Blank carrier envelopes usually outperform envelopes with teasers. It’s sad. We work so hard to create teasers that will improve response. But a blank envelope beats one with a teaser about 75 percent of the time.
You might conclude from this that saying nothing is better than saying anything at all. That would be a mistake. What we actually learn is that most teasers don’t do their jobs. Think of it this way: A blank envelope is going to get opened by a certain percentage of people. A teaser should improve on that. Most do worse.
Does that mean we should give up on teasers entirely? Sure, if you’re the timid, low-risk type. Remember, when a teaser succeeds, it improves on baseline performance — you can get meaningful extra revenue if you nail it.
I know two ways to improve on a blank envelope:
1. Increase the mystery. A plain envelope begs to be opened, just so you can find out what’s inside. Most teasers fail because they remove that mystery, all but saying, “Enclosed: the same old appeal for money that you’ve seen a million times.” Try an oddball phrase (like “MESSAGE ENCLOSED”), a single word (like “Tuesday”) or just an image that doesn’t quite make sense (like a coffee ring or a fingerprint). Make a reader stop cold, wondering what it means.
2. Decrease the mystery. Make it completely clear what’s inside, so people want to open it. This only works if you have something in there that everyone wants, like a truly excellent offer. “Matching Funds Double Your Gift” comes to mind. And, as most donors want newsletters, “Newsletter Enclosed” is one of the best teasers around.
Longer letters perform better.
The most read part of the letter is the P.S.
Religious people give more to nonreligious causes than do nonreligious people.
The most powerful predictor that a donor will give is the recency of her previous gift.
Typos improve response.