Postcard Marketing Tips & Ideas
I’m Sharron Senter, and in 2003 I used postcard marketing to launch and grow a computer networking and security business. When I sold it eight years later, it had grown to be the second largest business of its kind north of Boston. I credit postcards as the key advertising vehicle I used to generate new customers and deepen relationships with existing customers.
What follows are the primary postcard marketing strategies and philosophies I applied during my marketing campaigns. I also call attention to a highly recommended postcard marketing home-study course.
I truly believe you can grow almost any small business using postcards, including those exclusively online. However, to do so effectively, you first need to understand the implementation nuances that lead to profits.
5 Key Postcard Marketing Tips
#1 — Don’t “sell” from postcards; rather, lead the reader to take an action, such as: visit a website landing page, call an 800 number, visit your brick and mortar, sign up to receive [insert offer], etc.
#2 — When planning your campaign, spend far more time on implementation and sales lead follow-up considerations than on creative components. Far too often, I see business owners caught up in the wording and design of their postcards. These elements are important; however, it’s your actions post mailing that spur significant profits.
#3 — When confronted with the decision: postcard versus business letter, choose postcards. A letter placed inside a #10 envelope forces prospects to do something before they see your message. Postcards don’t have to be opened, placing your message front and center. Of course, there are exceptions to this decision, such as a communication that includes personal information. In this instance, clearly you’re opting for a business letter.
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A handwritten thank you note is another example of choosing a letter over a postcard. With the latter, you’d also hand-address the envelope and include a live stamp. Technically, you could use a postcard. However, with this example, the note can also be used to send subliminal messages, specifically: personalization, privacy and authenticity.
#4 — Clearly define your budget and campaign goals. Oftentimes, small business owners feel overwhelmed when presented with direct mail costs. However, when you work through your postcard project costs [design, copy, print & postage/delivery] versus projected sales, you’ll feel more confident about your advertising expense. To minimize jitters, use a highly conservative 1% response rate. Note: I said “response rate.” A response does not equate to closed business. A response could be as simple as one email from your prospect. Also weigh your industry’s average sales cycle.
#5 — A prospect must hear from you at least seven times a year for your business to remain top-of-mind. These seven touch-points can be a combination of any advertising vehicle, including: postcards, email, phone call, social post, road sign, text, podcast, etc.
Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM)
The USPS’ Every Door Direct Mail program is a highly affordable and effective direct mail advertising vehicle. I’ve facilitated many EDDM campaigns. The program is efficient, cost-effective and offers decent demographic targeting. However, EDDM’s demographic targeting does not surpass the quality of a purchased mailing list that includes specific demographics and psychographics. The best mailing list is generally one you’ve personally cultivated.
In particular, the EDDM program is very cost-effective for small businesses that draw upon their local community for clientele, e.g., restaurants, hair salons and wellness spas, financial advisors, dog walkers and others. The key mistake I see business owners making in regards to this program is not having an automated lead collection process in place.
How to Break Through Direct Mail “Clutter”
- Use one message at a time.
- Lead with stating the reader’s problem or emotion.
- Professionally design your postcards – BUT, not too professional, or you’ll appear overpriced.
- Set up your postcard to look like a brief communication, not an ad.
- Leave at least 25 percent white space (area not filled with sales copy).
- Use colored stock with black ink or white stock with black and one color. Keep in mind that your colored stock can appear to have three colors: stock color, actual ink color and shading of ink color. *See other printing recommendations below.
- Use heavy card stock (beware of postal weight and thickness restrictions).
- Use photos, illustrations, etc. Your visual should be 100 percent related to your sales copy.
- Choose frequency over reach. Said another way, you’ll experience increased response rates when you mail your postcard 10 times to the same 100 people, as compared to mailing once to 1000 people. Repetition drives results. Note: EDDM is an excellent resource for small mailings.
Check out renowned Marketing Consultant Marcia Yudkin’s, “Mighty Postcard” Marketing Course. The course covers postcard strategy and making profits, mailing lists, production, and delivery, as well as design and copy. There are also case studies that illustrate successful postcard marketing tactics for a range of industries and purposes. I’m an affiliate of Marcia’s and stand behind her knowledge 100 percent. I’ve been a marketing communications professional for the past 20+ years. Marcia is who I go to when I need a sounding board.
- Be as personal as possible. Use names whenever possible, e.g., “Dear Phil” or “Dear Nurse.”
- Address one topic at a time on each postcard.
- Try using questions or emotional statements in headlines. The idea is to immediately draw your reader’s attention by relating to a problem or a feeling they’re having. For example, if you’re targeting dietitians, your headlines could be “Does Milk Really Help Children?” or “Are You Overwhelmed with Running Your Lunchroom?”
- Always include a call-to-action with an end date. Even if there is no expiration, create an illusion that there is one.
- Use as few words as possible.
- Always include a P.S…as your last statement. This is also a good spot to state your promotion, or a second, very time-limited and price-aggressive promotion. Your P.S…needs to be extremely short, certainly no longer than a brief sentence.
