Package Design – Envelope or Self-Mailer/Postcard?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Most novice direct mailers assume a postcard or self-mailer is automatically the most productive way to go. They are cheaper and the advertising message is more easily read since an outer envelope does not cover it. However, in over thirty years in the direct mail industry, we’ve discovered that a letter (more often than not) will perform better – securing more leads, members, subscribers or purchasers than a postcard or self-mailer, even when the increased costs of postage, printing and mailing are taken into account.
With direct mail, one thing is very certain. The more personalized your mailing, the more likely its recipient will read it and take action. That’s why letter packages are so powerful. Real people send things in envelopes to other real people. And consumers, especially in this day and age, want to be catered to on a personal level. Nothing gets a busy prospect’s attention like a big thick envelope with a strong message called a “teaser” printed on the outside. Our research has shown that most Americans quickly thumb through their mail, opening most envelopes to quickly examine what’s inside – in case there is a check, valuable coupon or even a bill. At that point a savvy marketer has the near complete and undivided attention of their target audience and a potentially unlimited amount of space to dazzle and impress them.
With a postcard or self-mailer, however, consumers seem to spend less time examining the mailpiece, instead instantly categorizing them as “junk mail” as they pull them out of their mailboxes. The very open and bold way a postcard or self-mailer proclaims your advertising message is the very reason they may not be as effective as a traditional letter. Plus, due to various U.S. postal regulations, marketers are limited in how big or complex they can make their postcard or self-mailer. The more complex your offer and the more words needed to explain and sell it, the less likely a postcard or self-mailer will work for you.
That is not to say that post cards and self-mailers are a waste of direct mail dollars. If your budget is limited or your advertising message is extremely simple, these formats may be perfect for you. The only certain way to determine which format you should use is to conduct a test. Mail the same offer via both a letter package and postcard - then measure which results in the greater number of inquiries or sales.
In our experience letter packages almost always work best when selling technology products, magazine/newspaper subscriptions, telephone service, high-end prestige consumer goods, professional services, financial products - including loans and credit cards - or when soliciting contributions through the mail.
Postcards and self-mailers seem to work best
for providing coupons to previous customers, announcing
sales or inviting customers to a grass-roots style
marketing event or selling lower-end consumer
goods where a “no frills and low price”
sales message is important.