Home > NewsRelease > #61 How to Create a Breakthrough Direct Mail Package Part I
#61 How to Create a Breakthrough Direct Mail Package Part I
Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert Denny Hatch -- Marketing Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia , PA
Tuesday, July 09, 2019


ISSUE #61 - Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Posted by Denny Hatch

How to Create a Breakthrough Direct Mail Package
Under normal circumstances, everything in this post would be highly confidential and shared only between a copywriter/designer and the client who paid for the service.
     Alas, after completing the assignment last January to everybody’s satisfaction, the client turned out to be a deadbeat and stiffed me. Now all bets are off. I am free to turn this painful experience into a teaching moment.
     In this epoch of direct marketing the Holy Grail is email and the Internet. In the minds of modern hotshot marketers, junk mail is complex, clunky, s-l-o-w and expensive as hell. In their minds, direct mail should be deader than Kelsey’s nuts.
     Whatever you take away from these posts, please remember Direct mail is the only safe medium for testing a new product or service. Use email, space ads, crowdfunding, skywriting and your newborn will be kidnapped by the Chinese and sold all over the world before you even have the financing in place.
     What’s more, all the rules and techniques of old-fashioned direct mail learned over the past 800 years directly apply to e-commerce.  
   So here goes.
A Fascinating Assignment
Last year I was contacted by Joe England, a brilliant, savvy direct mail consultant. He was frequently spoken highly of by one of my best clients over the years, the late Bob Doscher of Historical Times for whom I did a slew of (winning) mailings.
     England’s client, National Collector’s Mint, had a trove of shiny new uncirculated 19th and early 20th century Morgan Silver Dollars and wanted a new mailing.
     Joe sent me a stack of direct response offers mailed to coin collectors. The illustration at the top of this post is a sampling of what was out there. I was sure I could do better.
     We agreed on a fee—$4,000 for copy, design and all revisions. I went to work.

The typical direct mail package has six basic elements:
• Outside Envelope (OSE)
The attention-getter. This is the most fun piece to create, because it is designed to pop out from everything else in the mail box. My great boss and mentor, Walter Weintz, said you always start with the envelope. Others (myself included) disagree. The OSE should be the last thing in the creative process—the WOW! factor that gives the prospect a sudden big itch that needs serious scratching. It's the icing that sells the cake. 
• Letter
According to Walter Weintz, there are three kinds of copy: “YOU” copy, “I/ME” copy and “IT” copy. You copy is the intimate me-to-you message that touts the benefits to you, to your life, and to your career of this indispensable product or service.
     “A letter should look and feel like a letter,” wrote the legendary guru Dick Benson. For many years of mechanically produced intimate communications, only one typeface was available­--Courier or typewriter type--the font you are reading now. I love it. It has warmth. It has personality. When you receive a letter in Courier, it means somebody spent time lovingly hunting-and-pecking on an old keyboard just for you.
• Circular
The circular is the “IT” copy. It is about “IT”—the product or service being offered. It shows and describes the features (as opposed to touting benefits), with headlines, subheds, call-outs, facts, factoids, photos, charts, graphs and tables. It is an advertisement within the package and appeals to the Left Brain, data-driven person. For this piece, use a standard serif font. 
     In the early days of direct mail, the element with the Courier/typewriter font was easily identifyable as the letter.

Order Form
This is the “I/ME” copy. "YES! Send me the gadget, whitepaper, gizmo, membership or whatever. I understand it comes with the following guarantee that I may cancel and I can return it any time within the next 60 days, blah, blah, blah."
     The late freelancer Chris Stagg told me the first element he created was the order card. This compresses the entire mailing into a small space—the product, the price, the offer, the terms and conditions, return procedures, etc. Once the order from is set, “everything is fixed in my head and I can go onto create the sex appeal and romance,” Stagg said.

• BRE—Business Reply Envelope
The pre-paid postage envelope brings the order home.

Any and All Bells and Whistles
The extra goodies you can include—lift pieces, freemiums, Post-It notes, etc. The great direct marketing guru Dick Benson wrote “Additional elements more than pay for themselves."

Where to Start with the Morgan Silver Dollar Mailing
The first step: look at an NCM order form to see a typical offer to coin collectors from these people.
Aha! The Mint seemed to be happy to sell one coin. However, if collectors wanted more than one, quantity discounts were available.
     The old Ed Mayer rule: Success in direct mail is 40% lists, 40% offer and 20% everything else.
     In this case, list research—that first 40%—was not a factor. These were all coin collectors.
     That meant the offer represented 80% of the success. If I could come up with a spectacular offer—one that had never been tested to coin collectors—we might have breakthrough.
     Obviously a $1000 dollar order was preferable to a $103 order.
     Here is the envelope I sent Joe England, asking him to send it to the Mint to see if I were out of my mind.

When I food shop at the Acme in Philly, I am a sucker for their “Buy One Get One FREE” offers. Two questions for NCM:
     • Would the Mint go along with “Buy 10, Get One Free?”
     • How about a shiny embossed silver foil Morgan Dollar on the envelope?
     Awaiting Joe’s reply, I started doing serious research on these coins:
     • George T. Morgan, the sculptor
     • Philadelphia elementary school teacher Anna Willness Williams who posed as the Godess of Liberty—a real home-grown American beauty (as opposed to a classical visage from a Greek statue).
     • The design, production and the distribution of the Morgan Dollar over the years.
     • Stories and inside gossip about the coin and its history.
Absolutely not! Too expensive!
That was Joe’s and the Mint’s reaction to an embossed silver foil coin on the envelope.      
     Meanwhile, the bean counters at National Collector’s Mint were looking into the affordability of “Buy 10, Get One FREE!” concept.
     The envelope copy with the offer was also verboten.
Nine Basic Direct Mail Rules (etched into my DNA)
“There are two rules and two rules only in Direct Marketing,” said entrepreneur/freelancer Malcolm Decker:
#1. Test everything.
#2. See Rule #1.
#3. “Don’t test whispers.” (E.g., Don’t test blue paper vs pink paper. Don’t test $49.95 vs. $49.99. Test $49.99 vs. $99.99. Testing is expensive. Go for breakthroughs.) —Ed Mayer
#4. “The envelope has two purposes only,” said the great copywriter, author, Herschell Gordon Lewis. “To get itself opened…
#5. “…and to keep the contents from spilling onto the street.”
#6. “Never put your offer on the outer envelope.” —Axel Andersson
Three Rules for Breaking the Rules, by Bob Hacker
#7. “Play by the rules until you have solid controls; you have a higher chance of success and less risk.”
#8. “Break the rules after you have solid controls, because in breaking rules, the risk—and sometimes the cost—is much higher.”
#9. “There are two ways to find a breakthrough:  Play the rules better than anybody else.  Break the rules better than anybody else!”
     My rationale for breaking the rules by putting the offer on the envelope was this: 
     The target audience is coin collectors. They buy in quantity. They have never seen a “Buy-ten-get-one-FREE!” offer. I felt this offer jumping out at them in their stack of daily mail would be so intriguing they would open the envelope out of curiosity to see the details.
The Good News
The Mint folks sharpened their pencils and decided the “Buy-Ten-Get-One-Free idea was worth testing.
     Just not on the outside envelope, please.
     That said, below is the revised envelope I sent to Joe England:

 Denny Hatch’s Revised OSE
Final National Collector’s Mint Outside Envelope
Imagine if the coins were bright gleaming silver embossed foil! Wow!

To be continued….


Word count:1388
At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press. He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletter and archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 years he has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.

Denny Hatch
The St. James
200 West Washington Square, #3007
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-644-9526 (Rings on my desk)

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