Pushing the Envelope

An ill-conceived envelope marketing strategy that fails to motivate the recipient to open it is like mailing money out the door. Carefully consider every element, including physical dimensions, copy, layout, and design.

Anything outside of the standard #10 envelope, either larger or smaller, will set your piece apart. Make sure the envelope is at least 1/4” larger than your largest insert. Steer clear of window envelopes unless it’s the only way to achieve personalization. Smooth, heavier stocks show off your color designs, while textured stocks, such as linen or laid, offer a high-end feel. Explore the myriad of options now available, such as vellum, glassine, and polybag¬type envelopes.

Technology has advanced to the point that you can place dynamic messaging on the front, back, and even inside of the envelope. It’s a money-saver because envelope messaging minimizes postal weight by reducing the insert count. Your copy should provoke curiosity, but not give everything away. The goal is to pique interest so the recipient looks inside, but there should be something more—new information, a special offer— as a reward for opening it.

The envelope should be clean and well-designed, but that means different things to different marketers. Some, concerned that documents with too much visual flair will be dismissed as “junk mail,” choose plain white envelopes imprinted with the corporate logo to lend credibility and seriousness. The other extreme is the marketer who uses starbursts and call-outs that shout, “Open now!” The best strategy is somewhere in between—a mix of bright colors, interesting textures, vivid imagery and bold messaging to grab attention quickly.

While it’s important to keep the design cohesive with your other printed materials, using the same envelope design for multiple mailings may work against you. Even a friendly prospect might assume he’s already heard the message inside.

Personalization increases response rates, whether it’s through variable-data messaging, using a legible script font, or actual handwriting. Postage stamps add another personal touch but may not be practical for larger mailings. Studies show that one-third of Standard Mail goes directly into the wastebasket. If your piece doesn’t get thrown away, you’re still in the game.

An envelope has the best chance of getting opened if it’s delivered on Tuesday, the lightest postal delivery day, or on Wednesday, the second lightest day. Stay away from Mondays, the heaviest delivery day. Six weeks is a good interval between mailings—you want to stay fresh in your prospect’s mind without becoming a nuisance.

The abundance of creative options makes envelopes a versatile vehicle for presenting your message. Put these precious communication-carriers at the top of the list as you plan your next direct mail campaign.