Successful Envelopes

Direct mail isn’t dead nor is it dying. As part of doing everything you can to keep your own direct mail efforts alive and well, you must test. One of the key components to test is your carrier or outer envelope.

Your outer envelope makes the first impression and helps your mailing stand out from the rest of the day’s mail. It gets your piece past the person screening the mail – both at home and at the office. The envelope also gets your mailing opened and read.

The challenging part is doing all this in only a few seconds – some studies say three to seven seconds.

The Checklist

Here are 25 ideas to test on your outer envelope. Some are the latest, most innovative outer envelope formats currently being tested. Others are tried-and-true tips that have worked for decades and still have a bright future. Keep in mind what’s appropriate for your offer, audience and budget.

1. Increase intrigue. Test a double window envelope with colored glassine in the teaser copy window. When the teaser copy is printed on an inserted piece in the same color as the glassine, the recipient has to open the envelope to read the teaser. It’s new, fun and intriguing.

2. Mail a control envelope that’s white. Test it against a yellow or red outer envelope.

3. Test teaser copy – specifically, product benefit vs. offer.

4. Test teaser copy vs. no teaser.

5. Test different sizes. If your control mailing is a #10, test a 6″ x 9″ or vice versa. Or try testing an executive (monarch) size envelope against a standard #10 for business mailings.

6. Try textured paper stock to make your envelope look and feel different. For large runs, envelope manufacturers such as Tension Envelope actually can emboss a leatherette or grooved texture into regular paper, saving you money.

7. If your control uses four-color, test printing your image in two-color or as a duotone.

8. If you want the high impact – but not the high cost – of a dot-whack sticker, tests have shown printed stickers can pull as well or better than stickers printed separately and machine affixed.

9. Test printing your return address on the back flap instead of in the upper left-hand corner.

10. Since you can’t control which side will be seen first, test printing teaser copy on both sides of the envelope.

11. Be creative with your envelopes. People are intrigued by unusual opening devices such as one that encourages you to rip off the end of the envelope even though it has a traditional back flap for machine inserting.

12. Test postage. Live postage stamps cost more than a printed indicia and don’t always generate more response.

13. Sometimes less is more. Create the height of intrigue by printing nothing on the outer envelope except the recipient’s name and address.

14. If you want your fulfillment mailing to look extremely important, try mailing it in a first-class mail envelope made of indestructible Tyvek.

15. If your message is innovative or you want to be known as an innovator, test a non-standard envelope (e.g., square, oversized, odd-sized). The additional postage required may be a good investment – helping your company and your mailing stand out.

16. Try a manila envelope vs. white.

17. While the anthrax-in-the-mail scare is with us, some mailers will choose to use (or test) translucent envelopes. They’re unique and showcase what’s inside.

18. If you have a four-color brochure hidden inside your carrier envelope, try mailing it in a picture window envelope that shows it off as opposed to a standard 6″ x 9″ that hides it.

19. Test a standard #10 envelope against a #14 or something similar. Envelopes this large allow you to fold your letter once, vertically making it easier to open and read. An oversized envelope also stands out in a stack of #10s.

20. Looking for something irresistible? By its very nature, an envelope is an involvement device that requires action to get it opened. Work with your envelope vendor to design envelopes that are uniquely involving, such as a double-flapped envelope with teaser copy hidden under the special end flap.

21. Try testing the pop-up back flap on an envelope that actually pulls an insert out of the envelope when you “Lift Here.”

22. If you have to use an existing envelope but still want to run a test, add a dot-whack sticker or post-printed teaser.

23. If you mailing is small enough (i.e., a fulfillment mailing handled from your office), you can use a hand rubber stamp to test teaser copy.

24. Test teaser copy that gives a strong reason to open your envelope such as “Free Sample Enclosed,” “Do Not Bend: Photos Enclosed” or “Free Swatch Inside.”

25. Test using your product’s name vs. your company name vs. an individual’s name (e.g., president, marketing director, customer service representative) as the first line in the upper left-hand return address block. This is the hot spot for mail screeners.

If you have additional ideas for getting your envelope opened, please let me know and I’ll use your story in the update article.

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