Envelopes vs. Self Mailers -Which is Best?

By: Dan Kennedy on: June 4th, 2010 16 Comments

Direct mail marketing formats can first be basically divided into two categories, envelope or self-mailer. A self-mailer can be anything from a post card to an 8 ½ x 11″ sheet tri-folded, stapled and mailed as is all the way up to a catalog.

These types of mailings are what most people are thinking of when they talk about junk mail. And that is one of the big disadvantages of using these types of mailings. Many people throw them out almost immediately with just a glance.

The biggest advantage of self-mailer formats, of course, is their low cost. An envelope mailing is anything sent in a sealed envelope.

You should or at least can use the lower cost self-mailers when…..

#1: You are mailing to a list of your own established, loyal customers who will certainly be interested in your message and will read it just because it came from you. A clothing store might use a post card, for example, to inform regular customers that the new autumn fashions have arrived or that a special sale is going to take place.


#2: You are promoting a sale or other specialty event for a very well known, popular business and recipients will instantly identify the business and the nature of the offer. A tri-fold flyer might work well for a home improvement store, for example, promoting a spring fix up sale. People receiving it, who are do-it-yourselfers will probably look at it. The others will discard it and that’s okay.


# 3: If you’re tied to a very small budget.

You should try to avoid self-mailers when you are not mailing to your own customers. When prospecting for new business some type of envelope mailing is almost always more effective. Or, when you are telling a lengthy, detailed sales story.

Self-mailers need to be more like billboards than letters in most cases. People have difficulty accepting something as a letter when it doesn’t come in an envelope.

Other examples of when you should avoid using self mailers is if you are trying to get your message read by a person whose mail is probably screened, such as an executive or a doctor. Or, you need multiple pieces to properly present your offer and finally if you need to achieve an above average response rate.

There’s another very general rule of thumb; self-mailers are less acceptable and less effective in business-to-business marketing than in consumer marketing.

If you decide to use an envelope mailing you now have two other basic choices to make using what I call the billboard or the sneak up approach which I will explain in my next post.


Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to www.GKIC.com

16 Responses

  1. Rob Anspach says:

    A self mailer such as a postcard can get lost in the pile or may be labled junk mail right off the bat…an enveloped mailer will appear more direct and get more attention from the receiver. With an envelope there is more cost to mail but you can actually have more content (6page sales letters come to mind) and you can stuff an envelope with goodies (pens, magnets, oddball stuff) to get the recipients attention.

  2. Mike says:

    Great information here. I tend toward the envelope model.

  3. Jim Rowe says:

    When I go to my mailbox what mail do I open and why. Something needs to grab me and scream read me! Last year a company sent me a fake rolex with a compelling offer explaining if I used them I could afford the real thing. I already had two but the company is still in my head. The strange thing is they didn’t follow up with any other marketing.

  4. “Open” rates for folded self-mailer pieces can be enhanced with cosmetics and teaser copy, but these are great general rules to follow.

    I’ve also used a self-mailer as a 2nd or 3rd step in a sequence which includes a letter-in-an-envelope as Step #1, with good results.

    Looking forward to your next post…

  5. libby says:

    We use a very high class out of the ordinary 7″ square hard stock as the self mailer with a sales letter tied in with a ribbon so it looks like a fancy invitation to the b2b market. It is an outrageous piece of mail and should be successful. We are starting this campaign this week. I will follow up with results.

  6. Charles Ra says:

    self mailer or envelope? it had different responses for me according to the target list

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  8. Abe Mehner says:

    where is the best place to get good envelopes

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