I have never found back-up for the percentages, but the principle is dead-on. Hot creative work cannot make up for a poorly targeted mailing list, a weak incentive offer, or both.
But here’s the problem: If your list is solid, your direct mail can sell, even if the offer and creative work are weak. If your list is solid and so is your offer, you’ll do even better, even with weak creative work. So, a lot of direct mail marketers don’t bother much with trying to make their creative work persuasive. They just focus on the list and the incentive offer.
When they do that, they underuse the power of direct mail. That’s why you get so much look-alike junk mail. Most credit card offers, cable TV offers, auto sales offers, etc., etc., look and read alike. They’re not trying to persuade anyone. They’re just casting a net to see what happens to be swimming around. Fine. But with killer creative work, they could persuade many, many more fish to join them.
I aways put my best effort into the creative work, not just the list and offer. I consider it to be my responsibility to my clients. It’s no coincidence that our stuff outpulls that of direct marketers who rely solely on the list and offer.
Have a strong list. Have a strong offer. But don’t stop there. Write with heart.