10 secrets for writing “open me” envelope teaser copy

June 17, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

Envelope teaser copy! Write envelope teaser copy? You mean copywriters have to actually write copy for envelopes?

Yes. I know many writers think the envelope is just a container for the earth-shattering letter they’ve written, but the envelope is arguably the most important element in any direct mail package.

Why? Because that’s the first thing people see when they open their mailbox. It’s the copy and appearance of the envelope that determines whether the envelope gets opened or trashed.

In case you missed it, here’s a refresher on the brutal reality of direct mail.

A big chunk of my work is writing direct mail, so I’ve had many years to think about the lowly envelope and the teaser copy that gets printed on it. Here are a few tips.

Get the look right. The envelope sets the tone for your entire direct mail package, so you must consider the impression it makes. Specifically, do you want it to look like advertising or a piece of regular mail?

If you want your piece to look like advertising, fine. Cover it with teaser copy and start selling right on the envelope. But sometimes people filter out “ad mail” with barely a glance. If that’s a concern, you might capture their  attention in a less direct way by using a “regular mail” format. These include:

  • Personal Correspondence — such as letters and cards
  • Financial Information — including bank statements, bills, and investment reports
  • Publications — such as magazines and newsletters you’ve subscribed to
  • Merchandise — all the things you’ve ordered or requested, such as books or samples

The idea is to make the piece look like an item they are more receptive to. It’s not about tricking people. It’s just about flying under their radar and giving yourself a few moments of their attention.

Follow headline rules. Teasers are basically headlines, so most of the same rules apply. Generate interest with a provocative statement. Provoke curiosity with a question headline or incomplete statement. State a problem on the envelope and suggest the solution is inside.

Here’s some additional information on writing headlines. If you want a little inspiration, look at these famous headlines.

Create tension. Don’t try to close. For most envelopes, you should create tension — an incomplete feeling, or a curiosity, that leads to opening the envelope. Inside, you’ll have more time and real estate to present your offer, tell your story, and close the deal.

Select your audience. Your reader needs to understand that your message is addressed specifically to him or her. Your reader should think, “This is for me. I might be interested in this.” Use key words that relate to your prospect’s interests or identity, such as “Exclusive offer for golfers inside.”

Use directive language. Even the most subtle commands can lead a person to do what you want. Urge your reader to open the envelope with simple copy such as “inside,” “see inside,” or “open immediately.” Combine this with a benefit to jumpstart your sales message: “FREE Recipes! Look inside …” or “How to pay $0 in taxes! See inside for details ….”

Consider involvement devices. Stickers, tokens, stamps, coins, scratch-offs, lift-up tabs, attached notes, seals, and other widgets can be used to good effect if there’s a budget for it, they can boost response enough to justify the added cost, and they fit logically with your message.

For example, magazine subscription offers sometimes use stickers on the envelope. There’s a “yes” and “no” sticker along with a teaser that says something like, “Will you accept 3 free issues of Country Home?” The person receiving this package must open the envelope and affix one of the stickers to the reply form.

Promise a benefit. The best teaser copy will state a clear benefit for your reader, but require opening the envelope, such as “Inside: A new way to cut your tax bill in just 5 minutes!” Just like a headline, a teaser must grab attention and lead the reader into the body copy. In this case, the body copy is everything inside the envelope.

Ask a question or offer a challenge. You could ask, for example, “How will the new tax law affect your retirement?” Then inside, you answer the question. You can challenge, “Are you part of the top 1% who qualifies for this free subscription?” Then inside, you explain the exclusiveness of the offer.

Make it look important. I don’t favor faux government mail or outright deceptive formats, but if your message is urgent or important, it should look that way. Use a rubber stamp effect with the words “Private and confidential.” Type the letter signer’s name above the return address. Use a craft colored envelope.

Stay thy hand. Sometimes the best teaser is no teaser at all.  Often plain, closed envelopes are more successful than envelopes covered with teaser copy because they reveal nothing. Your reader must open it to find out what it’s inside.

Some bosses or clients won’t like plain envelopes because they look like wasted space. They may think you’re being lazy and just don’t want to write a teaser. But I and many other experienced direct mail gurus have found that plain envelopes can work wonders. When in doubt, you can also suggest a test between a teaser envelope and a plain envelope.

Related posts:

  1. Fascinations: The art of writing compelling teaser copy
  2. An open letter to direct mail designers
  3. Convincing the gatekeeper: writing copy for the real decision maker
  4. Is your direct mail copy headed for the trash?
  5. Writing compelling copy with a stick and red feathers

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Smart Comments

4 Comments on 10 secrets for writing “open me” envelope teaser copy

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  1. Bradlee LaDaugheg on Jun 17th, 2010 4:03 pm
  2. If you want your direct mail envelope opened, forget all the hype and nonsense in this article. Instead, use a plain white envelope, and have it HAND-ADDRESSED by a HUMAN. Mail FIRST-CLASS. ADDRESS it to a PERSON whenever possible.

    This approach will give you an open rate 10x or more the typical direct mail approach. It will get your letter around gate-keepers and into the hands of the people you’re trying to reach. It is an order of magnitude more expensive but the returns will also be an order of magnitude better.

  3. Dean Rieck on Jun 17th, 2010 6:00 pm
  4. Bradlee,
    A plain, hand-addressed envelope is a good tactic. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

    [...] Related posts:10 secrets for writing “open me” envelope teaser copy [...]