While there are lots of different form factors used in direct marketing, a letter inserted in a #10-window envelope remains the single most common format. This type of package can be broken down into 7 distinct surfaces. Here are some simple guidelines on how to make the most of each and every surface.

1. Outer envelope: front (address) side
Benefit-oriented copy and visuals that entice me to open the package. Make sure this is a “quick read.”

2. Outer envelope: back (flap) side
People have to turn over your mailing in order to open it. Keep the copy and visuals on the flap side simple and be repetitive on purpose. The point is not to do anything that makes the prospect stop and think. By the time the prospect gets to the flip-side of the envelope, they’re in the process of opening your piece. Keep the momentum going, so you get the behavior you want, an open envelope.

3. The letter: top right … the so-called “Johnson Box”
Back in the day, this piece of real-estate was named after its inventor – Mr. Johnson – who liked to use the space to the right of the prospect’s address to showcase the offer. Often the description of the offer would appear in a box. Testing has since shown that the box is a distraction. Instead, use this space to draw attention to your offer, ideally using a combination of words and pictures. The Johnson box works because your name is an icon for you, which means that anything you put directly adjacent to the salutation will get noticed.

4. The letter: body
We live in a post-literate age, which means you should format your letter so that it can be skimmed very quickly. Use bullets and sentence fragments and keep the writing at the 3rd-grade level.

5. The letter – P.S.
Readers have been trained to quickly scan the letter from top to bottom and to look for a P.S. The P.S. is the place where you should quickly restate the benefits of the offer and the call-to-action.

6. Buck Slip | Order Card | Lift Note
No matter what you call it, this is a small piece that is separate and distinct from the letter. Use this piece to romance the offer.

7. Brochure
Of all the elements of your DM package, this is the least important. Most of the time, including a brochure in your package will not lift response in any appreciable way.