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The Unsung Hero of Direct Mail: Your Outer Envelope

Did you know the success of your next direct mail package hinges on the outer envelope (OE)?

The purpose of this white paper is to provide direct mail managers, writers, designers, and creative directors with tools for creating more effective OEs. These are envelopes that will help you increase response, beat your control, and generate a positive return on your direct mail investment.
An OE is much more than just a piece of paper with ink on it that’s folded and glued to form a carrier for other pieces of paper. Direct mail envelopes have multiple responsibilities – all of them strategically important.

In direct mail, the envelope must:

  • Meet USPS regulations for deliverability
  • Deliver its contents with postage attached
  • Get past the scrutiny of the person(s) screening the mail
  • Catch the eye of the intended recipient
  • Get opened so its contents can be read
  • Support your brand and sales proposition to generate action, aka response
That’s why an outer envelope shouldn’t be an afterthought or left to someone who doesn’t understand the nuances of creating effective direct mail. Your direct mail’s ROI is at stake.

Reorient Your Thinking

This may surprise you but your outer envelope is every bit as important as the letter or 4-color brochure you insert into it. If your envelope doesn’t get opened, it doesn’t matter what’s inside. That’s why experienced direct mail writers and designers often create the OE first and use it to jumpstart the rest of their creative efforts. Think of the OE as a salesperson’s handshake or the display window in a store. Your envelope introduces who you are and what you’re about while encouraging your reader to want to know more.

When Every Second Counts

Studies show and common sense confirms, your mailing is in a race against time. That's why it's important to familiarize yourself with direct mail's three minute and 33 second (3:33) rule. It's a reminder of the speed with which poorly planned envelopes end up in the recycle bin.

The 3:33 rule suggests you have:

  • 3 seconds or less for your envelope to stand out in the mail and stay out of the trash ...
  • 30 seconds to engage the reader enough to get your envelope opened and make the short stack for later reading ...
  • 3 minutes or less for getting the envelope's contents read and response generated.
The OE is the kick-off for all that happens (or doesn't happen) during that 3:33. Make sure yours is working overtime at doing its job.
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