We are about to look at the most important 20 seconds in the life of a sales piece. And I bet you can guess what they are.
It’s those first 20 seconds after your prospect sees your sales piece sitting in the pile of mail he just brought into the house, and what he does with it in the short window of time during which he decides whether to read it, or discard it.
That’s how long you have to grab his attention. Just 20 seconds. If you’re lucky. According to the German direct marketing researcher, Siegfried Vogele, this is what happens in those crucial 20 seconds:
During phase one, which lasts just 8 seconds, he looks at the piece, turning over the envelope, seeing how it’s addressed, examining the return address, reading any copy on the envelope, and then (maybe) tearing it open. During phase two, which is just 4 seconds, he looks at the contents, and before he’s read any of it, he forms an impression of the piece. Then in phase 3, which is just another 8 seconds, he quickly does a first run-through of the piece, reading headlines, glancing at pictures, and getting some first answers to his unconscious questions, and only if it seems like there’s something of value for him here, will he commit to a more in-depth reading.
This is the amount of time you have to engage him, assuming he finds enough of interest to keep him going for the full 20 seconds. If he doesn’t even get through phase one, he could toss the piece in the trash without even opening it.
So, for right now, I just want to narrow down our focus onto those first 8 seconds, and look at some of the things you can do to grab and hold your prospects’ attention long enough to get him to open the envelope, so you can get the rest of your 20 seconds to pull him into your piece.
Be a Tease
Putting some sort of teaser copy on the envelope is often a great attention grabber. Your teaser copy has to be intriguing and promise that there’s something inside that the reader will greatly benefit from reading. For example: “Inside! Free Gift!” or “How to Lose Weight Without Dieting! Details Inside.” This is also a good place to build a sense of urgency: “But you must respond within 7 days!”
If you have enough room, you might put some enticing bullet points: “The Secret of Quick Weight Loss Results, see page 5; Delicious Breakfast Recipe That Melts Fat Away, see page 8.”
And don’t forget, an envelope has two sides. As prospects turn the envelope over, copy on the back of the envelope could help clinch the decision to open it, so don’t let that valuable real estate go to waste.
In some cases, the best teaser copy is no teaser copy at all. Sometimes a plain envelope that looks like a personal letter may get opened quicker than one that obviously looks like a sales piece. I find that this approach can work when sending a special invitation-type mailing to a house list. But you won’t know what will work best in your niche or with your list unless you test it out.
Many Happy Returns
Another important element on the envelope is the return address. Sometimes using an appealing return address is to your benefit. If you’re a prestigious organization (like the Mayo Clinic) or you have a company name that carries a benefit (“The Greatest Business on Earth”), that could get the envelope opened.
But sometimes using just a person’s name, without the name of the company, or even just an address without the name of a person or a company, will be more intriguing and get prospects to open the envelope out of curiosity. Here again, only by doing your own research will you know what works best for you.
Some sales pieces don’t come in an envelope. If you send a postcard or a self-mailer, readers will immediately see your sales copy, and that means you have the opportunity to capture their interest with a great headline.
Just like an envelope teaser copy, your headline should refer to a problem readers want to solve, and promise that the solution they’re looking for can be found right there in the sales piece they’re holding in they’re hands.
A headline can have several parts. There can be a smaller teaser line above the main headline, and then there can be subheads under the main headline. All of it can tell a single story:
At Last, Get the Slim, Healthy Figure You’ve Dreamed Of Revealed Here: How to Lose Weight Without Dieting
Respond Within 7 Days to Receive Your Free Bonus: 101 Delicious, Fat-Melting Recipes
If your prospects can read all that in the first 8 seconds, and it strikes a chord, you can be sure they’ll want to learn more, and will look further into the piece.
There Is Nothing Like a Name
Nothing gets our attention like our own name. If you’re in a crowded noisy room, and someone says your name in the far corner, you’ll hear it and start looking around. It’s the same with reading your own name on a sales piece – in the headline!
If you can personalize your sales letters with each prospect’s name (“Craig, your free wealth-building guide is waiting for you!”), you will definitely get attention. Many marketers who want to get prospects to a website will use a PURL (personal URL) on postcards, self-mailers, or in the teaser copy of envelopes (“Visit www.DomainName.com/Craig.Simpson to claim your free gifts!”). This is a very powerful attention getter, and will usually arouse enough curiosity to get prospects to look further into your message.
Lumpy and Bumpy
Finally, your direct mail package itself will get lots of attention if it’s lumpy and bumpy. If it feels like something is inside the envelope that may be of interest (and the teaser copy should make sure prospects know there’s something fun or valuable inside – for example, “Free Sample Enclosed”), then that envelope WILL get opened.
Sometimes a package can have an unusual shape (you’d be surprised at the variety of shapes and objects the Post Office will allow you to mail, including coconuts!). Or the envelope can be an unusual color that really stands out in the pile of other envelopes.
There are companies that specialize in creating unusual items that you can adapt to your specific campaigns and mail. Do some research online, and you may get some really great ideas that can boost the open rate of your mailings.
Use Your Imagination
You read sales pieces, don’t you? What would interest you in getting past the envelope and into the body of the piece? Well, the readers you’re trying to attract are probably a lot like you. So use what you understand about yourself to get their interest too.
Remember, you have limited time to capture your reader’s attention. Use it well.