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8 Tips to Get People to Open Direct Mail

Posted By Kate-Madonna Hindes, Friday, April 3, 2015

If you’re anything like me, you spend a good portion of your morning cleaning out your inbox, quickly deleting emails that you deem uninteresting or irrelevant. Those emails have about two seconds to grab my attention, to make me want to open them.

Then you come home from the office and grab your mail. Almost as rapid-fire as the morning’s “delete email” process, many mail pieces find their way into my recycling bin. Eye-catching helps. Design helps. Color helps. But it is no easy task for a piece of mail to land on my “keep and open” pile.

If you’re in the world of marketing, you want to be one of the lucky ones – one of the chosen emails that get clicked through, read and shared. One of the mail pieces that gets opened, read and saved. But how can you up your chances?  Here are some tips that will help make this happen:


1) Intrigue with Your Subject Line

There is something to be said for creating a subject line that grabs attention, since many times, that might be the only shot you’ve got to get someone to even open the email. I believe the subject line is the most important part of the entire email.  You know to whom and why you are reaching out, so be sure to think about that before selecting the type of subject line you want. Some pointers:

  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Use controversy, shock, humor, personalization, mystery, alliteration, questions, a promise of a list (I’m much more likely to open an email that says “Top 10 Best Minnesota Pizza Joints” or “Who Likes Deep-Dish Pizza?” than one that says “Minnesota Pizza Places.”)
  • Avoid spammy words such as “Buy Now” or “Free”
  • Creating a sense of urgency can work to your advantage. If today is the last day for me to register at an early bird rate, you better believe I’ll want to know that in my subject line.
  • Leave ‘em hangin’. If you really want a high open rate, feed people a taste but don’t offer up the whole menu. “The scholarship winners are…” or “You’ll never believe who is coming to the XYZ event…”


2) Know Your Audience

Do you have a quality email list? What does everyone on the list have in common? Do they share a career choice? Would they all benefit from attending a specific conference? Are they all in one part of the country? To what kind of niche are you reaching, and why? Find the commonality and use it to your advantage when writing your email. Not only will it make it feel more personal to the reader, but it will be more effective in achieving its end goal. 


3) Get to the Point

If I open an email and have to scroll more than once, forget about it. Keep your emails short and to the point. You know why you’re writing it, so let your readers know right up front. Of course, you can  (and should) add some information backing up the point, but pour all of that out after you’ve made your point. Don’t overwhelm your reader. This can be said for the content within an email as well as the regularity of blasting out the emails. If a company sends me more than three emails per week, I’m much more tempted to hit the Unsubscribe button.


4) Choose the Best Send Time

People sleep at night, so don’t send a blast email during the night. Then they wake up , buzz through their inbox while sipping their coffee, and are much more generous in their delete selection than they would be if they received that same email in the middle of their day. For business-related emails, try avoid sending on Mondays, Fridays, and weekends.




1) Make it Visual

The layout matters. The image/word relationship matters. A clean visual look that does not overwhelm or bore me? Yup. It matters. If you know who will be receiving this mail piece, use your best judgment to gear your look towards what will entice them most. A big part of marketing is knowing your market.


2) Cover Your Basics

There are some important pieces you’ll never want to forget on a mail piece – your brand, event dates, locations, and times. Assume people know nothing and start from square one. Hit them with the specifics once the important, basic stuff is out of the way.


3) Consider Your Medium

How will your message be received? A back-to-back postcard may hold less information but can pack more punch sometimes than a full catalogue. An envelope can serve as just one more figurative wall for recipients to break through to get to your message, so be sure to consider that. Obviously, items sent as a different size or on a special paper, etc. will be much more attention-grabbing, but also will be much more expensive to create.


4) Make it Personal

If done tastefully and smartly, customizing a mailing with a name or another tidbit of personal information can be very beneficial. It can make a person feel more like an individual rather than just one of the herd. And who wants to be a part of the herd? Not me.


This post was written by Nicki Brunner. Nicki is Ewald Consulting's Art Director. 

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