The 40/40/20 Rule of Direct Marketing



We have a long way to go today.

And our topic of discussion today will be…

The 40/40/20 Rule of Direct Marketing


Moreso, I will try to explain the simplest way I can.

Stay with me…

You see, 

Some people think copywriting and design will make or break an ad campaign. 

They think the “creative” is the most consequential element.

This is the biggest lie of the century.

I have created some campaigns and my bosses have also created some too.

And with that, I have observed some things concerning this 40/40/20 thingy.

The success of any direct-response advertising effort depends on:

40% on the List
40% on the Offer
20% on the Creative

Start with your

  • List
  • Offer and 
  • Creative… in that order

Here’s what this means:

  • If your “List” and your “Offer” are crazily good but your “Creative” is bad…

Then technically, you still have a roughly 80% chance of success.

  • Or if your “List” and your “Creative” are excellent but your “Offer” is bad…

Then you have a roughly 60% chance of success.

  • Yada Yada.

You can use this 40/40/20 rule to help your project before you get started…

Or you can use it to evaluate the success of a promotion.

With that established…

Let’s break each element down, one by one, starting with the most straightforward:

The List (40%)


40% of your marketing success depends on the strength of your List.

And this simply is the people your message is getting in front of.

Because your message will not do anything if the right people aren’t seeing it.

To make it make sense…

Your List should be a segment of your market and that means people who have:

  • bought similar products to what you’re selling and 
  • A similar way of buying.

For example, let’s say you’re selling a course on how to make money online (a common direct-marketing product) using Facebook ads.

By common sense, your “Market” is ALL youth over the age of 18…

But your “List” should be youths over the age of 18 who’ve 

  • Bought a “make money online course” in the past and 
  • Bought them via Facebook.

Do you get that point?


If you can get a list like that, your response rate will drastically improve because you’re speaking to a group of people with a proven desire for your product.

This is what makes a good, strong list: 

Proven desire.


The Offer (40%)


40% of your marketing success depends on the strength of your Offer, which is a combination of several elements, including desire, price, and incentives.

The best offers combine desire, price, and incentives.

Let’s break each element down again:

  • Desire

Ask yourself: Is this product even something people want?

I am a good example of this.

Sometime last year when I was still actively into information marketing…

I created a product that I thought people wanted.

I ran ads and I made people really like me.

I decided to launch the offer and I was expecting groundbreaking product launch.

But it was all silence.

I thought it was my audience that are broke or the write-up I used.

But I later got to realize I was selling what these people don’t want.

And this killed that marketing campaign.

Let your product be something they desire!!!

  • Price

Ask yourself: Is this product priced appropriately?

This boils down to your positioning. 

Usually, in marketing, you’re either positioning your product as the “economical” option or the “premium” option.

What this means is…

Your product is either for the masses or the rich.

If you’re selling a premium product, you can only command a higher price point through differentiation (Unique mechanism)

For example:

Let’s say you’re selling furnitures,

You need to have some kind of unique ingredient or delivery system or proof, an endorsement, if you want to charge more.”

You can say the wood used in making this furniture is foreign and it was imported from Cuba and we will deliver it to your house using xx delivery that doesn’t make you wait bla bla.

That’s off the top of my head but you get that yeah?


But if you’re selling an economical product, you typically have to create incentives to compete on price…

And what’s incentives?

  • Incentives

Ask yourself: Is this ad giving people a reason to buy now?

Incentivizing your list is imperative if you’re competing on price, yes. 

But it’s actually necessary for any type of direct-response ad or promotion. 

Because if you give people time to make a decision, they’ll usually take it. 

And you don’t want The Reader to take their time, to feel comfortable. 

You want her to feel tension, pressure, FOMO.

Because these feelings compel action, which is the goal of all direct marketing.

Here are a few ways to incentivize your list to buy now:

  • Dimensionalize the savings:

Use bonuses

Do bundle packaging like buy 10 and get 5 FREE

Pay 20k instead of 50k


  • Create urgency:

Timing deadlines: “Save 50%, offer ends by 11:59 pm tonight”
Trial deadlines: “Start for just $1, today only and opt out anytime you want”
Scarcity deadlines: “Only 25 slots available”

But you have to be very careful here, stick to your deadlines or they won’t ever trust you again.

  • Remove the risk of ordering:

“Money-back guarantee”
“Double-your-money-back guarantee”
“Order now, pay later”

You also need to be careful here because some people are out to rob you blindly, find a way to repel them.

You see, one thing with marketing is that..

Nothing is guaranteed until it has been tested.

I don’t know about you but I have been in a position where I think a marketing campaign will work perfectly but it didn’t.

Instaead of beating yourself up, check for these 40/40/20 Direct response rule and you will be able to depict the error sharply.

Oh, I haven’t talked about the last one yeah?

Let’s get into it.

The Creative (20%)


20% of your marketing success depends on the strength of your “Creative”, which is a combination of three things: 

  • Copy
  • Design

You don’t need to be very good to come up with good creatives.

Let’s examine each one:

  • Copy

Great ads are made when copywriters and designers work together

I tell my clients to always let me know the designers because we are in this together.

That said, among the two, Copy is king and don’t even argue that.

  • “Getting to know that market or audience, their biggest pain points and frustrations, and hopes. 
  • And what are the alternatives they’ve seen? 
  • And what hasn’t worked for them? 
  • And why will this work now? 
  • And why should they believe that? 

All that work you do with research makes up the bulk of the copy which is why COPY IS THE KING!!!

  • Design

Again, ideally, the copywriter and the designer are working together, collaborating from the start.

And if the copywriter’s job is to connect with and compel The Reader, then the designer’s work is all about getting the copy to be read.


Marketing is not one-size-fits-all.

It always depends on the circumstances, which is why testing is so important.

And yeah, I know today’s email is too long.

But it will definitely open your eyes to some things.

All you have to do is read this blogpost more than once so you can understand it very well.



If you also have any question, use the comment section and I will answer you ASAP.

To your success,

Dolapo Hamzat.

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