Outer Envelope Strategies to Get Mail Opened

17 July 2018 / By Jeff Tarran

First Impressions Count!

We develop hundreds of direct mail packages each year for our clients, so we think about what goes on direct mail outer envelopes A LOT. The outer envelope (OE) is the first impression your mail makes, and it has less than a second to convince the recipient to see what’s inside.

The OE actually serves three purposes. First and foremost, it needs to meet Post Office automation specs or the mailing risks excessive postage rates or even rejection from the USPS. Second, it needs to hold the package elements intact and safe from harm caused by postage sorting and processing machinery. And third, once the mail arrives at a prospect’s home or business, it needs to compel the recipient to open the envelope and see what’s inside.

To do that, recipients need to feel that if they don’t open the letter they will miss out on important information or an opportunity. And, importantly, they need to feel that they need to open it now.

Let’s go through the communications that happen on the OE and decisions to consider on each:

 

Addressing your mail

The recipient address is the first piece of information a prospect searches for when receiving and sorting their mail, so this is valuable real-estate and can be used as an attention-getting tactic. Most mailings are sent to a person. That usually makes sense, and in some cases, it’s a legal requirement. Occasionally mail may not contain a specific name (such as saturation mailings or EDDM – Every Door Direct Mail).

There can also be marketing reasons to use a designation other than a name. A consumer mailing to a highly targeted group might do better identifying that interested prospect right in the address. For example, if you are selling motorcycle accessories and your data can support it, Motorcycle Rider at 123 Main St. may stand a better chance of getting opened than Jackie Smith at that same address.

B-to-B data may lack names for many positions. And even if they exist, titles often outpull names in B-to-B mailings. For example, if you are selling employee retirement benefits, there are a number of individuals you can address the mailing to based on available data and company size. But a Benefits Manager title slug with no name could get the mail to the right person regardless of who they are (even if that actual title does not exist in the company).

 

Return address

After identifying the recipient address, prospects immediately search for the return address to verify relevance. Also, for standard mail, the Post Office requires a return address in the upper left or on the back of the OE. A company name is not required. Before you add your name or logo to the return address, consider its value to the recipient based on brand awareness and brand perception. Some mailings do better if the return address adds or substitutes a company division or a person’s name.

 

Postage indicators

The vast majority of business mail is mailed Standard Class due to its lower cost. That is most often expressed as a pre-printed indicia with a permit number in the upper right of the envelope. A stamp can give a more personal touch to an OE. Metered mail can make it appear that the mailing is from a smaller, more local business or division of a larger company.

Another alternative for getting your mail opened is to consider higher-cost delivery methods such as FedEx, UPS or USPS priority mail. This will ensure your mail gets opened and you will receive a conformation once it is delivered. This can be very effective when targeting C-level executive or key decision makers in B2B prospecting.

 

Stealth vs. Promotional Envelopes

Experience has taught us that unless you can clearly make the case that a promotional message on your OE will generate opens, then a stealth envelope (no message on the OE) works best.

A promotional message is appropriate when:

  • Your offer is best-in-class
  • You have a strong brand or affinity with your prospects
  • Your value proposition is so unique/strong that the prospect will be eager to learn more about you

Cute, clever, “salesy” messaging can be perceived as a come-on, so consider those approaches carefully.

 

Envelope design

Here are some considerations that could stop your prospect and encourage more opens:

  • Look at alternative sizes to a #10 envelope. Oversized OEs stand out in the mail. Unique sizes can feel more like an invitation.
  • The address font can make a difference. We’ve seen handwriting fonts boost response.
  • Multiple windows can be used for the return address or to show a hint of a promotion inside.
  • Test envelope colors and textured OEs.

Riding above all of these envelope decisions are some factors that start at the strategy phase. Most of this discussion is based on acquisition mailings. The envelope you use to reach an existing customer would be considered differently and based on the reason for the mailing (notification, cross-sell, activation, etc.). Brand implications play a role in how we think about the first impression an OE makes as well. And last but not least, there’s cost. Production and mailing costs need to be considered both at testing quantities and rollout levels.

As you consider a DM strategy for your business, envelopes are an important part of any test matrix. It’s one of the easier variables to test and one that could have a significant impact on your acquisition costs and ROI.

One Final Note

If you’re interested in trying out direct mail and adding it to your marketing mix, then drop us a line. We’re standing by to answer any questions you might have, and most importantly, to help you get your mail opened.

Jeff Tarran
About The Author

Jeff Tarran

As VP of Account Services, Jeff works with our clients to analyze business problems and develop direct marketing strategies that achieve their goals. A 20-year veteran and strategic thought leader in direct marketing, Jeff has headed two independent direct response agencies in the Bay Area after starting his career at Foote Cone and Belding. He earned a Dual BS in management and communications at Syracuse University and his MBA in marketing at Columbia University in New York.

.