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Getting Your Direct Mail Envelope Opened

June 19, 2017

The outer envelope is the first thing our direct mail recipients see yet, too often we don’t give enough attention to its design.

But without a convincing envelope, even the strongest offer and best-written copy will take a quick, one-way trip to the trash.

Picture your mailing as a door-to-door salesperson approaching a home. The outer envelope is the salesperson’s knock on the door and unless it gets the door opened, every attempt to make the sale will fail.

Features of the Envelope

As documented by eye-study research, the mailing’s recipient will take no more than 7 seconds to decide whether to trash the mailing or look inside. But fortunately, you can improve the probability of getting the mailing opened by how you use these five proven elements of the envelope.

1. Address piece (label, window, personalization)

2. Teaser

3. Return mailing address

4. Postage selection

5. Paper stock, color and graphic elements

Professor Siegfried Vogels’ Eye Flow Studies Provide Clues for Improving Your Direct Mail, demonstrated that reader’s eyes flowed over the envelope in a particular fashion.

The Professor’s studies demonstrated that the reader’s eyes first went to the mailing address and then to the area to the left of their name and address. From here, people shifted their eyes to the return address and then to the postage. The last thing noticed was the envelope’s paper stock and color.

You can make your envelope’s design more effective by using this information to your advantage.

Your first contact with the prospect is the mailing’s outer envelope. When properly designed, you’ll make a positive first impression and have a better chance of getting the envelope opened and your message read.

  1. The mailing address is the first place people look. They like to see their name, so invest in good mailing lists and get the names right!
  2. When you use a teaser, Vogel’s study says it belongs to the left of the mailing address. But if you don’t have a good teaser, don’t force one. Not having a teaser can actually tease. If you have a FREE offer, go ahead and shout it, but don’t feel that a teaser is required. Use your choice of type styles to make the teaser more effective. Sometimes big, bold type is best. Other times, a “handwritten” font works better. But recognize that you have choices, and make your choice based upon the look and feel of the entire mailing package.
  3. Vogel’s study shows that a return address on the outer envelope is a vital factor when people are deciding whether to open your mailing. You can use a “handwritten” or Courier type for a personal look. Or you can print the return address in a formal type along with the company logo. It all depends on the look and feel of your entire package. For acquisition mailings-especially when you’re repeatedly re-mailing the same people- you may want to test using the return address without the company’s name. But when mailing to repeat customers, showing the company name will typically add credibility to the mailing.
  4. Your selection of postage is not a decision left to chance. Whenever using First-Class postage, multiple stamps typically beat a commemorative stamp. A commemorative stamp will beat a regular stamp. And a stamp will beat postage-meter indicia, which will regularly beat preprinted indicia. Using multiple stamps has such a positive effect that you can typically increase net income even if you have to overpay postage by a penny or two. (For example, using two stamps costing a total of forty-six cents when only forty-four cents in postage is required will typically increase profits.) This applies to first class, standard and nonprofit postage.

    When choosing postage, however, realize that it must match the image of the entire package. For example, live stamps are the most personal-especially multiple stamps-while preprinted indicia are the most impersonal. For an official looking envelope, a preprinted indicia fits the image far better than a stamp. You have choices, so use them to your advantage.

    A final note on postage: First-Class postage adds perceived value to the correspondence. When using live stamps, pick stamps with colors that contrast with the envelope. And anytime you are mailing First Class, make sure the recipient knows you’re investing extra money to deliver your message. Don’t keep it a secret. In big, bold letters imprint: FIRST-CLASS POSTAGE Let the recipient know that you consider them special and that you are investing extra money to deliver your message.

  5. Stock and Color may be two of the most over-tested elements of a direct mail package but they do help convey the overall image of your package. For example, for “official” packages, I like to use a brown kraft stock. When I’m using a teaser to promote a free offer, I like yellow or white stock for its contrast with the type. Overall, I try to stay away from cool colors when picking paper stock.
  6. Consider using the back of the envelope. As they open the envelope, the recipient will spend more time looking at the back of the envelope than the front side.
  7. Routinely test new envelope designs. Tests of the outer envelope are the most cost-effective ways to keep a control mailing fresh. Test envelope copy, designs and postage regularly.
  8. And perhaps most important, the outer envelope is only one part of the total package-not an independent component. You wouldn’t use an official-looking envelope with a handwritten letter inside. Likewise, you wouldn’t use a live stamp with most official letters. All the envelope’s components must work together, and the envelope must work with the entire package.

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