And Other Truths about Envelopes and Acquiring New Donors
I am sure that you, like me, have listened to the direct mail gurus or attended a conference or lecture to see the “hottest trends” in acquiring new donors through direct mail. We have heard it all…
“Copy is king!” The letter has to be powerful to get new donors to write that check.
“It is the offer!” You must have a compelling offer that moves people to action.
“It is the format!” Your fundraising letter has to be a unique size to cut through all the clutter in the mailbox.
“It is the bounce-back!” The reply device must be something that must be returned to the charity for their program, regardless of whether or not you can afford to send a check.
Let me just say that all of these things matter, but in direct mail acquisition nothing is more import than getting the enveloped opened. When a person grabs the mail from their mailbox and walks towards their kitchen table, this is what happens…
They do not immediately begin tearing open every letter. They create two piles: one that is set aside to be read later and one that is promptly picked up and dropped in that special file cabinet under the kitchen sink… the trash.
What gets read is what gets opened and what gets opened is what generates CHECKS!
Getting the envelope opened is job #1 in acquiring new donors. Nothing else matters in the world of acquisition. An “average” letter with a clear offer in a GREAT envelop will beat a GREAT letter and offer with a WEAK envelop every time.
Do you want to give your acquisition program a boost? Start focusing on the envelope… Here a few ideas to get you started:
TEASERS. The only reason I can tell you why teasers work is that everyone uses them. They are almost universally used in direct mail fundraising. Everybody uses teasers—right? But why? Theoretically, of course, a teaser helps to “get the envelope opened” and thus boosts response. However, I have on occasion tested a teaser against no teaser and seen mailings perform just as well without the teaser. You will see your biggest lift in response by improving your teaser copy through testing different versions or variations.
PLAIN WHITE ENVELOPE. I guess the converse of the teaser is the plain white envelope. Sometimes the best way to get people to open the envelope is to hide its purpose and who it’s from. While you put the prospect in a position to “waste the time” to open the envelope in order to decide which pile to place it in… if your ”Johnson Box” is strong, the P.S. clear and the reply device clean you will see checks more often than not. (Note: the top of the letter, the P.S and the Reply are the first things people read before the letter.)
MULTIPLE STAMPS ON THE ENVELOPE. Yes, that is right you heard me. Spend an extra two pennies and add two one cent stamps to your bulk mail stamp. You will be shocked! You will see a clear lift in response that easily offsets the cost of two dollars per thousand pieces mailed. Trust me… multiple stamping makes a difference. I am not saying to use this technique every month, but use it at least once a quarter. You will not regret it.
LUMPY MAIL. The next time you go to the mail box close your eyes before you reach your hand in the box. Pull the mail out (keep those eyes closed now) and decide which items you want to check out first. The weight of a letter will get it opened. The packaging will get it opened. The feel or weight of an odd sized internal component is important to opening. There is something inside the human brain that says, “I gotta open this thing!”
USE BOTH SIDES OF THE ENVELOPE. 75% of all people will turn over the envelope before making the decision to “trash or read” it. Since this is true, use the back of your envelope! According to the U.S. Post Office less than 2% of the mail uses the “flap side” for any printed or mailing information. You can personalize the flap side of the envelope. You can also use it for photos, to extend your teaser copy, a testimonial or use it to drive the package by addressing and stamping the flap side.
SOMETIMES UGLY WORKS. Rest assured what gets an envelope opened is uniqueness. If it is too slick or too pretty it reeks of “junk mail”. I have seen successful acquisition campaigns mailed in a brown, paper bags, literally. I am not kidding. I have seen envelopes that I just said, “yuk”… and guess what they lifted response rates…. sometimes ugly truly works best.