How to Create 'Rip 'em Open' Envelopes

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You don't saw a board with a wrench. You don't tighten a screw with a hatchet. And you don't drive a nail with a plumb bob. Every job requires a specific tool. And every tool should be used for a specific job.

This is true not only for building and carpentry but also for direct mail. It's particularly true with envelopes. I don't care whether your envelope is a 9-by-12-inch behemoth covered with screaming teasers or is a demure white #10. Envelopes have one basic purpose: to get opened.

I am forever amazed at how many people forget or don't seem to understand this simple principle. An envelope isn't a billboard or a letter or a brochure or anything other than a container whose job is to get ripped open so the items inside can sell something. Remember, with direct mail the strategy is "divide and conquer." The envelope does its job so the other pieces can do theirs.

To date, we've covered a grand total of 37 direct mail tools in this series, including ideas for dealing with customers, creating direct mail, making compelling offers and devising great guarantees. Now we pick up with No. 38 and some common-sense ideas to consider when creating your envelopes.

38. Create your envelope carefully. The envelope is arguably the most important part of your mailing. If it doesn't get opened, your well-crafted letter and slick brochure take a quick trip to the garbage dump.

39. Create tension. Don't try to close. For most envelopes, you should create an incomplete feeling or a curiosity that leads to opening the envelope. Inside, you'll have more time and real estate to present your offer, tell your story and close the deal.

40. Don't make your envelopes too pretty, too often. An envelope is like a kamikaze pilot. Its sole purpose is to carry its powerful cargo to a specific tactical location and then sacrifice itself as it delivers that cargo. But if your envelope is a design masterpiece, prospects might avoid tearing it open like they might avoid tearing pretty Christmas paper. Make your envelope a kamikaze pilot, not Christmas wrap.

41. Use Dean's AIU formula on your envelope. The main job of an envelope is to get opened. But to accomplish this, it must perform three "sub" tasks: 1) attract Attention and get noticed in a pile of mail; 2) generate Interest so your prospect thinks there's something personally important inside the envelope; and 3) create Urgency to compel your prospect to open the envelope immediately and not just set it aside.

42. Change the color of your envelope. To catch the attention of people who have seen your package before but haven't ordered, consider changing the color of your envelope. This could be the cheapest, easiest way to boost response quickly.

43. Change the size of the envelope. Using a #10? Try a 9-by-12-inch or a 6 by 9. Make your package big and flat or small and bulky. Try an odd size. Sometimes this is all it takes to stand out in a crowded mailbox.

44. Show off a killer brochure with a clear envelope. Sometimes the best envelope is an invisible one, if your brochure is impressive. It's tougher for your prospects to throw away your package if they can see all the colorful, valuable items inside. Clear envelopes tempt.

45. Deliver your package FedEx. If you're mailing to a small business list, try a premium delivery service. Priority Mail is a cheaper option: same impact at less cost. You even can use preprinted envelopes that look like express mail but can be mailed with bulk postage. This is a great way to get past the gatekeeper, boost the curiosity factor and ensure that your materials get read. It also makes your prospect feel important.

Is this all there is to say about envelopes? Hardly. Next time we'll discuss how to use envelope teasers effectively. And when not to use them.

Just for the record, I have used a wrench to pound a nail. I knew better, but it was the end of a long day and I just didn't have the energy to go to the garage and get a hammer. So I grabbed a nearby wrench and started thumping. It took a couple minutes to finish. The nail got seriously bent. And I mauled the wood every time the wrench glanced off the nail head. In the end, I had to pull the sorry thing out, get a hammer and do the whole thing over again.

So let that be a lesson to you. And, ahem, do what I say and not what I do.

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