Because marketing and promotion -- including direct mail -- are expensive, it's important to maximize the response you gain from your direct mail. One of the ways to increase response is to inspire your reader to take the first steps: to notice your mail, then open the envelope. As critical as these steps are, many of us consider the envelope as an afterthought -- an unimportant carrier for the important message within.
The Envelope Please
To increase response, think of your envelope as your first tool in creating direct mail success and give it the attention it deserves when you design and write your direct mail pieces. Here are some simple attention-getting envelope ideas to inspire your readers to open your mail and boost your direct mail response:
Use a headline that looks handwritten. Slant it diagonally across the envelope. Use crayon or marking pen rather than professionally set type. Create art that looks like a distorted hand stamp and communicate an urgent message, such as "Offer Expires By (Date)" or "Open Now for Special Savings." Print the message in red ink. Use recycled paper and print the recycled paper logo on your envelope, demonstrating a concern for the environment and for the community. Create a logo for the 10th, 25th or other anniversary of your business and use this logo on your envelope. This logo promotes an image of reliability. Print the logo in gold or silver ink on round or square stickers and hand attach them to envelopes. Use the stickers for other marketing materials too, such as quote forms, brochures and flyers, to lend a feeling of stability. Create a sense of urgency by indicating an expiration date on the envelope, "Offer expires (date)" or "Act now, special savings only available until (date)." Indicate that your offer is especially for them, for example "Special Savings for Preferred Customers Only." Include an advertising specialty -- perhaps a pen, note pad, kitchen magnet or pot holder -- that makes the envelope bulky. The bulkiness will encourage readers to open your envelope to find out what's inside, and the advertising specialty will remain in their house gaining visibility for you and reminding them about your products and services. Send a postcard, rather than an envelope. With a postcard, readers don't even have to open your envelope so they're more likely to read your offer. Use the words "Gift Certificate Enclosed." A gift certificate implies high value and prestige, while coupons tend to be used for lower end products. Use the word "FREE" somewhere on your envelope, whether it describes a free gift, free consultation or free upgrade. Although the word "FREE" is overused in advertising copy, it still works effectively to get customers' attention. Address your envelope to look like it contains a personal letter (handwritten) or a business letter (typed), without a return address or company logo on the envelope. This will puzzle your readers, inspiring them to open the envelope to find out who it is from.
Another idea is to include your return address, but omit your company name and logo. Most readers won't figure out your company name merely from seeing the street address, so will be motivated to open the envelope out of a sense of curiosity.
Use an invitation sized envelope and hand address and stamp it. Readers will want to open the envelope because they think they're receiving an invitation. Include a penny, nickel or foreign coin in your envelope. It creates bulk and falls out when your reader opens the envelope. Carry the money theme through in your copy, referring to "A penny for your thoughts," or "Saving an extra nickel isn't worth sacrificing good quality and service." Use a rubber stamp to imprint a message on your envelope in a bright color. The message can be a deadline or urgent message. Use a true/false quiz on the envelope to get readers interested. They'll have to open the envelope to find out if their answers are correct. Use a headline saying, "Do Not Open Until (date)." Of course, this will inspire readers to open your mailing now, before the date on the envelope. Your offer can be a special sale not available until a certain date, or a new product that will be available soon. Use a startling statement as your envelope headline. For example, "Your neighbors may be watching you tonight" could lead into an offer for room darkening window fashions. Use a nine- by 12-inch envelope with a large window on one side that covers almost the entire back surface of the envelope. Insert a four-color photograph from one of your vendors to communicate the beauty of the products you sell. The front side of the envelope includes your headline and mailing information. Use an odd-sized envelope rather than a business envelope. If you're mailing a standard 8 1/2- by 11-inch mailing or letter, you can fold it once into a special size envelope, rather than twice into a standard business envelope. Use a brilliantly colored envelope, rather than white. Use action illustrations on your envelope. Studies have shown that readers respond to graphics that move and jump out at them. Samples include borders, stripes, arrows, bulls eyes, cartoons, balloons, three-dimensional effects, jackpots, doorways and illustrated dollar bills. Make sure to relate your copy and headline to the graphics. Use the following words to get response from your envelope headline: advance notice, private information, personal and confidential, exclusive for addressee only, free gift for you. Offer a gift in exchange for responding to the mail piece. Depending on the type of business you operate, the reader may have to come into your store to receive the gift or call for an in-home appointment. Include the statement of a guarantee on your envelope. This can create a positive feeling of trust up front before your reader even sees your offer. Add a handwritten note to the outside of the envelope. If you're sending a large quantity of direct mail pieces, this can actually be printed. For small quantities, you can hand write the note using a second color so the message stands out from the printed portion of the envelope copy.
The direct mail envelope is often the last thing businesses think about when they plan a mailing, but it is the first thing a potential customer sees. The envelope is what arouses your prospective customer's curiosity so he or she will open it to learn more.
Use the quick tips provided in this article to increase your direct mail response. Also, take time to examine the direct mail you receive at your home and business. Notice the types of envelopes that get your attention and get you to open them versus the envelopes that you never open or set aside for later. This firsthand research will give you additional ideas about what types of envelope messages are most compelling.
Kay Pegram is founder of Kaymar Communications, a Playa del Ray, CA-based independent marketing services firm for companies in window and home fashions and other industries. Pegram's previous window coverings industry experience includes serving eight years at LouverDrape and as director of marketing for the Tempo companies.