Direct Mail, Marketing

Envelope, do your job!

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
April 23 2015,
July 3 2020

Google the phrase “you only had one job” and you’ll get thousands of images and examples of those who either through being work-shy (or simply daft) managed to mess up the one thing they were entrusted to do. A particular favourite is the road-marking guy who, while painting double-yellows, chose to do it OVER a dead hedgehog who’d met his fate there earlier. Not a great role model, eh?

When you’re planning direct mail, the offer, messaging and design of your piece is critical. Everyone knows that. But, sometimes, when everything else is agreed, done, dusted and ready to go the envelope or carrier method is an afterthought. Big mistake. The envelope, like the road-marking guy, has just the one (but nonetheless very important) job - to get opened. Here’s some tips on how:

  1. Give it some value – if it looks cheap and nasty then the perception will be that its contents have little or no value. So don’t scrimp on the quality or weight of the paper.
  2. Make like it’s expected – mail that appears to be as a result of an enquiry or in response to previous comms stands a better chance of getting past the gatekeeper. Think along the lines of “information enclosed” or “details requested” as messaging.
  3. Keep it simple – avoid clutter and confusion. While a reader might sit down to read the contents, no one in the history of the world took time out of a busy schedule to sit, read and make sense of an envelope. The message INSIDE is what’s important so make the envelope design simple and easy to read.
  4. Address it properly – send it for the attention of someone’s job title (or in the case of B2C “the homeowner” or equivalent) and you might as well throw it straight into the recycling yourself and bypass the postman!
  5. Make it personal – of course. Personal can be in the text - think a handwritten font or even actually handwritten. In the creative - an image of the car they drive, or representing the industry they’re in, etc. Or in the messaging - by referring to an earlier purchase, for example, or referring to the recipient as “a Ford Focus driver”.
  6. Test it – as experienced marketers we all have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t, right? Well sometimes (actually, pretty often) testing throws up counter-intuitive results. As getting it wrong can be expensive, the outer as well as the inner design always needs extensive testing.
  7. Be bright - vivid colours grab attention better than dull or pale ones. Full colour printing of envelopes, even personalised ones, is not only possible now but affordable.
  8. Use photos and/or illustrations – words work but images work even better and are often the faster way to get your message across. Think an image of a White Paper or report with a “FREE” starburst next to it and you’ve got the idea!
  9. Don’t be a rule-breaker – the Royal Mail won’t see the funny side of envelopes or outers that don’t stick to the rules. You can check out their 50-page guide here (or it might be less brain-frying to talk to us!)
  10. Be a tease (but not necessarily an enigma) - using copy that entices the reader in can often work. Whet their appetite for what’s inside the envelope without being mysterious, or worse still misleading, which will just annoy.
  11. Ask for what you want - use language to direct the recipient. Being overt is fine. “Open now” or “Register for your free copy” leaves him in no doubt about what’s required.
  12. Give it a deadline – a mailshot, unlike a tax return or similar, doesn’t give the recipient the impetus or motivation to react immediately. But a deadline induces action. An offer expiry date, or response needed by date, is more likely to prompt action rather than delay.
  13. Devices and interactivity - we love QR codes, Near Field Communication (NFC) and interactive print. But, inside the envelope. Remember, our envelope has one job, it has to get opened so restrict use of clever devices and avoid taking the reader off and away for the enclosure.

While dead hedgehogs may not be an issue there are plenty of other things to consider. We hope these 13 tips helped you avoid your own prickly obstacles!

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