Used to be BFF

Ad agency new business, you’re such a fickle mistress.

As an agency principal and/or new business director, you’re given a great deal of advice, but one channel you rarely see mentioned as of late is direct mail, and more specifically, the envelope.

Ad Agency New Business


The envelope gets no love, does it? It’s funny, we’ve actually heard scoffing at the notion of prospecting with mail as a channel these days: come on over to the 21st century, traditional ways aren’t effective anymore, etc.

We would heartily disagree.

As with anything, balance is key and a mix of channels is key to the effort.

Yes, even today, a mailed piece can be a compelling tool in your new business arsenal if used effectively.

The first step to that effectiveness is the envelope. Per Dean Rieck’s article, Write direct mail envelopes that get opened at the Direct Creative Blog:

The envelope determines whether your direct mail package gets opened or trashed. . . Aside from holding together the contents until delivered, an envelope has only one job: to get opened.

Absolutely true.

In these days of social media and email, a well-developed mailer can open doors and serve as the focal point of an initial prospect conversation.

One mistake some agencies make is thinking they have to spend an inordinate amount of money on very expensive mailers, not so. Starting with a simple tweak like a different size or color can make a difference.

In Dean’s article, he gives 12 great tips on how best to get that envelope opened.

Caveat that this piece wasn’t written for ad agency new business per se, so while not not every one of these suggestions fits agency new business like a glove, each can be adapted to make your envelopes stand out. My four favorite below:

-Follow headline rules to write teaser copy. Generate interest with a provocative statement. Provoke curiosity with a question headline or incomplete statement. State a problem on the envelope and suggest the solution is inside. Teaser copy acts like a headline and leads people to read the letter.

-If you’re mailing to a business, use a low-key approach. Most business-to-business mail is intercepted by a secretary, assistant, or mail room. If it looks too much like advertising, it may get trashed. You stand a better chance of reaching your prospect if your envelope looks personal, important, and businesslike. Less is also more for offers that may meet some resistance at first glance and need more selling, which is best done in a letter.

-If you use a blank envelope, make it completely blank. Not a single word of teaser copy. No graphics. Perhaps not even your logo. Just a street address in upper left corner and your delivery address. You might include the letter signer’s name in the corner card, particularly if that person is well-known. This makes your mailing look personal and is almost certain to get opened.

-Be careful with “official” envelopes. Faux express envelopes, government notices, invoices, and other formats can be used to great effect. However, be clear about your intentions. If it’s just part of the theme of your message, and people are clear about who you are and what you want, that’s fine. If you’re trying to trick people or pose as something you’re not, that’s unethical. If you have to deceive people to get response, there’s something wrong with your product or service.

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.