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How to Write a Complete Direct Mail Package, Piece-by-Piece

by Dean Rieck April 28, 2011
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Direct mail is a wide-open marketing medium. By that, I mean you don't have the format limitations of other traditional media, such as print ads or radio spots.

Assuming you comply with basic USPS guidelines, you can create and mail just about anything, including as much information as you need.

However, creating a mailer can be a daunting task if you don't have years of experience, so let's take a quick look at the basics of writing and designing the granddaddy of all direct mail formats, the "classic" direct mail envelope package.

The underlying secret to this format is the principle of "divide and conquer." That means when you're creating a direct mail package, you should understand the purpose of each element and allow that element to do its particular job.

Outer Envelope
This is the distinctive feature of any direct mail package: an envelope that carries all the other elements through the mail. It's called the "outer envelope" or OE to distinguish it from the "reply envelope."

The appearance of the OE can be anywhere on a scale from plain, with little or no copy or graphics, to bold, with lots of teaser copy and images. Plain or bold is a strategic choice based on what you believe will get the most people to open the envelope and read the contents.

If you have a highly desirable product or service, and you're sure the mailing list includes your ideal prospects, bold is a great way to go. Teaser copy and graphics can get people interested right away and set them up for the sales pitch inside.

But if you have any doubts about the product, the right thing to say or show, or your mailing list, it's often a good idea to use a plain envelope. While it doesn't help your sales pitch, it doesn't hurt it either. And because it gives no clue about the contents, people have to open it to see what it's about.

Envelopes come in a range of standard sizes and can be custom manufactured to nearly any size within USPS specifications. They can also be made from various types and colors of paper or other materials and can have one or more windows or be closed faced.

Letter
This is the heart of any direct mail package. My personal rule is that if you have an outer envelope, you MUST include a letter. The letter is your voice. This is where you speak directly to your prospect, one-on-one, and present your offer.
 

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Most Recent Comments:
Jill Baker - Posted on May 03, 2011
Excellent overview and reminder that multiple pieces and tactics can/should reinforce each other. I'm usually on the same side you are -- generating the response mechanism -- but I decided to have some fun and switch to the perspective of the recipient. Perhaps you will have a chuckle from this post -- intended to be slightly humorous and helpfully blunt. http://www.wordsonthefly.com/weblog/2010/04/a-plea-from-your-direct-mail-recipient/
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Archived Comments:
Jill Baker - Posted on May 03, 2011
Excellent overview and reminder that multiple pieces and tactics can/should reinforce each other. I'm usually on the same side you are -- generating the response mechanism -- but I decided to have some fun and switch to the perspective of the recipient. Perhaps you will have a chuckle from this post -- intended to be slightly humorous and helpfully blunt. http://www.wordsonthefly.com/weblog/2010/04/a-plea-from-your-direct-mail-recipient/

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