We may live in a digital, online age, but every day people still open up their mailboxes to see what’s inside. And every day people actually open the mail they find inside. Why do they do that?
Here are five reasons people still open their mail—and some thoughts about how those same motivations can work for your direct mail efforts.
1. People open mail that’s from someone they know.
We’re all hesitant to open a letter from someone we don’t know. We’ve been conditioned to mistrust strangers—especially when it comes to direct mail. We know that it’s probably just someone trying to sell us something we don’t want. But when we see something from someone we know or trust (even if that’s a business or organization with whom we’ve had positive dealings), we’re much more inclined to open an envelope to see what’s going on. If you’ve built this kind of relationship with clients, donors, or other constituents, they will probably open a letter from you. Just make sure they know it’s from you.
2. People open mail that promises to answer a burning question.
If you have information that can genuinely help someone—solve a problem, answer a question, provide relief, etc.—use that promise on the outside of your envelope as a teaser. But it has to be something your audience really wants to know (not a sales pitch). Your letter will probably get opened. Just make sure you deliver what you promise once they read the letter.
3. People open mail that appeals to their emotions.
It could be a cause, a social need, or something else that they are passionate about. It’s OK to elicit emotion and passion. Just be careful not to manipulate people or their emotions. And if you use emotion on the outside, make sure you follow through and address the cause for the emotion inside.
4. People open mail that intrigues them.
If your teaser copy can raise an interesting or intriguing question—especially one that matters to your readers—you have a better chance of getting your envelope opened. It doesn’t have to be serious. Sometimes people are just looking for something fun. Once again, however, make sure you deliver what you hint at on the envelope.
5. People open mail that looks important.
Mail that looks like it’s from the government or a financial institution that has sober (or even alarming) copy on the outside generally get opened. But unless you’re a government agency or a financial institution and the “warning” is legitimate, don’t do this! You may get away with it one time, but people don’t like being tricked. You probably won’t get the response you want if they do open your letter. And they will never open one from you again.
Even in a digital age people still open their mail—if they have the proper motivation. Your job is to figure out what that motivation is—and then to deliver what you promise on the outside of the envelope.