By Dean Rieck

One of the beauties of direct mail is that it allows you to send people just about anything you can print. Your creative options are virtually endless. And while the standard envelope package is usually considered the most effective, there are plenty of other formats you can test. Here are a few ideas. 

Often an alternate format will increase response. But even if your response ends up being lower, many formats let you deliver your message at a reduced cost while maintaining enough response to offset the difference and give you more net profit. Take a look at a few format ideas: 

• Reduce costs with a self-mailer. It offers low cost and a quick read, good for quickly recognized content. It also helps speed response because it’s not as in-depth as a full package and looks more urgent and newsy. To make a self-mailer work at peak efficiency, combine elements of a standard direct mail package and a print ad. Include a strong headline in bold type, copy in easy-to-read sections, strong visuals, clear offer, reply card, toll-free number, message or mini-letter printed near the recipient’s address, feature list, testimonials, guarantee, and other elements as needed.

• Signal exclusivity with an invitation. To make an offer special, you can issue an invitation in the appropriate format, usually a smaller envelope and letter on high-quality paper. This works best for offers targeted to high-income prospects, professionals, and executive level positions; for events such as conferences, meetings, and presentations; or for offers that need a quality feel.

• Add urgency with a telegram. This is a good idea that is, unfortunately, wildly overused. It can be little more than an envelope design, such as “Urgent Gram,” “Speed Gram,” or some variation. Or it might be an envelope and letter combo resembling an actual telegram printed on yellow paper with tractor-feed holes down the sides of the letter. One way to make this format work is to create your own urgent-looking envelope for fulfillment materials. This allows the envelope to get noticed and assures that the contents will be relevant and interesting instead of boilerplate. 

• Create an official look with a snap-pack. This format is often used for official notices or statements, so it gives your ad message the same feel. And because the recipient has to rip open the edge of the envelope and pull out the contents, it creates involvement. It’s good for generating inquiries or for organizations with recognizable and trusted names. It has been used with particular success in the nonprofit sector to deliver what appears to be an urgent, cheap appeal for funds. 

—Source: Dean Rieck is a leading direct mail copywriter. For more copywriting and selling tips, sign up for Dean’s FREE direct response newsletter and get a free report, 99 Easy Ways to Boost Your Direct Mail Response.