[MAIL FORMAT SERIES] Meet the Letter Pack

Best uses of Letters / Letter Packs in Direct Mail: Fundraising Letters, B2B, Financial.




July 30, 2015

Part of our series where we seek to uncover the most effective formats for your specific marketing objectives.

Letter Pack Examples

The Letter, Defined

The United States Postal Service (USPS) defines a letter as any mail piece within the following dimensions, which includes any rectangular postcard or self-mailer that fits that description.

  • Minimum Height: 3-1/2" Maximum Height: 6-1/8"
  • Minimum Length: 5" Maximum Length: 11-1/2"
  • Minimum Thickness: 0.007" Maximum Thickness: 0.25"

For the sake of this article, we will refer to anything that is mailed inside of an envelope as a letter, also often referred to as a letter pack.

Some standard envelope sizes:

  • #6-1/4: 3-1/2 x 6”
  • #6-3/4: 3-5/8 x 6-1/2”
  • #7: 3-3/4 x 6-3/4”
  • #7-3/4: 3-7/8 x 7-1/8”
  • #8-5/8: 3-5/8 x 8-5/8"
  • #9: 3-7/8 x 8-7/8”
  • #10: 4-1/8 x 9-1/2”
  • #11 4-1/2 x 10-3/8”
  • #12: 4-3/4 x 11"
  • #14: 5 x 11-1/2”
  • A-6: 4-3/4 x 6-1/2”
  • A-7: 5-1/4 x 7-1/4”
  • A-8: 5-1/2 x 8-1/8”
  • A-9: 5-3/4 x 8-3/4”
  • A-10: 6 x 9-1/2”

Some common inserts:

  • Most obviously—a letter! Business owners are often tempted to mail marketing material alone, however those materials are generally more well-received after the recipient reads a personalized letter warming them up to the value provided in the brochure. A letter also helps the recipient’s thought process flow more effortlessly, since the first question they are sure to ask themselves upon opening the envelope is “Who is this and why are they mailing to me?”
  • Brochure or flyer. A brochure or flyer is often a good addition to a personalized letter as it allows for an expanded explanation of services. While the letter is intended to pique the interest of the recipient, a brochure gives more real estate for information and images.
  • Buck slip. A buck slip provides the mailer extra space to highlight their message. Depending on the purpose of the letter, the buck slip might emphasize the call-to-action, explain a specific product in more detail, or simply be an additional piece of branding tied in with the letter. They are generally more graphic heavy than the letter and smaller in size.
  • Reply envelope. Often times the mailer will provide a means for the recipient to respond within the letter pack by providing a reply envelope. A Business Reply Envelope, or what we call a BRE, covers the cost of postage for the recipient, so all they have to do is include their reply card (or in many cases, a check) and drop it in the mail. A Courtesy Reply Envelope (CRE) requires the recipient to front their own postage before dropping it in the mail, but at least saves them the time of getting their own envelope and addressing it properly.

Design Options

Larger Than Letter-Sized Envelopes

According to the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) 2013 Statistical Fact Book, larger than letter-sized envelopes are 6% more likely to be read and about 7% less likely to be discarded than a letter-sized envelope (Treatment of Standard Mail Piece by Shape report). Larger than letter-sized envelopes are non-machineable, and therefore qualify at a higher postage rate. In some industries, the gain from one response outweighs the additional postage costs.

Inclusion of a BRE or a CRE

Best practice is to provide as many channels for a person to respond without creating confusion, and inclusion of a BRE is just one of those channels. Simple enough, all the recipient has to do is complete the reply card provided and drop it in the envelope.

Teaser Text on Outer Envelope

By printing a personalized message on the outside of a letter, the recipient is given an idea of what waits for them inside. If chosen carefully, this text can increase the likelihood of the letter getting opened. This is where you put your most appealing messaging, using words like ‘free,’ ‘exclusive,’ ‘now’ and ‘valuable.’

Best Uses for Letters

Fundraising Mail

Letters have always played a substantial role in fundraising because of their one-to-one, personal nature. Regular direct mail appeals are the main revenue driver for many non-profits. Beyond the personal feel, which is absolutely essential to effective fundraising, letters cut through the digital clutter by arriving right at your donor’s mailbox, and provide an easy way for them to send their donation.

B2B Prospecting

Similar to the non-profit sector, business-to-business dealings are all about building relationships. And as much as a coupon postcard sent from a grocery store improves your perception of a brand and makes you likely to shop with them, this impersonal approach doesn’t build a strong relationship from one person to another. However, if a business owner takes the time to sit down and craft you a personal letter, this is more apt to make a good impression and nurture the business relationship.

Disseminating Personal Information

For items such as financial statements, medical records, personal documents, or other sensitive information, it makes sense for a mailer to use an envelope where the information within is protected. Tinted envelopes add an extra layer of protection, prohibiting unapproved eyes from looking through an envelope at the information within.

Top Takeaways with Letters

  • Letters are arguably the most personal approach in direct mail.
  • By enclosing your letter in an envelope, you have the opportunity to include other supporting items with it—buck slips, brochures, reply envelopes and more.
  • Envelopes provide the most secure and private means of sending information through the mail.

Finding the right format is about understanding your objective: If your objective requires taking a personal approach in your marketing messages, a letter is a prime means of connecting with your audience.

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