How to get read

A couple of weeks ago, I used direct mail to negotiate thousands off a new car.

And today, I’d like to show you how one small part of that “campaign” contributed to its success.

It’s one of the most critical components of direct mail, but it’s also the most frequently overlooked.

I’m not talking about the headline, the offer, or the P.S.

What I’m going to show you is…

… wait for it…

The envelope!

Sexy, ay?

Here’s what most direct mail envelopes look like:

Now, you might expect a corporation like American Express to know what they’re doing. But it’s quite often the case that the bigger the company is, the worse they are at direct marketing. And this envelope is a great example of that.

Here’s the problem:

It’s immediately obvious to the recipient that the contents of the envelope are designed to sell them something.

And nobody likes to be sold.

But hey, it’s possible that some of the recipients were actively looking for a high-yield savings account. In which case, they might open it, and they might respond.

However, the other 99% of recipients, including those who might have been persuaded to open a high-yield savings account, would have thrown the envelope in the trash before even opening it.

So, if 99% of recipients don’t open the envelope, only 1% read the sales message. And some portion of that 1% might then respond.

The numbers just don’t add up.

When you have the marketing budget of American Express, it doesn’t really matter. But for most businesses, I’m sure you can see that messing up the envelope can ruin a direct mail campaign before it even has a chance to succeed.

So what’s the antidote?

How do you design an envelope that persuades the recipient to open it and read your sales message?

Well, some try teaser copy. That is, copy on the envelope written to tease or persuade the recipient to open.

But as this example proves, teaser copy can do more harm than good.

There’s a much safer, sure-fire way to get your sales message in the hands of your market.

And, it’s ridiculously simple.

To demonstrate, here’s an envelope like the one I sent to the car dealers (with made-up names):

What do you notice?

Yes, it’s hand-written. And it has a real stamp. There’s no teaser copy. There’s no window. There’s no return address.

In other words, there’s no indication whatsoever that the contents of the envelope are designed to sell!

In fact, it could easily have been sent by their grandmother.

And that’s exactly what you want the recipient to believe!

There’s_no way they would put that envelope in the trash without opening it first.


That’s all the envelope is there to do—get the recipient to open it.

Then it’s over to the contents of the envelope to persuade them to read your sales message.