Seven Ways To Get Your Envelopes Opened
No letter can persuade, convince or sell if it doesn't get read. That's why, in direct mail, the very first job of the copywriter is to get your envelope opened.
I have no illusions that this is an easy task. All I have to do is think about how I open my own mail to realize how quickly a potential profit-builder can turn into junk.
When I go through my mail I become a kind of Las Vegas blackjack dealer, dealing the letters onto appropriate piles. The magazines go here, the bills go there, the personal letters get read immediately, and, of course, I check out the endless solicitations and offers, deciding which make the sale and which become junk mail. Here's my method for deciding what gets thrown away:
Any letter from Barbra Streisand or Bono goes on the junk pile. (We were never really that close). Any "special opportunity" or chance to become incredibly rich has no appeal whatsoever. Any sweepstake, game or instant winner is an instant loser. Checks that aren't checks and prizes that aren't prizes earn my instant and intense enmity.
What does work on me is probably what works on you: benefits!
That's what belongs on envelopes and gets them opened. If the copywriter can prove to readers that the contents of the package contains some useful information, you will get them into the package and at least get a shot at selling them.
Here are some battle-tested copywriting tips and techniques that can help make YOUR envelope a winner.
And now, the envelope, please . . .
1. Don't feature your corporate name and address if it doesn't mean anything to the reader
For example, there's a good chance that the words "Quicken" or "QuickBooks" means more to prospects than the name "Intuit." That's why it's okay to put your corporate name, return address and logo on the back of the envelope.
NOTE: Did you know that the only time postal regulations require you to include identification on the envelope is when you're mailing at the low rates available to fundraisers?
2. Load up your envelope with copy
There's no law that says teaser copy has to be just one line long. A while ago I completed a direct mail package for SunSoft that featured teaser copy fifty words long. Yes. That's a lot. But I was confident that our carefully targeted readers would be interested in the benefits of Solaris software. On that basis we made the decision to be aggressive on the envelope. It worked just fine.
3. Don't use any teaser copy at all
This is the exact opposite of the advice I gave you in #2 above. So why the complete contradiction? Because there ARE times when a blank envelope will work just fine.
If there's no copywriting on the envelope the reader HAS to open it in order to check out the contents.
Which works best? LOTS of copy or NO copy on the envelope? There simply isn't the space for me to answer this in detail, so let me leave you with this general rule: For most purposes, when you're mailing bulk rate, give envelope copy a shot first.
4. Try using a different size envelope
If you're locked in to using #10 envelopes, try testing another size. The obvious choice is the 6" x 9" format but consider using a large envelope as well. Sure, a big envelope costs a little more, buy anything you can do to stand out from the other letters in the pile is a plus.
5. Give a window envelope a try
Very often a window envelope, with the personalized Business Reply Card showing through, will pull better than a closed face envelope. Consider giving this a test.
6. Use more than one window
There's no law that says an envelope can only have a single window. Sometimes a little second window can be
used to grab the reader's attention. When should you use an extra one or two windows? When you have a four-color brochure or reply device, and can let some of the provocative copy peek through. Don't settle for what you've always done in the past. Stretch yourself and test something new. Who knows? It just might be a real money-maker!
7. Use the space on the back of the envelope
A lot of the envelopes I see completely ignore the back surface.
This can be a mistake. You see, you never know how your package is going to fall on someone's desk. That's why it makes good sense to use both sides of the envelope if your printing budget permits.
A final word . . . the envelope really is one of the keys to success in any mailing, and I urge you to create one that works. Sure, the letter does all the hard selling, but if the envelope never gets opened, the greatest letter in the world will go unread. Test some new envelope copywriting approaches and see how they work for your company. You could be in for a pleasant surprise!
More next month!
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for such companies as Bank of America, Fireman's Fund, Intel and Microsoft. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mails and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for marketers, visit his website at www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at firstname.lastname@example.org