If you use direct marketing to reach customers, you’ve probably tried the traditional business letter. A lot of companies will stuff that letter into a envelope that screams “read me now” with starbursts, logos, and call-outs. Well bad news – customers are on to you. As soon as they see something that smells like a marketing ploy, they run. They don’t have time. If they have a problem, they’ll find you.
I’ve had the best luck (read highest response rate) with a plain white envelope. No logo, nothing. If you can handwrite the mailing AND return address, even better. A lot of companies will try to use a handwriting font, and for me, it doesn’t pass the muster test. Too obvious. No one writes that consistently.
The envelope is arguably more important than the letter. I say that only because the best letter, laden with user benefits and a measurable call to action, is useless if it’s never read. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience. They get a ton of mail every day. They probably have a gatekeeper to screen out all of the obvious unsolicited marketing touches. The gatekeeper is usually afraid to automatically throw away a plain handwritten envelope. They don’t know who it’s from or what’s inside; not to mention that no one hand writes anything anymore. So you’ve passed the first test – do not get thrown away.
Even for your target audience, they cannot help but open a plain white envelope. It’s too intriguing. According to the DMA, direct mail has an average response rate of 2.77. I’ve seen response rates of at least 5% with the plain white envelope. And the best part is that it’s cheap and authentic.
So target well first. It doesn’t make sense to blast everyone you know with your solution. More than likely, if your offering appeals to everyone, you can find a better way to reach them than direct marketing. If you have a large list, segment them into manageable groups so that you can test different call to actions or letter copy.
Next, write a letter that speaks to your audience’s pain points first and then offer a solution. But only in bite size chunks. Don’t give away the all of your information with the letter. Create a desire to learn more and make it easy for them to find out more. Use every response technique you can – email, toll free telephone, fax, business reply card. You’ll be surprised at how different people take advantage of the different response mechanisms.
Lastly, use a plain white envelope with handwriting if possible. You may be tempted to use your corporate letterhead envelope, but don’t. I know that your marketing manager or corporate communications/PR team may freak out. But who cares, if you’re driving business you win. Branding comes from good experiences with you and your products more than it comes from repetition.