Pros and Cons of Self-Mailers
By Alan Sharpe
Business-to-business direct mail marketers have
learned through testing that a letter in an envelope
usually generates more sales and pulls more
inquiries than a self-mailer will. Usually.
Self-mailers are still effective at selling products
and services and generating leads, particularly in
the following cases:
* seminar invitations
* event announcements
* trade show booth traffic generation
* software upgrade offers
* mailings to prospects who do not have a mailroom
screen their mail (barbershops and factory foremen,
* mailings where you want the prospect to pass along
the mailing to colleagues
ADVANTAGES OF SELF-MAILERS
1. Cost: The primary advantage of self-mailers is
their lower cost. Because they mail on their own,
they are cheaper to print, are easier to assemble
(no need to match addressee on letter with envelope
with reply card), and require less handling (no
envelope and lettershop inserting costs).
2. Simplicity: Self-mailers are usually easier to
design. A graphic artist does not have to design a
mailing envelope, letter and brochure, but instead
designs one sheet of paper front and back.
3. Space: Self-mailers are a cost-effective way to
present a lot of product photos, graphs, charts and
4. Flexibility: Self-mailers can be as simple as a
sheet of stock folded in half or as complicated as a
large sheet of stock folded in ingenious ways, with
tear off coupon, order form and pre-formed business
reply envelope all in one.
DISADVANTAGES OF SELF-MAILERS
1. Performance: They hardly ever outpull the same
information enclosed in an envelope.
2. Appearance: Self-mailers also yell “promotional
message inside.” They are, by their very function,
promotional. No one sends a personal message to
friends in a self-mailer.
3. Tone: Self-mailers look less personal than
envelopes do. And when you are writing to
businesspeople, you want your correspondence to be
peer-to-peer, not vendor-to-customer.
These are some of the reasons that self-mailers
perform poorly compared with envelope mailings.
Particularly in business-to-business lead
generation, you want your direct mail piece to be
perceived as professional and personal. If you are
mailing to prospects in the C-suite (chief executive
officer, chief financial officer), a letter in an
envelope is the method that has proven most
effective over the years.
So how do you decide if a self-mailer is better than
a letter and an envelope? You test. Create a
cost-efficient format, find a good printer, and test
the self-mailer against a standard envelope mailing.
If you are doing a first-time mailing for a new
product or service, I’d go with an envelope, letter,
brochure and reply card first. Then test a
self-mailer against it later.
--- Alan Sharpe is president of Sharpe Copy, Inc. (www.sharpecopy.com),
a B2B direct mail copywriting firm.