From the September 2002 issue of Entrepreneur

The fate of most business mail is not pretty. After putting all your brainpower, money and effort into creating a mailing, chances are it's just going to get unceremoniously lumped and dumped: lumped with other commercial-looking mail and dumped into the trash.

Of course, that's just the fate of most mailings. Some successfully rise above the pack and garner the kind of attention an entrepreneur crosses his or her fingers and hopes for. It's in that exalted category that you'll find mailings like the one shown here-featuring a provocative phrase on the outside back cover that makes the piece impossible to ignore and irresistible to open.

By posing the question, "Where have all the straight men gone?" the company that created this piece, MediaMap, gets inducted into the unofficial Direct-Mail Teaser Hall of Fame, alongside longtime eyebrow-raisers such as "Do you leave the bathroom door open when you're the only one home?" (used on the outside of a mailing to market Psychology Today magazine) and "Are you being punished for having a high IQ?" (used for soliciting subscriptions to Harper's Magazine).

MediaMap, of Watertown, Massachusetts, is using this one-fold self-mailer to sell its new online research tool, SourceNet, a service for journalists who need to ferret out hard-to-find material for a story. The headline on the back of the mailer is emblematic of such information. It gets an A+ in stopability because it's an intriguing question that instantly arouses curiosity. Who wouldn't take special notice of this headline, or want to see how it might pay off inside?

If you're looking for a benchmark by which to judge your own direct-mailing efforts, this is it. The outside teaser has got to be drop-dead interesting to give the piece the best chance of avoiding the fate of most mailers and to coerce recipients to peek inside.

This particular piece opens to say: "Some stories are easier than others. You always seem to draw the difficult ones. Would having the most powerful research tool in the industry help you?" It then describes how to use SourceNet and where to find it on the Web.

If you think producing a provocative outside teaser like the one shown here is easier said than done, you're right. But that shouldn't discourage you. Instead, it should inspire you to match it.


Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising .