The 40/40/20 Rule — Predict Your Marketing Campaign Success — Without Spending a Dime


Includes subtle nuances to consider when running campaigns on LinkedIn, social media, and the web.

Want to predict how successful your direct response marketing campaign will be?

The 40/40/20 rule is a classic tool for gauging your success. Here it is:

40% of your success depends on your list, 40% on your offer, and 20% on your creative.

In other words, if you have a great list and a strong offer, your chance of success is roughly 80%, even if you have poor copy and design.

Or if you have the best copy in the world, but a bad list and poor offer, you only have about a 20% chance of success.

If a marketing campaign is a fire, the hot list is how flammable the kindling is, the offer is the fuel and the creative is the match.

But does this rule always hold true? What if you’re in the digital space like ads or videos? We’ll look at how this equation changes in other mediums. But first, let’s break this down.

1) List

— — —

This is the target list, or audience, that will receive your offer.

In direct mail, you either purchase or cultivate that list.

If you’re sending emails, your software may segment your list to make it more targeted.

If you are posting to social media, the algorithm decides who sees your content. Cultivate a targeted audience by consistently posting content around a specific theme or message.

If you are running Google ads, the people who see your ads is managed by Google’s algorithms. They look for “just in time” buy signals, like the use of keywords that signal top, middle, or bottom-of-funnel keywords.


A “hot list” is segmented based on 1) people who bought from you in the past, 2) people who bought products similar to yours, and 3) the channel they bought it on (email, website, etc). It may also be segmented by demographics, such as gender, industry, income, zip code, and more.



Donovan Rittenbach - Copywriter, AI Jockey

Donovan is a Master of Multimedia, technomage, and copywriter. He's an expert trainer teaching business people to use generative AI.