Direct Mail “Mini-Series” Part 3:
Getting Direct Mail Opened
We all will try different promotions for different target markets offering different messages. In many of these situations we will have to use an envelope to “deliver” the sales message. Your sales message is irrelevant if your prospect never opens your letter and looks inside your envelope! (So basically, your envelope is the key to unlocking the sales message for your potential client.)
There are two main “camps,” or schools of thought, on what’s the best way to get your envelope opened so your sales letter has a chance of getting read.
The first one is called “the sneak up approach” or the ol’ “A pile vs. B pile” technique.
Basically, the theory is most people open their mail about the same way. When they get the day’s mail, they divide it into two piles. Personal mail, bills, subscriptions to their favorite magazines etc. gets put in the “A” pile, and “unsolicited” letters, catalogs and misc. “junk mail” gets put in the “B” pile. (Many times the “B” pile falls straight into the circular file. Go to a post office sometime and watch the people separate their mail over the trash can if you don’t believe me.)
One other thing to notice about people dividing up their “A pile & B pile” mail is how the postage is paid. Does the letter have a stamp or is it a bulk rate indicia? Is it first class, third class or, worse, a “to current resident, geographic area bulk rate” metered mail? First class STAMPS tend to make it over to the “A” pile better than these other means.
The Sneak Up Approach
So if your “numbers” and the economics of your promotion allow you to do so, in my opinion, ALWAYS use the sneak up approach when promoting to anyone NOT already your customer. By this I mean use a plain white envelope. HAND ADDRESS the lead’s name and address information in addition to your return address. The upper left hand corner should be your address only! (Do not use your name or company name.) Add FIRST CLASS POSTAGE STAMPS on the envelope and let the postal carriers do their thing.
Taking these steps will get you in the prospects “A pile.” That means your letter WILL get opened and that IS the whole purpose of your envelope (to get your prospect to at least look at the sales letter).
Going back to those postal carriers for a second. Do you think they deliver every piece of mail you send out every day? Whether they deliver it or your letter gets lost or whatever, and depending on who you talk to, a certain percentage of everything in your mail DOESN’T reach the intended recipient. If you are talking second or third class or even bulk rate mailings, now we are really talking large chunks of mail NOT getting delivered!
Why? Some people might say laziness. Other folks might say incompetence. It doesn’t matter the reason, if even some of your first class mail DOESN’T get delivered properly, you need to consider your overall mailing options. (Cost of 1st class mail vs. bulk rate mail)
First Class vs Bulk Mailing Rates
If you say you can’t afford first class postage, then you are probably asking how do you use bulk mailing rates and be effective?
In my opinion, that’s the WRONG question to ask! If you think first class postage is too expensive, look at the alternative. How about up to 30% or 40% of your mailing NOT reaching your prospects? Or how about half those people throwing your sales letter away before ever opening it because they saw a bulk rate stamp?
I mean this can get ridiculous! Only a third of your intended prospects opened your envelope. No wonder your response is so low. You think your mailing is getting 100% delivered and 100% opened. (Please don’t be naive.)
You talk about expensive. With these kinds of percentages YOU CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO USE FIRST CLASS MAIL! (Bulk rate postage is much more expensive if you compare it to response rates of using first class postage.)
I’ve said this before to other tax practitioners and one in particular came back at me saying, “Well, I’ve tested both and first class postage lost money just like the bulk rate meter I tried.”
To him I said, “Sounds like either a message problem or a market problem to me.” (You see, if you have a lousy mailing list or a sales message that stinks, then first class postage isn’t going to make a hill of beans difference anyway!) * An old mentor of mine always use to say, “You can’t multiply zeros.” (He’s right.)
Teaser Copy on the Envelope
Now let’s talk about the other “school of thought.” Many marketers are solidly on the other side of the camp saying you have to use excellent selling “teaser copy” on the outside of your envelope to help it get opened.
There is some truth to this style or marketing strategy, too. (Heck, just look at the majority of the sales letters that get mailed today. 95% of them has some kind of “teaser strategy” on the outside of the envelope to help them get opened.)
Personally, I’m not a big fan of advertising this way, but there are a lot of people out there that make this kind of strategy work. Here’s my advice if you want to go this route.
If you are going to “reveal” yourself up front as a “this is a sales letter” then by all means, go all out! I mean blanket the whole envelope front and back with multiple bullet points, headlines, subheads etc. Use some of your best USPs that are in your sales letter on the outside as the teaser copy.
Look, don’t hold back! If you are going to “cross the line” in the beginning, then you’ve GOT to sell them on opening this envelope and that doing so is the best thing since “sliced bread!”
(Cover the front. Cover the back completely, too. Maybe even add something on the inside of the envelope to make it look and feel “bulky” so you will peak their curiosity.)
Hey, the sky’s the limit. Be as creative as possible when you are NOT going to do the plain Jane “sneak up approach.”
Both will work. You decide what works best for your situation.
Chauncey Hutter Jr.
Tax Marketing Expert
Chauncey Hutter, Jr, is a best-selling author and leading marketing consultant and success coach to the tax industry. Mr. Hutter grew his father’s $50,000 per year tax preparation business to a multi-million dollar empire with 24 locations, 400+ employees and over 27,000 tax clients all coming from his marketing campaigns.