Marketing Copywriting, Maslen on Marketing

It came from outer space, or, why do so many otherwise rational marketing people forgo massive boosts to profits because they don’t think envelope messages work?

Think about the last email you wrote. Or opened. How important was the subject line? I’m guessing very. So why is that?

Well, it’s not rocket science is it? The subject line tells you what the email is about. It entices you to open it. It arouses your curiosity. It promises some benefit or other.

And let me ask you this. What do you think when you get an email with NO subject line? Spam. Or at the very least, hardly interesting enough to bother opening.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Subject lines are to emails what envelope copy is to mailshots. So not using your outer envelope to entice your reader to open it is throwing away potential orders. Profits, if you prefer. (And I do.)

Here’s a little example I put together to show you why envelopes are so important.

The figures don’t lie

Suppose you’re selling a £130 product by direct mail. You mail 10,000 pieces at a cost per piece of 50 pence. Your total marketing cost is £5,000.

Let’s also suppose that you get a 1% response rate, ie 100 orders. But if we also assume that only 20% of people – 2,000 – actually open your envelope, that’s where all 100 orders come from. And your effective response rate is in fact 5%. Let’s call that your conversion rate.

If it costs you £75 to fulfil each order, your total fulfilment costs are £7,500. So your total costs are £12,500. Your total revenues are £13,000 and your profit is £500.

Now, imagine you find some way of getting 25% more people to open your envelope, giving you 2,500 potential buyers. Without increasing your conversion rate, you now have 125 orders.

Your marketing cost is the same: £5,000. Your fulfilment cost has risen to £9,375, making a total of £14,375. Your total revenues are £16,250 and your profit has jumped to £1,875. A 275% increase.

And guess how you get more people to open your envelope. That’s right! You give them a REASON.

Usually, marketeers who don’t, or won’t, overprint envelopes say it’s because, “Then they’ll know it’s direct mail.”

I’m sorry to disappoint these wide-eyed hopefuls, but your reader already knows it’s direct mail. Unless you’re hand writing every envelope and using postage stamps, there are enough clues to give the game away to even the most simple-minded recipient.

Instead, why not try to show them that it’s RELEVANT direct mail. INTERESTING direct mail. Direct mail that could change their lives.

You do this with copy. And maybe graphics too.

Three ideas for powerful outers

So here are a few thoughts on getting people inside the envelope. From outer space to inner space.

  1. If you are trying to get renewals for any kind of relationship-based service, a magazine subscription for example, use a line of copy that says something like “Important news about your subscription.” For many people, magazines are a welcome part of their week or month, and they will respond well to this sort of line. And other, more creative, approaches.
  2. Use a photo that dramatises the fundamental product benefit. If you sell snow gear, adventure holidays, or an extreme sports magazine, use a great image of two snowboarders upside down in midair.
  3. Do you offer a premium if people become customers, or take a free trial? Show that with a line promising details of how to get hold of it inside.

And I’m telling you this because?

I think my assumption that many mailers only get a 20% opening rate is reasonable. But whatever your figure, unless you’re getting 100%, there are unclaimed profits lying around waiting for you to collect them. And where are they? Outer space.

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