The Internet age has been both a blessing and a curse for direct mail. On one hand, there is less mail in the physical mailbox, as many marketers have reduced their volumes in favor of e-mail messaging. On the other, prospects appear to make more rapid-fire decisions about their mail.
In other words, the need to stand out in the mailbox has never been greater, and the outer envelope is the tool that must do that job. "This presents an opportunity for smart marketers to set their mail apart," says Mark Everett Johnson, a copywriter based in Carlisle, Pa. "Simply make it as personal as possible."
Then there's the small matter of the economy. "There's so much competition for the prospect's attention so little discretionary money around and so much emphasis on keeping costs down that an OE damn well better be on target," relates Ruth Sheldon, a New York City-based copywriter.
Here are five ways to make the envelope work better, now.
1. Think 'Mystique,' Think 'Appropriate'
According to Sheldon, each OE must convince, entice and become irresistible so a prospect believes he'll miss out big time by not venturing inside. "It's up to the copywriter to create that mystique. How it's done depends upon the product being sold, the ambiance being created, and the talent of the writer and designer," she details.
Put yourself in your readers' shoes and consider what they are getting and what they are seeing when they go to the mailbox, suggests Pat Friesen, a Mission, Kan.-based copywriter. "Your mail piece needs to capture attention and look appropriately important/valuable/enticing. 'Appropriate' applies to the audience, reader, brand, mailing objective, etc.," she explains.
"The operative word is verisimilitude," says Herschell Gordon Lewis, a copywriter based in Pompano Beach, Fla. "If the recipient recognizes immediately that whatever is in the envelope has a high degree of relevance—especially benefit or danger—envelope copy will enhance response. If the copy smacks of, 'We want to sell you something,' it can propel an otherwise salesworthy message into the round file."
2. Use New Forms of Personalization
Personalization still often takes the form of the recipient's name, often repeated throughout the mailing. While that can work, especially when deployed well (such as in the same font or next to an outstanding offer), Friesen has noticed the effectiveness of localizing appeals.
Perhaps that's giving a prospect's kitchen on "Oak Lane" a custom-designed look courtesy of Sears; a person's neighborhood an upgraded cable service through Cox Communications; a new mortgage from a financial services company with the return address, "Loan Acceptance Department, for Residents of Roanoke, VA"; or the local Red Cross chapter benefit of becoming part of the cause.