- Always create your copy from the viewpoint of your reader. What are their challenges, concerns and successes? It’s not about you; rather, it’s about how what you offer can benefit your reader.
At Minimum, Postcards Should Include:
- Business identity
- Phone number
- Website URL (ideally a unique landing page relating to your postcard message)
- Physical address when appropriate
- Hours of operation when appropriate
- Social media icons — Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Promotion end date
- Personal address, either by first name or by lifestyle category, e.g., “Dear Working Mom” or “Dear Boston Resident” or “Dear Tennis Lover,” etc.
- Call-to-action, a.k.a. what you want the reader to do!
- Powerful & relevant headline that tells your reader how he/she will benefit from taking action
- The one key message you want your reader to know
I almost always include a promotion on my postcards. Still, you don’t have to, but your call-to-action must be well thought out so your postcard leads to profits. Also, be sure to take a snapshot of your website stats immediately before distributing your postcard. It’s important to track all your marketing efforts.
To help track your results, place a promotional code in a corner. By doing so, you’ll be able to answer questions such as: “If you have distributed three postcards in the past eight months, which pulled more?” There is no right way to code things. I generally use a combination of the time of year and the theme of my postcard, for example: Holiday [insert year]. You can also use a unique 800 number to track calls, and/or prompt callers for the code.
The absolute best way to track your individual postcards is to create unique landing pages for each campaign. This way, you’ll know precisely how many people visited from your mailing and the actions they took. Be sure to include Google Analytics code on your website for in-depth tracking and prospect demographic and psychographic information. Within this data you’ll find trends to help you attract and retain clients for life.
Expand Mailing List Reach
Approach complementary organizations – those that target the same customer demographics as you — and ask to either borrow or rent their mailing lists. Use the organization’s name in your postcard headline. By acknowledging the relationship between you and the organization, you’ll gain more recognition and trust from readers. Readers will then be more likely to take action.
A great example is your local chamber of commerce. Most chambers offer both email and postal mailing lists to purchase/rent. To obtain either, you almost always have to be a member, which is a good thing. Your sales message will have more inherent value when read by a fellow chamber member, due to the implied relationship, i.e., you’re both chamber members.
Also consider renting mailing lists from regional publications or associations/organizations whose audience is similar to yours. For example, if you’re operating a gourmet food store located in a Maine tourist town, then renting the subscription list of the fictitious “I love Maine” newsletter could be a good option, assuming the subscribers love exploring interesting places and things in Maine. A.k.a. tourists need to eat and may enjoy your free yummy samples.
Cost-Saving Production Tips
- It’s frequently less expensive to print digital copies of postcards. However, once you surpass 1,000 pieces, then it makes more sense to begin obtaining quotes for offset printing. Keep in mind that the greatest cost of offset printing is in the setup charges, i.e., film and plates. The setup phase is not applicable for digital printing.
- There is no reason to print postcards with more than two colors when choosing offset printing. Unless doing so creates brand conflict. However, if you’re printing digitally, you can use as many colors as you’d like with no extra charges, generally.
- If digitally printing, now you can easily change the names and headlines for the purposes of personalizing your messages.
- To find affordable online printing options, Google: “Digital Postcard Printing.”
- Use uncoated stock on the address-side of your postcard. This helps if you’re using a mail house and they’re printing addresses directly on the piece and/or you’re hand-writing addresses (it’s difficult to write on glossy stock).
- Overall, I recommend digital printing. The quality is excellent and the product is more versatile, i.e., you can add names, etc. You can also add and easily change out expiration dates and other short lines of copy that can be easily edited, generally in/near the address area.
Miscellaneous Postcard Marketing Strategies
- Use first-class mail with a “live” stamp whenever possible. It gets there faster and appears more personal. However, this is not practical time-wise nor cost-wise when doing large mailings.
- Be careful of the use of colors and photos, and of having messages “over-designed.” All can look overzealous and expensive. Contrary to what your graphic designer may tell you — an overly gorgeous marketing piece often increases its chances of being placed immediately into the recycle bin.
There are generally two main reasons postcard advertising or any form of direct mail fails, including:
- Lack of back end processes
- Lack of follow up
Other reasons include that the message: is unclear, lacks urgency, lacks clear call-to-action, or the content is not relevant to the reader.
Before embarking on any advertising campaign, make sure you think of your reader first, a.k.a. what’s in it for me? And have your back end processes in place before mailing your communication, i.e., is your landing page well thought out and working? Is your lead collection process set up (ideally automated)? When a call comes in from your postcard, who is answering the caller’s questions? How is the call tracked? Ultimately, what is your plan to close business when a lead appears?
Postcard advertising rocks as a new business development and retention tool. The keys to increasing revenue using direct mail are: implementation, follow-up and repetition. Far too much time is spent on the idea and design. While these two items are important, they don’t close business. Expand your thinking; grow revenue.
Thanks for reading and sharing!