Your Envelope Is a Subject Line

I came home to a full mailbox tonight, and I mean “real” mail, print mail, not my e-mail inbox. It’s that time of year: I got five catalogs, a christmas card from my aunt, and three “year-end giving” asks from non-profits I’m somehow affiliated with.

But out of those three fundraising requests, two of them arrived in envelopes without a return address and with no indication of who the sender was.

Why would I even open that letter?

I can tell from the postmark that it was sent by SOME nonprofit, because it has the non-profit postage rate on it, but there is nothing on this envelope that motivates me to bother ripping it open.

In Breaking the Fifth Wall, we talk about how the subject line is the most important part of your e-mail. It’s a marketing message! And even though roughly 70 percent of people on your list may not open that e-mail, they will still see the subject line in their inbox. You should make sure you’re using it to communicate a message of value.

So if you think about it, isn’t your envelope actually the subject line of your direct mail? Don’t waste that space with snowflakes or “Season’s Greetings” if you don’t also at least make sure I know who you are. You might even consider printing your main “ask” right there on the envelope itself. That way, even though I still might not open the letter, you’ve at least made a brief impression on me between my mailbox and recycling bin. And when I sit down this weekend to make my year-end online donations to various organizations, I’m that much more likely to include your organization on my list because you’ve caught my attention for a moment and asked, even though I didn’t open your mail.

It turns out that the lessons we’ve learned from e-mail can be applied back to direct mail: just as your subject line is a marketing message, your envelope is, too!

Twice a month I offer expansions on the themes and topics that Michelle Paul and I wrote about in our book, Breaking the Fifth Wall: Rethinking Arts Marketing for the 21st Century. If you like these, you can buy the book from us here, or on Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Nobles’ Nook.

This week’s post is from Michelle.

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