It sometimes gets to be a bit like the proverb about the blind men and the elephant: if you’re a direct marketer you say it’s the list, copywriters insist it’s the words, sales people say it’s the offer, and designers are adamant that it’s the color and graphics that count.
At the risk of being denounced by designers and my fellow copywriters, the answer is the list. Without the right list the entire campaign collapses.
A bad list will sink everything else.
A great list can boost an unappealing offer and poor creative, but award-winning copy and design won’t help you sell vodka to teetotalers.
The mailing will fail if the list is wrong (sending hamburger coupons to vegetarians), the offer is unappealing (free sewage!), or the creative is poor (it talks about you and what you want, rather than the customer: buy from me so I can go on vacation).”
Target the right audience (the list), make an appealing offer (the price, quality, and value), and use compelling words and design (the message, the testimonials, and the referrals, plus the colors, the format, and the images).