Divide et impera is a Latin saying that translates to divide and rule or, more commonly, divide and conquer.
While the term generally refers to political maneuvering or military strategy, I use it when talking about direct mail envelope packages.
Here’s why …
I see far too many direct mail packages that include pieces randomly, with each piece carrying the same information. The brochure will seem to be an illustrated version of the letter. An insert will make the same points as the brochure. The lift letter will repeat the offer in the same words as all the other pieces.
It makes you wonder why the mailer chose an envelope package format in the first place. Why pay to have all those pieces printed, folded, inserted, and mailed when they all do the same thing?
Each element of a direct mail package has its own purpose and its own strengths.
Envelope — It holds the other pieces and is meant to be opened.
Letter — It makes a personal one-to-one connection with the reader and makes the argument for accepting the offer.
Brochure – It provides factual support for the letter, backing up the promises and claims.
Reply or Order Form — It is meant to be completed and returned.
Lift Letter — It should be a personal and informal message from someone other than the letter signer with an afterthought, special offer, answer to an objection, or different point of view.
Buckslip — It highlights the offer, calls attention to a bonus, or otherwise acts as a kind of billboard within the package.
There are other items you might include in a package, but you get the idea. Each has a different look and different purpose. They should each be selected carefully and used tactically to perform a necessary task to generate an inquiry or make a sale.
While there will be some crossover in the information, you shouldn’t feel obligated to repeat all the same facts in each piece. In fact, you should purposely avoid this.
Take a sales letter, for example. Since its purpose is to make a personal connection and present the argument for responding, it cannot and should not repeat every fact included in the brochure. It might tell a story or highlight major benefits while the brochure includes details behind the benefits, photos, illustrations, bullet lists, and other support for what’s said in the letter.
Or how about a lift note? This isn’t just a short version of the main letter. It’s something special, something different. After I write this post, I’ll write a lift letter for a direct mail package I wrote last week. It will mention a special benefit that doesn’t appear anywhere else in the package.
So divide and conquer means that you build a direct mail package with separate elements, each with a specific purpose and each with its own set of information.
There are several benefits to this approach:
- It lets each element do what it does best.
- It forces you to chose package elements wisely.
- It makes testing easier. That lift note I’ll be writing in a few minutes, for example, can be inserted or removed to test the effect on response.
The classic direct mail package is a classic for a reason. You have to trust the format and let the pieces do their own job. Divide and conquer.