 20 percent of your customer base.

2. The most important order you ever get from a customer is the second order. Why? Because a two-time buyer is at least twice as likely to buy again as a one-time buyer.

3. People buy benefits, not features.

4. Maximising direct mail success depends first upon the lists you use, second upon the offers you make, and third upon the copy and graphics you create.

5. If, on a given list, “hotline” names don’t work, the other list categories offer little opportunity for success. (“Hotline” names are the most recent buyers.)

6. Direct response lists will almost always out-pull compiled lists. Compiled lists are put together from different sources such as telephone book and directories. Direct response lists consist of people who’ve replied to direct response offers.

7. The closure rate from qualified leads can be two to four times as effective as cold calls.

8.  A follow-up to the same list within 30 days will pull 40 to 50 percent of the first mailing.

9.  “Yes/No” offers consistently produce more orders than offers that don’t request “No” responses.

10. Time limit offers, particularly those which give a specific date, out-pull offers with no time limit practically every time.

11. Free gift offers, particularly where the gift appeals to self-interest, consistently out-pull discount offers.

12. Sweepstakes, particularly in conjunction with impulse purchases, will increase order volume by 35 percent, or more.

13. You will collect far more money in a fund-raising effort if you ask for a specific amount from a purchaser. Likewise, you will collect more money if the appeal is tied to a specific project.

14. The longer you can keep someone reading your copy, the better your chances of success.

15. Self-mailers are cheaper to produce, but they practically never out-pull envelope enclosed letter mailings.

16. A pre-print of a forthcoming ad, accompanied by a letter and response form, will out-pull a post-print mailing package by 50 percent, or more.

17. It is easier to increase the average dollar amount of an order than it is to increase percentage of response.

18. You will get far more new catalogue customers if you put your proven winners in the front pages of your catalogue.

19. Assuming items of similar appeal, you will always get a higher response rate from a 32-page catalogue than from a 24-page catalogue.

20. Telephone-generated leads are likely to close four to six times greater than mail-generated leads.