Tactics to ensure your direct mail is opened

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Using behavioral science to drive action
Using behavioral science to drive action

As direct marketers, we've been warned. Much research has shown we have three seconds to convince our target to open our mailing. If we don't hook people then, we've lost them. And it's no wonder. Nearly three-quarters of all envelopes mailed in North America are 24 pound, white wove, #10s. In other words, most of the envelopes we send look and feel like every other envelope in our target's mailbox.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to prompt people to open your pieces, and some of them appeal directly to the way human brains are hardwired.

  1. Trigger the principle of scarcity. According to social scientists, opportunities that are limited to certain groups of people or to certain times are perceived as more valuable than others. Therefore, they can trigger an instinctive response. Try a date or an “urgency phrase” like “Update,” “Response Needed” or “Second Notice” stamped on your envelope.

  2. Use “eye magnet” words. Numerous eye-tracking studies have revealed that certain words simply attract the human eye more than others. Write your teaser copy using words like “announcing,” “introducing,” “new,” “now,” “finally” and “soon” to increase your target's engagement with your piece.

  3. Employ the principle of social proof. When people aren't sure what decision to make, they look to others and do what they do. To trigger this response, use customer testimonials or stats about how many customers you have.

  4. Remember the power of pain. People are often more motivated by the avoidance of pain than the achievement of pleasure. So instead of saying “Take advantage of this great offer,” you should try “Don't miss this great offer.”

  5. Design your mailing to slide in under the radar. People will quickly scan a piece of mail to determine if they need to open it. If your piece looks important or official, it's much more likely to get opened.
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