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Marketing with Postcards

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The absolute best campaign you can create is a letter campaign. A series of personalized letters sent over time can be your most effective selling tool–ever.  But man, they’re a lot of work.

So the problem is… how can you stay in your customers’ top-of-mind awareness without all that work? The answer is… with a few postcards. When you mail postcards to each prospect or customer every three to eight weeks, they’ll think of YOU when they need something, and pick up the phone and call YOU when they’re ready to buy.

The Postcard Plusses

Postcards are hardworking marketing tools because:


  • They’re cheap to produce.


      No envelope; no lettershop charges for folding and inserting. Just image a name and address onto one side and let them loose.

  • The postage is cheaper too–21¢ each before any postal discounts


      , which can be substantial. In fact, the discount may be so substantial that you might actually


      money by paying a mailing house to handle addressing, tying, bagging, and delivering the cards to the post office with the bar codes and carrier route labels required for discounts.

  • Postcards have high readership. 


    Almost everyone reads them, even the good folks who throw out all your bulk direct mail! Heck, by the time your customers have it in their hands… they’re reading it.


  • There’s plenty of presentation styles possible.


    One-to-one communication via postcards can be as informal as “jest settin’ on your front stoop,” or as formal as a prom invitation.


  • Whatever illustrations you have will probably look great on a postcard


    … line art, airbrush, four color–maybe even a crayon drawing.


  • Double postcards are great as a response vehicle.


      Many test well against long-copy packages on subscription offers. To get information or place an order with your postcard, the customer doesn’t have to fill out anything

which makes it fast and easy, and increases your response. Plus, when a double postcard is returned, you get the recipient’s name and address back that you pre-printed on the address side of the postcard. Additionally, you automatically capture any mailing list sourcecode, industry information, marketing data, or referral source from the data that you inkjetted on the postcard when you imaged their name and address on the card before sending it out.

  • They’re inexpensive to print.


      One- or two-color postcards work just fine. And even four-color postcards can cost as little as $350 for 5,000. Call Postcard Power 800/411-6256 (

www.postcardpower.com), 800-POSTCARDS (www.1800postcards.com), Modern Postcard 800/959-8365 (www.modernpostcard.com; request their free sample kit), Mitchell Graphics 800/583-9401 (call for samples and pricing), or Simply Postcards 800/770-4102. Tell ‘em Dobkin sent you, and maybe I’ll get a cheese basket.

  • Postcards can help you keep your mailing list up to date.

If you send them first class with the imprint “Address Service Requested” below the stamp, the post office will send the undeliverable ones back to you. Lots of companies do this before mailing their catalogs because it’s much cheaper to get cards back (free) than to pay for getting wrecked and unusable catalogs back after rough handling by the postal service.

  • Postcards can also help you get survey responses.


      Send short surveys on postcards, ask recipients to fax the postcards back, and there’s a good chance lots of them will.


 Creating Successful Cards

There are three hard and fast recommendations for postcards.

First, don’t use cheap paper. Yes, they’ll notice; it looks and feels cheap when you buy it, and when they receive it!

Second, don’t go for gloss. Unless you’re printing in four colors (which will hide roller marks and add some slipperiness), a glossy finish will get marked, mangled, and scarred by post office equipment. I recommend a crisp, bright-white 80-pound linen stock.

Third, don’t go for the smallest size postcard that the Post Office offers. The minimum-size card doesn’t scream out for attention the way a 5_” x 8_” card does. That’s the size I prefer, even though it means paying extra for postage (37 cents; you could even go up to 8_” x 11″ for 37 cents). The largest you can go and still keep the 21-cent postcard rate is 4_” x 6″–and it’s not a bad way to go.

In addition, design the billboard side of your postcard for three levels of readership, as you would design any advertisement.

Provide a big BOLD HEADLINE to entice scanning readers who just glance at a postcard to get the idea. Your headline has one objective–to drive the reader into the rest of the copy.

Then use subheads to intrigue and arouse the reader further (with type that isn’t quite as large as the headline type and not quite as small as the body-copy type) to encourage the smooth transition between the two areas. Subheads have the same objective as the headline–to get customers to read further.

Make the first line or two of the body copy smart and sharp–written and designed from the get-go to fulfill the specific objective of keeping the reader reading. The complete transition of a scanning reader to a confirmed reader doesn’t take place until the reader has made it through the first few clever lines in your body copy. After that, the reader is hooked, committed to reading the rest.

Now you can start selling your postcard objective, whether it’s to generate an inquiry via phone, an order directly from the card, a visit to your store, or a letter or fax or e-mail asking for more information. Don’t forget to tell readers exactly what you want them to do, and be specific.

Your telephone number should appear at the bottom of the postcard in type big enough to see clearly if the card is lying on a desk and a cataract patient is trying to dial your number while standing there with a phone in one hand. Of all the objectives, I like getting a phone call the best.


Put your logo at the bottom too, in type the same size but certainly not larger. In any campaign, your logo is an important part of your visual identity. It should be

strong enough so that someone who sees it the first time remembers it the second time, and each time thereafter.

Always print “Save this card!” somewhere near the top, and people will. It’s funny–if you don’t print this line, they won’t.

Keep Them Coming

It’s OK to send a postcard more than once. Send successful cards forever, or as long as they continue to cover their costs. You can also keep sending postcards that are tough to track. Don’t worry; they’re reading it. You’ll get sick of looking at them long before your customers get tired of receiving them. If any customers complain, hey–you’re getting noticed.

When creating a multi-card campaign (several different cards mailed over a period of time), change the billboard side, but keep the image and the message the same on the address side of each succeeding card. The address side is usually for institutional copy anyhow–name, address, phone, blah blah blah.

It’s also a good place for a few bold lines or a free-information offer–”Call now to get our free booklet about ____.”

Don’t forget! A postcard campaign is direct mail, and direct mail is always a game of numbers. Mail as many cards to as many people as you can. And mail often. A campaign is more than a single mailing of anything.

© 2003 Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeffrey Dobkin, author of “How To Market A Product for Under $500” and “Uncommon Marketing Techniques,” is a direct-mail writer (specializing in response-getting sales letters), a Web content copywriter, and a marketing consultant. For more info, call 800/234-IDEA; fax 610/642-6832; e-mail jeff@dobkin.com; or visit www.dobkin.com.

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