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How do you get them into your envelope?

What influences a prospect to decide to open a piece of mail?

Years ago Ed McLean told me that he "wasn't sure there was any valid research on how people open mail. I've been part of focus groups that studied the question ... watched subjects from behind one-way windows. Believe me they do everything but lie on their backs and claw it open with their feet."

Notwithstanding Ed's view, Pitney Bowes funded a study conducted by National Family Opinion Research to investigate the question. From their work, they found that the three most important factors in getting recipients to open mail are (in order):

1. Proper address and spelling of name

2. Type of postage

3. Presence of a return address.

Those results should provide food for thought for business-to-business mailers who drop title-addressed, bulk-rate packages with envelope teaser, but no return address.

Finishing up the track in the study results, these factors were also noted:

4. An envelope with a misspelled name is more likely to be opened than one with a generic title address.

5. Metered mail at the Standard Rate is more likely to be opened than First Class mail carrying a pre-printed permit. (Aha, Pitney Bowes' interest in funding this study emerges.)

6. Standard #10 business envelopes are the most likely to be opened.

My own experience has been that stamped envelopes do best for consumer mailings. USPS offers a standard rate presort stamp. They are attractive and 90 percent of your prospects are unlikely to know what it means--in terms of postal class--and you're slipping a low fastball past those DM "sophisticates" who check the postage.

Metered mail preferable for b-to-b

For business-to-business, metered mail is preferable. (How much business mail do you get with stamped envelopes?) Also in my experience, there appears to be little or no increased pull in the b-to-b market from metered First Class (even with FIRST CLASS printed on the envelope) compared with metered standard rate.

Studies show that from two-thirds to three-quarters of mail received in business offices comes in #10 white envelopes. Other sizes or colors may get your piece noticed, but color marks it as "advertising mail."

Some years back I heard copywriter Ed Nash comment that 6 x 9-inch envelopes are always ad mail. Since then I've looked, unsuccessfully, for a piece that size that wasn't promotional.

The purpose of envelope teaser copy is to create the "What is in there for me?" mystery that gets the prospect inside. For that reason, I don't recommend using a return address that gives away the game about the sender.

Conversely, when going for the "personal but business-like" look, use First Class, ink-jetted addresses. Do use a return address because real business mail doesn't come in blank envelopes.

I don't believe in the approach of "Use a completely blank envelope and they'll have to open it to see what is inside." If it were ever effective, prospects now recognize the technique as a ploy.

Computer-generated "handwritten" addresses

Recently I've received a couple of packages featuring computer generated "handwritten" addresses. I've never seen a computer font that didn't look like a computer font.

However, evidence seems to show that "handwritten" addresses do pull, and there are a couple firms that will produce them for you. (I admit I picture airplane hanger-sized building full of employees scribbling away like Bob Cratchitt at his desk.)

I am intrigued by Point 4 about misspelled names. Because newsletter marketers deal heavily with rented lists we don't control, there probably isn't much that can be done with that fact.

My handwriting is execrable, so I wind up on lists as Fngo Guss and Fargo Coss. I enjoy opening that mail to see who has rented what list. But that may be strictly inside baseball DM.
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Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Sep 18, 2006
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