Rejuvenating the “Old Reliable” of Direct Mail

As often as we see magalogs, postcards, fliers, and various other formats in our mail boxes, the #10 package continues to be the most used medium for direct mail. Because it’s so flexible, it allows a number of different components to help make the sale, while keeping printing and mailing costs down.

Today we’ll discuss the different components of the #10 package and how to keep Old Reliable fresh so it captures interest, pulls readers into the message, and moves them toward the sale.

The outer envelope – This is the carrier for the other pieces. And it’s first thing a prospect will see. So the envelope has a big responsibility. It has to lure the reader inside to the sales message.

Ways to rejuvenate the envelope: use a teaser, enticing graphics, colored envelopes, or even a blank envelope with only the recipient’s name/address, so curiosity gets the envelope opened.

The letter – This is the backbone of the #10 package, where the sale will be made. It may be one page long or 20 pages long. A typical lead generation letter usually runs one to four pages, while an order-generation letter often runs much longer. Generally speaking, letter length is tied to the price of the product.

Ways to rejuvenate the letter: change colors on headline and subheads, add sidebars, pull-quotes, and callout boxes that pull attention to important information. Print on a light gray, ivory, or cream paper instead of plain white.

The brochure – “The letter sells, the brochure tells” is an adage in direct mail. Rather than being a sales piece with an offer, the brochure takes a supporting role, providing deeper information and more benefits than can be handled in the sales letter.

Ways to rejuvenate the brochure: If the client’s been using one or two colors, try four-color if the price isn’t prohibitive. Add new graphics. Use a background color, or colored paper if the original is on white paper. Change from a slick-looking gloss to textured paper for a new look and feel.

The lift note – This is a wonderful tool for increasing credibility because it’s essentially a short letter (one page) from someone other than the letter writer talking about the product/service from a different perspective. In subscription packages the lift note usually comes from the publisher. For other types of products it may be a testimonial from an enthusiastic customer, or an endorsement from an impartial authority. They are called lift notes because tests have shown that including one in your packages can lift response by as much as 200%.

Ways to rejuvenate the lift note: Print on cream or light blue paper to stand out from the main sales letter. Don’t use dark paper as it will make it hard to read the text. Try a hand-written-style font to make it look very personal.

The buck slip – You can include one or more of these little gems in your package to help propel the reader to the sale. This is a small insert, generally the same size and shape as a dollar bill, that helps sell a premium (a free gift the reader gets for ordering). I have also seen buck slips used to do additional touting of specific benefits of the product/service, and for testimonials.

Ways to rejuvenate the buck slip: Use brightly colored paper to draw attention. Change ink colors or graphics. Design it vertically instead of horizontally. Change width and length of the piece. A long as it fits in the envelope, you’re not restricted to only the size and shape of a dollar bill.

The order form – This is one of the most important pieces in a direct mail package, and deserves careful attention to the copy and the design. The order form has a tough job because it has to boil down the main sales message into a few concise sentences and deliver it with energy and enthusiasm to convince the reader to “sign on the dotted line.”

Ways to rejuvenate the order form: Use a burst to spotlight important info like a price discount, an offer deadline etc. Set the guarantee in a certificate box to separate it from the rest of the offer. Make it clean and easy to read and provide enough space for people to fill it out. Order forms are notorious for looking like a crowded mish-mash.

The BRE – The Business Reply Envelope is the carrier that will house the reader’s order. These are usually set up as business mail and must meet specific postal regulations, so be sure to follow postal design rules for them. They’re very specific about where addresses and postage info, as well as any additional text, must be placed.

Ways to rejuvenate the order form: These are usually pretty plane-Jane, but why not add a message on the back thanking the buyer for their business, or some other note of appreciation?

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: January 31, 2008

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