Ruth K. Sheldon

Here are some reminders, plus a few suggestions for "mid-size" tweaks, to help you score higher response rates — without causing budgets to sink or anxiety levels to soar.

Copy on the front of the envelope remains the tried-and-true method for most mailers to reach prospects. It's where you find teasers, offers, deadlines, personalized data, etc.—and these approaches run the gamut, from oversize formats with scarcely any copy/images to smaller efforts that are covered with copy and have full-bleed images.

The role of the order card in the direct mail piece has always been important. "The main purpose is to state (or restate) the offer clearly and simply, so it's easy and effortless for the recipient to say, 'Yes.' The sole purpose of the order card is to get the order!" states Heidi Wells, a freelance copywriter based in Chicago.

Format, the cover letter, the reply form, the premiums and/or freemiums … all key components of a direct mail package. But the most key component of all, most likely? The outer envelope. Here are six ways to make the language on that outer even more effective at achieving its end goal: getting the prospect to open the package. 1. Focus on the Outside “Mailers may say differently, but they tend to focus on what goes inside [the envelope]. But if you don’t get them past the outer envelope, it doesn’t matter how great your cover letter is,” asserts Pat Friesen, copywriter and owner of

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