Ways to Make Your Mail Get Noticed

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

U.S. households received 100 billion pieces of direct mail in 2008, according to the recent U.S. Postal Service Household Diary Study. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming percentage arrived in an envelope. While there may be less in your snail mailbox today than even a year ago, those envelopes must work harder to get noticed — and opened.

Here are seven proven ways to push your envelope to prominence.


    It may seem counterintuitive, but a white envelope with a return address is more intriguing than a colorful, splashy envelope. The reason is simple: The white envelope suggests official correspondence, while the colorful, splashy envelope screams “promotion.”

    Include a promotional “credit card” type piece and the envelope will be opened to see if that card is important, has value and/or needs to be activated.


    Studies show most people fan through a pile of mail looking for items of importance (like bills), items of interest (like special offers or sales), and items of intimacy (greeting cards or personal notes). Varying the size of the envelope adds another element: intrigue. An envelope that is larger or smaller than most of the stack stands out in the pile.

    Taking advantage of Letter Rate mail with a “stretch” envelope is a proven method of getting the envelope noticed while yielding dramatic postage savings.


    Copy on the outer envelope should be intriguing, irresistible, personal and specific. It should provide a compelling reason to open the envelope. “Information You Requested” is like the aroma of bread baking as you walk past a bakery — it lures you in.

    The element of relevance in the teaser copy is particularly important for trigger mailings. For example, if the trigger was the purchase of a new house, teaser copy might say, “What’s missing in your new home?” The recipient needs to open the envelope for the answer.


    Involvement devices like pull strings, window reveals and unusual ways to open the envelope can make the mailing work harder and, often, with little additional cost. Place an envelope that opens by pulling a string in the hands of most people and they can’t resist pulling the string.


    For affinity programs, the same large window envelope can be used for multiple versions of letters with different logos, different brands and different return addresses. Cost savings and easier inventory management are just two benefits of this approach.

    Using a large window on the back of an envelope allows your multi-color brochure, letter or form to work double-duty by acting as the marquee for your mailing.


    While self-mailers and postcards are effective for some markets and offers, information that comes in an envelope feels more private, more secure and more protected from peering eyes. Using a kraft envelope with a teaser like, “Important Documents Enclosed” adds to the sense of authority and importance.


    The window on your envelope doesn’t have to be a rectangle. The cost of a special die to create an unusually shaped window or to trace the edge of an image is minimal when amortized over the cost of the entire mailing. Experiment, but be sure to work closely with both your envelope manufacturer and your lettershop to ensure the shaped window can be patched and won’t interfere with the inserting process.

Your outer envelope is your first, best and sometimes last chance to get your offer noticed. Make it work for you.
DEBORA HASKEL, vice president of marketing at IWCO Direct, Chanhassen, MN


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