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Small Business Consultant

Direct Mail For More Customers


Direct mail packages run the gamut from simple to sophisticated, straightforward to complex. There is no right or wrong way to structure a mailing — it all comes down to what works best for your purpose.


For example, if you’re a dentist or a chiropractor who has recently moved to a new location, you may want to send out a simple “hello” letter introducing yourself to potential new patients. Your “package” might be little more than a one-page letter in a plain business envelope.


On the other hand, if you’re a restaurant owner looking to drum up corporate Christmas party business, you might send a mailing to local companies that includes a letter from your catering director, a copy of your menu, a brochure on your banquet facilities, perhaps a brief separate note from you, and a reply device for reserving space in your reception hall or requesting a call-back from a banquet manager.


Basically, there are six potential components of a direct mail package:


  1. The carrier, or


  1. The sales


  1. A


  1. A “lift ”


  1. An order form/response


  1. A reply


The carrier is the outside packaging that holds all the components. It needs to be enticing enough to get the recipient to open it. Accordingly, there are a multitude of decisions to be made



about the envelope, including size, color, postage (meter versus live stamp), paper stock, and whether it should include pictures or “teaser” copy on the outside.


Think of the carrier envelope as doing the same job as an ad headline. Just as the ad headline entices you to read the ad, the job of the properly-crafted envelope is to get the letter opened.


Take a tested headline from your most productive display ad and put it boldly on the outside, lower left corner of your envelope. Or, pull down the first few words from your most effective sales pitch and put them on the outside or back of your envelope. Remember, space is limited.


Take note that postal restrictions limit your message to a certain portion of one side of the front and back of the envelope. (Check with your local Postmaster for current limitations.) You must be ruthless in condensing down to the most powerful, high impact words that arouse curiosity.

Differences in size, color, or stock can sometimes get an envelope noticed, but be careful

  • being too whimsical may affect whether the contents are taken seriously. Live postage (an actual stamp) has a more personal effect than metered or “bulk rate” postage, although it may not be practical or cost-effective with larger


As for teaser copy, many business owners opt not to use it because they believe it can make a package look like promotional junk mail. However, teaser copy may also lure the reader into opening an otherwise nondescript envelope. If you’re not sure whether to use teaser copy or not, my advice would be to test two different versions of the envelope and see which mailing pulls a greater response.

On the other hand, the envelope may be plain (white or colored), resembling a personal letter — with no hint as to its contents. By disguising your direct mail to look like personal correspondence, it can get by the secretary and avoid the circular file.

Some people put distinctive language on the upper left corner of their carrier envelopes, like “Executive Offices,” “President,” initials, “Research Department,” or “Treasurer.” Experiment and find what works best for you.

I’ve used both teaser copy and plain white envelopes. Both worked well, but for different purposes. Test to see which approach yields the most profitable response.

Keep a written record and a file of carrier envelopes that got your attention. Remember, the envelope must get opened in order for the enclosed letter to be read. Once this all-important task is done, the envelope’s job is over.

The sales letter is the actual sales pitch — the “beef” of your package. The letter relays what the product or service is and how it can benefit the customer. In short, the sales letter does everything that a traditional verbal sales pitch does.


Here are specific “missions” that your sales letter should fulfill:


  • It must get the reader’s attention with a powerful


  • The letter must show distinct advantages in the body


  • The letter has to prove or validate your claim of benefits or advantages through factual examples — comparisons, testimonials, or


  • The letter must persuade the reader to reach out and seize the advantage you promise.


  • The letter must motivate the reader to act, to respond, order, write, come in, or send back the


Many business owners cringe at the thought of sitting down and writing a sales letter. But trust me, you don’t need a dual degree in marketing and English to write a powerful sales letter. All you need is a sound knowledge of your product or service and a keen understanding of the benefit it brings to someone’s life or business.


Here’s what I suggest you do: Get a tape recorder. Then sit down comfortably with someone you trust and make the most compelling, one-on-one case you can for your product or service.

Answer every question that could be in a prospect’s mind. Challenge your friend or associate to ask you questions. Talk about the beneficial result your product or service provides. Put forth every compelling point, reason, and advantage it offers.

Be sure to record your session. Then get it transcribed and printed out. With just a little bit of editing, you will have written a tremendously powerful sales letter — without ever having to stare at a blank page!