Direct Mail Strategy: Pushing the Envelope

Marketing has changed dramatically over the years, but one medium that has remained constant is direct mail. Despite the influx of newer, easier, faster, flashier marketing methods brought on by the digital age, tried-and-true direct mail still delivers (see what I did there?). From major credit card companies to friendly neighborhood carpet installers, businesses large and small use the power of the envelope to reach their target audiences and seize their business. 

But there’s a big difference between an effective direct mail strategy that gives customers real value (shout out to Bed, Bath & Beyond with those big and bountiful 15% off postcards) and annoying junk mail that gets tossed into the recycling bin before it’s ever opened (No, Best Buy I do not want to buy warranty protection for my $40 FitBit knockoff!).

It Starts With the Envelope

It doesn’t matter what product you’re selling or service you’re offering; the envelope is the hardest working piece in a direct mail package. If it doesn’t get opened, all your work is for nada.

One highly effective direct messaging strategy is having none at all. A “blind” envelope is mysterious. Many consumers can’t help but take a peek inside, if only to see what this plain “official-looking” envelope contains. Blind envelopes perform especially well when there’s a plastic card inside. Nobody’s throwing away a plain white envelope with something that feels like a credit card inside. Our mothers have taught us better than that.

Envelope Teasers

There are 4 important factors to keep in mind when brainstorming ideas for envelope teasers. If you keep these factors in mind, you are sure to create an envelope that people can’t wait to open.


If what you’re offering is only available for a limited time, let your audience know that time’s running out. Even if time isn’t running out, let them know that it could be. Giving a deadline to reply makes it less likely that an envelope will sit on the kitchen counter.


As annoying as this acronym is, the fear of missing out is a thing. And it could work to your advantage. A local energy company sent me a mailing with the headline, “Right now, your neighbors are saving more money on their utility bills than you are. See inside for your new utility savings rate.” Um, I’ll be damned if I let the Petersons save more money than me! Envelope opened.


Everyone likes to feel special. Getting exclusive, “members-only” access to products and services lets them know you value their business. I recently received an all-white envelope from New York & Co. that read, “Eva Mendes wants you to have this.” C’mon now, who doesn’t want to know what Eva Mendes has in store for them? 


If you can offer real, tangible value to your customers, why not plaster it on the envelope and let the offer speak for itself? Does “15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance” sound familiar?

Just remember, whether you use provocative headlines, mysterious teasers, or no copy at all, you must make sure that your envelope does the one thing it’s designed to do — get opened.