Why teaser-free envelopes work so well

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the FundRaising Success Virtual Conference & Expo. My talk was called “25 Good Ideas for Improving Your Fundraising and One Bad Idea.” (You can still see/hear this talk, as well as the good material from the conference until August 24 by registering here.)

Idea20

Here’s Idea #20: Leave off the teaser. Teaser-free envelopes out-perform those with teasers more often than not. I’m not the first to have noted this. Probably anyone who’s done a lot of direct mail testing knows this.

A lot of people agree with Idea #20. (Not all my ideas get that warm a reception.) They really seem to enjoy it, talk about it, and pass it along.

But the reason many people give for the success teaser-free envelopes is this: A teaser doesn’t work because makes a piece of mail look junky.

Now we can’t know for sure why things work and don’t work. But I’m pretty sure that particular reason is dead wrong.

Here’s what makes me think that: I have seldom seen a nicer, more classy, more professional piece of direct mail out-perform a more junky piece. Time after time, junk beats class. Did I say “beats”? I should say junk kicks class’s butt. Hands down, nearly every time.

Seriously, if you want to improve your results, make your mail uglier. That’s how consistent that pattern is.

So I’m confident that a teaser-less envelope usually wins for some other reason than it looks less junky. My own explanation is that most teasers are lame. The typical teaser is basically like this:

WARNING! There is an appeal for money inside. It’s a lot like all the other appeals for money you get. If you read it, you’ll be uncomfortable until you either forget or write a check. Take your pick. Oh yeah: There are some free address labels inside too.

Nobody tries to write teasers like that. But that’s how most of them come out.

Saying nothing at all is better than saying something lame.

But while you’re at it, don’t assume that the style you like is the style that works. It seldom is.


Comments

6 responses to “Why teaser-free envelopes work so well”

  1. I agree with you about leaving off teasers, and I agree that most teasers are lame. I disagree that the reason is solely because of lameness, and not because it looks junky.
    First, I actually don’t think it’s a matter of classy vs. junky, but rather that teasers look like obvious junk mail. Even well done ones. A sloppy, handwritten envelope is not necessarily as pretty as a clean, professionally printed one with a teaser. But it will be more effective because the one with the teaser is obviously junk mail.
    Second, I think maybe for older generations ugly works. But you now have an entire generation that expects good design in everything. I know you think younger donors are irrelevant (or was it nonexistent?), but for those organizations that do have younger donors (or hope to), I don’t think quality design is something that can be ignored. Teasers are still lame though.

  2. I agree with you about leaving off teasers, and I agree that most teasers are lame. I disagree that the reason is solely because of lameness, and not because it looks junky.
    First, I actually don’t think it’s a matter of classy vs. junky, but rather that teasers look like obvious junk mail. Even well done ones. A sloppy, handwritten envelope is not necessarily as pretty as a clean, professionally printed one with a teaser. But it will be more effective because the one with the teaser is obviously junk mail.
    Second, I think maybe for older generations ugly works. But you now have an entire generation that expects good design in everything. I know you think younger donors are irrelevant (or was it nonexistent?), but for those organizations that do have younger donors (or hope to), I don’t think quality design is something that can be ignored. Teasers are still lame though.

  3. I am confused. Do you feel teasers are effective or not?

  4. I am confused. Do you feel teasers are effective or not?

  5. Hi Jeff
    I couldn’t agree with you more and have found the same to be true when marketing planned gifts. So, your wisdom applies not just to direct mail fundraising but to planned giving as well.
    Phyllis

  6. Hi Jeff
    I couldn’t agree with you more and have found the same to be true when marketing planned gifts. So, your wisdom applies not just to direct mail fundraising but to planned giving as well.
    Phyllis

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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