The Art of the Postcard: Old School Marketing Still Works


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Yeah, social media has swept the nation and everyone’s talking about it. But it’s far from the only game in town, especially if you are marketing locally.  People still love to receive snail mail.  They want something they can hold in their hands, and if it’s appealing, something they can stick on the refrigerator with a magnet as a reminder. You can’t do that with an Internet ad. If you are looking for an affordable and versatile way to market your business locally, direct mail is still an excellent choice. Better still, choose a direct mail postcard.

Why Postcards?

Obviously postcards are less expensive to mail. This is even more affordable if you get a bulk rate permit (although to get that discount, be prepared to do a lot of sorting before mailing).  Another key advantage of using postcards is that the message is readily displayed to anyone who comes into contact with it, as opposed to being tucked away in an envelope.

Because of the relatively low cost of mailing, there’s no need to put all your efforts into one campaign.  You can create separate campaigns to advertise a sale, deliver a coupon, or encourage former customers to visit again.

Postcards come in standard size, like a picture postcard, and go up from there. Whatever size you choose, the critical part of your successful mailing is the layout and design. There are a variety of do-it-yourself graphics programs which allow you to choose eye-catching graphics with vibrant colors. Or you may prefer to let a local printer (or online printer) come up with a design..

You can vary the font size, hitting the high points with large fonts and then adding a few details in smaller fonts.  Just remember, this is not meant to be a book. Putting too much information on a postcard will look too busy and cause you to lose your audience. Stick to the highlights.

What Does a Well-Done Campaign Look Like?

The U.S. Postal Service just did a mailing, using a 6 inch by 11 inch card. That’s a lot of space where they could’ve jammed in a ton of information. Wisely, they chose not to do that.  One side shows beautiful, colorful graphics of Olympic collectible stamps, and a few words in a large font announcing when the stamps become available and where to get them. The familiar USPS logo is there, so at a glance you know who the sender was. The other side, of course, has a space for the recipient’s address on the far-right end. The middle and left side shows a small graphic of stamps in an old-fashioned store shopping cart (which emphasizes the point that the stamps are for sale), a few bullet points highlighting the benefits (“no waiting in line,” “fast checkout,”) and the all-important call to action which again, includes a benefit to the recipient (“Try it today. You’ll see our priority is making things easier for you.”). And of course, the website address.  The postcard is attractive and the message clear and uncluttered.

What’s the Best Way to Create a Campaign?

The answer depends on your internal resources, as in manpower and money.  If you have more time than money, there are software programs that will help you design postcards yourself, complete with attractive graphics.  Tara Hornor, a senior editor at Creative Content Experts recommends using free postcard design programs like SpringPublisher.

“Business owners who don’t have a ton of design experience, though, should first gather some inspiration through a Google search or use templates such as what Microsoft Office offers,” said Hornor.  You’ll be surprised at the beautiful postcards you can create.

As for the Text…

  • Your headline needs to count. You only have a few seconds to make your point before the recipient decides whether to continue reading or toss the card, so make your headline brief and clear, to grab attention. The best headlines do not tell the features of the product, but instead, tell the reader what’s in it for them.  As in, “Save 50%,” “Lose weight fast!”
  • Keep the message simple.  Limit the details to what readers really need to know. If you’re advertising a sale, tell them when, where, what time, and the type of sale, like “Half-price on all Christmas merchandise,” “Clearance sale, everything goes,”  “All summer items 40% off.” Too much detail loses attention.
  • Call to action.  What do you want the reader to do? Tell them. “Call now to order.” “Come by our downtown location.”  Whatever the response you want, make it clear and easy to respond.
  • Contact. Don’t forget to tell recipients how they can find out more.
  • Before you take your finished product to the printer, proofread, proofread, and proofread again. Then ask someone who is good with details, spelling, and grammar – to proofread it for you. Sending out a marketing piece with errors can be deadly.

Once You’ve Got the Design and Text Right…

Designing is one thing, said Hornor. But experience has taught her to leave the actual printing to the professionals.  “The quality results between a reliable online printer and our office printing machine were incomparable,” she said.  Take your design to a local printer — like you might find inside an office supply store — and let them do the printing.  If there is no local option, you can also go with an online printer, like PrintPlace.com.

After a postcard campaign, if you don’t get the results you hoped for, don’t give up too easily.  Direct marketers have a rule of thumb which says — reach out to direct mail recipients at least six times in a year.  This includes prospects and your established customers. Varying the content is good, but make sure all your mailing pieces (and any communication from your business, including business cards, stationery, and e-mails) have a look which will be instantly recognizable as coming from your business.

When it comes to affordable and effective, marketing doesn’t get much better than direct mail postcards. Postcards have a grassroots, personal touch feel to them which  can put your company head and shoulders above your competition.

Teresa Ambord

Posted In: Sales & Marketing

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