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To Open or Not to Open?
by Ray Jutkins

Some of our best-known writers and art directors have been quoted as saying that, in creating a direct mail package, they spent as much as 50 percent of their time on the envelope.

Here are a few interesting points about the relationship between envelopes and "eyeflow"—-the way people scan a surface-that can help you in designing this vital part of your direct mail package.

The name is the first element recipients examine. Is it their name? Is it spelled correctly? Is it addressed not to them, but to their title?

Teaser copy is the second element they notice. They start with the copy, picture or graphics (on a sticker, in a window) closest to their name. Next, they look at copy elsewhere: farther from their name but still on the address side, or on the back

Who sent them the mail is the third element they check. They want to know if they know you or if you are a stranger.

This highlights the importance of a corner card-wherever and however you decide to identify yourself on the outside of the envelope. Your prospects and customers feel it is important.

Some people, however, do not want any identification on the outside of their envelope. They feel this is part of the "tease."

I disagree. I hate it when I get mail with no identification on the outside. My first thought is, "what are these people hiding from?"

Yes, that mail may get opened, but you tricked your audience into opening it.

The type of postage (and how it is applied) is the fourth element.

I prefer meter mail because I feel most of America has been tuned to seeing the meter strip (thanks to Pitney Bowes and its pinkish ink). For the most part, people don’t pay attention to meter postage. It is more or less just "there."

There are those who feel a live stamp is best because it looks personal. I wouldn’t disagree, but does it make sense to put a live stamp on business mail?

During one of my seminars, a woman told me she never used live, stamps because it made her, in her very small business, look very small. And she didn’t want to look very small. She wanted to look very big. So she used a meter.

The point to keep in mind here is that recipients will pay attention to the postage, but only after they review their name, the teaser copy, and who the mail is from.

The back of the envelope is the fifth element. Most likely, your prospects will spend more time on the back of the envelope than on the front. Three out of every four people who touch your envelope will turn it over before opening it. And they will read and "observe" whatever you have done with the back.

If 75 percent of your audience is going to turn the envelope over, it is clearly a good idea to think about putting something back there — a window, a graphic, teaser copy, information about, your product or service. Use the back of your envelope.

About Ray Jutkins, October 3rd, 1936 — January 6th, 2005. Ray was one of the NMOA’s most generous contributors. Over the years Ray supplied the NMOA with hundreds of tips and articles for members. This is just one of many. Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa. Keep an eye out for more of Ray’s marketing tips and how-to articles in the pages of Direct Marketing Digest and the article archive on the NMOA website.

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