We see it in our mailboxes all the time. The mail arrives, full of envelopes that are plain and, for the most part, do not stand out from one another. When it comes to customer engagement and response, this is a significant lost opportunity; this white space is something we should all take advantage of.

Mail volumes continue to decline, even though mail consistently ranks as the most trusted communication method, but one of the bright spots is that there is subsequently less competition for attention at the mailbox. Every company using envelopes should take advantage of that and utilize the information contained in this article as a call to action. Every organization struggles to satisfy their internal business units’ desire for space on the documents. This problem will probably never be fully resolved, but if there is unutilized white space on the envelope, much of this struggle can be resolved.

I come from a largely operational background. I look at the documents produced by organizations differently. I want to ensure that they are using the best technology possible to ensure that each envelope is accounted for and that the integrity of each is 100% accurate. The white space represented by these documents is what all business units fight over, but the envelope itself is often overlooked.

What are some strategies or uses for this space? Transpromotional messaging! The word “transpromotional” refers to printing messages on envelopes that are traditionally not produced for promotional purposes. By including a secondary message on nonpromotional mailings (monthly statements, policy updates, and even reply envelopes), any organization can enhance the value of this often-overlooked space.

Here are a few ways to maximize the envelope’s potential:

Reinforce your brand – The envelopes carrying your transactional documents provide a great opportunity to reinforce a company’s core values such as community involvement and philanthropic endeavors, or reveal policies people may not know about. For example, use the message to say, “Thank You,” announce a special promotion or new program, or provide an environmental policy message. Whatever the message, make it personal, timely, and relevant, and it is likely to be successful.

Cross-sell and up-sell – The envelope is the first thing the recipient sees when they pick up their mail. They will see the envelopes in their daily USPS Informed Delivery emails, and the messages you use can serve as a call to action. They can provide a helpful website or phone number and even drive traffic to websites directly from the daily emails. The message can engage customers in your latest cross-channel marketing efforts, give a discount, and/or promote pre-payment plans. The options are endless and the cost is often minimal. Statistics show that 60% of those surveyed were more likely to open an envelope containing color text (teaser) or a graphic than they would for an envelope containing neither.

Announce improvements or changes in service – What better place to do this than on the envelope? If you really want to make an impact, these messages can be produced in colors or with interesting fonts/graphics to maximize impact. You can increase testing options to see what works best. Almost every organizations has developments, announcements, and new products or services that they proud of, but these too often go unannounced because separate mailings to do so are often cost-prohibitive. Mail recipients are more than two and a half times more likely to open an envelope with color graphics on the front than one with black and white graphics in the same location.

Save postage through USPS incentive programs – There are six this year, and although some of the registration periods have passed, all are mentioned here. Mailers should stay updated on these promotions because they should be considered each year as a way for organizations to earn free postal credits. Some of the credits are provided at the time of mailing, while others are calculated as the mail pieces move through the USPS delivery network and create postage credits to be used by certain USPS mandated dates. In any event, the postal discounts are always valued and, in some cases, can more than compensate for any additional costs for the envelopes. Here are the six USPS promotions for 2020:

o 2020 Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Engagement Promotion

o 2020 Informed Delivery Promotion

o 2020 Emerging and Advanced Technology Promotion

o 2020 Earned Value Reply Mail Promotion

o 2020 Mobile Shopping Promotion

o 2020 Personalized Color Transpromo Promotion

All bear consideration, and here is a link from the USPS to more information you can research on each: https://www.usps.com/business/promotions-incentives.htm

Reinforce a good decision – Envelopes can be a powerful way to communicate what a good decision your customers and their family have made by doing business with your organization. In a world where there are literally thousands of messages hitting us all every day, the envelope can be the one message that is consumed at a time totally of the customer’s choosing. Most people value the time they spend with their mail, and the time they set aside to review it is generally relaxing and free of interruption whenever possible. This is the best time to tell them how much they are valued and why doing business with you is such a good decision.

Be creative and let your organization shine – Work with your operations teams (in-house or outsourced) to explore the technologies they possess to help with your efforts. They may be looking for ways to use some underutilized tools or justify some they feel they need. They will appreciate the challenge and introduce you to options that may be of great benefit. In operations today, there is nothing that is impossible (it is only data, as they say), and today’s technologies can make most of it straightforward and cost neutral. Partner with operations to explore the possibilities and really make your mail pieces stand out in the mailbox!

Always look for better results – The technologies available today effectively make it easier to change document formats to accommodate greater testing between your organization’s “challenger” and “champion.” Take advantage of it to drive better results! Even if your method has always worked, it can get better, and that benefits any organization. There is always room for improvement, and no organization should ever be so satisfied that they do not continue testing!

Studies have been conducted to identify the “hot spots” for these Transpromo messages. These “hot spots” are listed in order of where the eye of the recipient goes as they scan the mail piece. They are as follows:

1. Mailing address area – I want to make sure it is for me

2. Area to the left of the mailing address – Is there any offer I should consider

3. Return address area – Who is this from?

4. Postage area – What class? How much? When sent?

The fact that all of this is known and studied indicates that this is worth consideration. I know it works and is valuable, and your envelope vendor should easily be able to help you find more information. In closing, I am fortunate to have had a great deal of help with this article from a trusted envelope partner I have worked with for years. Likewise, your envelope vendors and the USPS will be of great help as you look at doing some of the above methods to increase the impact of your mail pieces!

Mark Rheaume is a Services Engineer, Enterprise Services Sales Engineering, at Ricoh USA, Inc. He has over 35 years of industry experience developing, designing, and implementing solutions. Mark is and has been an active member in several postal industry associations as a board member, speaker, and writer. These associations include: MTAC, Idealliance, NPOA, PCC, MSMA, Mailcom, NPF, and Printing Industries of Minnesota. He can be contacted at Mark.Rheaume@ricoh-usa.com.

This article originally appeared in the March/April, 2020 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.