Marketing with Post Cards
by Jeff Dobkin
©2003 Jeffrey Dobkin
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
post cards. By mailing post cards to each prospect or customer every
three to eight weeks, your customers and prospects think of you when
they need something, and pick up the phone and call you when they’re
ready to buy.
Post cards are hard working marketing tools because...
They’re cheap to produce.
Since a post card is usually a single sheet of paper, it’s always
cheaper than sending a letter and a brochure stuffed into an envelope.
Post cards also incur no lettershop charges of folding and inserting:
just image a name and address on one side and away they go.
The postage is cheaper, too.
They’re cheap to mail first class: just 23¢ each. This cost is before
any postal discounts, which can be substantial! Strangely enough, post
cards can be cheaper to mail FIRST CLASS than bulk. Restrictions apply
- they must be bar-coded and carrier-route labeled, which is done
routinely if you use a lettershop to sort and mail.
Need fast delivery of your message?
Mailing post cards allows you to take advantage of first class
delivery while enjoying the postage savings from the first class letter
Postal savings even when mailing just a few cards.
Is your mailing list just to a few hundred special people? Even when
just mailing a few handfuls, post cards under 4-1/4" x 6" have a lower
postage rate than first class letters: 21¢ - even without any discounts.
Mailing house costs can be completely offset by postage savings.
Tired of doing it yourself? If you take your post cards to a mailing
house, their entire cost of inkjet addressing, tying, bagging and
delivering to the post office may still cost you less than if you
mailed them yourself. It’s like getting their service for FREE. You
save money because their payment is recovered from all of the postal
discounts they get for you. It’s a win-win-win: you have less work,
save money, and you get better delivery.
Post cards have high readership.
Almost everyone reads post cards, even the good folks who throw out
all your bulk direct mail! Heck, all the wording is... right there! By
the time your customers have it in their hands... they’re reading it.
Post cards can be looked at as a piece of one-to-one communication -
so you can be as personable as "jest settin’ on your front stoop," or
as formal as a bound book with an embossed gold leaf cover.
Post cards can come back to haunt you.
Double post cards are great as a response vehicle. Many double post
cards test profitably against long-copy packages on subscription
offers, especially where the magazine is well known. As a bonus, since
the address side already contains the customer name, along with any
marketing data you’d like to see, it’s possible to use that card as a
pre-filled-out order card the customer just drops in the mail.
Post cards handle illustrations well.
Line art, airbrush, four color - even crayon... whatever you have, it
can look great on a post card. Better paper stock enhances the "It
didn’t come out as good as we thought it would!" designs.
They’re inexpensive to print - no need to go four color.
A nice thing about post cards - one or two color post cards work just
fine, and they’re cheaper to print. About 90% of the post cards I
create for clients are specified to be printed in just one or two
Four color post cards are cheap to have printed.
There are some gang-run post card printers (no, not that kind of gang
- post cards are printed en masse on giant sheets of 24" x 26" post
card paper stock, then trimmed) and the cost can be as low as $350 for
5,000 cards. Call Postcard Power 800-411-6256 (www.postcardpower.com)
for their free catalog, or 800POSTCARDS (www.1800postcards.com.). Or
try Modern Postcard (www.modernpostcard.com), call 800-959-8365 and ask
for their free sample kit. Or call Mitchell Graphics, 800-583-9401, for
samples and pricing, or Simply Postcards: 800-770-4102. Tell them
Dobkin sent you.
They’re easy to handle.
Doing the mailing yourself? No stuffing, no folding.
Not much messing around - just print, address, and mail.
Need to get undeliverable names and addresses mailed back so you can
remove them from your mailing list?
Need to make address corrections in a timely fashion without
additional expense? Send post cards first class with the imprint
"Address Service Requested" below the stamp: the post office will
return cards with undeliverable addresses back to you. Lots of catalog
companies do this before mailing their catalog - it’s much cheaper to
get cards back for free than to pay for getting wrecked and unusable
catalogs back after the rough handling by the postal service.
Need a quick survey response?
Keep post card surveys short, and ask recipients to fax them back.
There’s a good chance you’ll get lots of them returned.
There are three hard and fast recommendations for post cards. First,
don’t use cheap paper. Since post cards are usually small sheets, go
for the good stuff. In short runs, paper stock is a small fraction of
the overall costs. I never recommend cheap paper for anything but the
cheapest promotions from my cheapest clients, and sometimes for longer
press runs of 25,000 sheets and up - where paper cost is a much larger
percentage of the overall campaign costs.
Second, don’t go for gloss unless you are printing in four colors. A
glossy finish will get marked, mangled and scarred at the post office -
gloss cards aren’t handled well by the automatic equipment at the post
office. Chances are your glossy post card will be delivered with the
equivalent of an 18 wheeler tractor trailer skid mark across the
billboard side, and hard telling what the address side will look like.
The paper stock I recommend? A crisp, bright-white 80 pound linen
Third, don’t go for the smallest size card - like the standard card
the post office offers. The minimum size card doesn’t scream out for
attention like a 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" card does, which is the size I
recommend. The largest size you can mail without incurring additional
expense (over 23¢) is 4-1/4" x 6". The largest post card size you can
mail for first class letter postage of 37¢ is an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet.
If you can’t make a lasting impression with that size, call me and
Examples of successful campaigns
An insurance client of mine needed a post card that would be retained
by the customer, or at least until their present insurance expires
(their ex-date). Theory was: then they’d have the card on-hand and
would call him for a quote. We created a 3-fold (21" x 5-1/2" folded
to 7" x 5-1/2") card printed in bright yellow and black with the words
"SEND HELP" on one side, and with a "what to do in case of an accident"
report form on the back. His first run was 10,000. Results: 3 more
runs of 10,000 each over the next 6 months. Everyone loved them.
They’re in everyone’s glove compartment. We said "save this card" on
each and everyone did. We also printed "Call us for fast friendly
information or a quick quote on rates," and everyone did that, too.
An interim placement specialist in the financial community sends post
cards every 4 to 6 weeks to his client list. His objective:
Top-of-Mind Awareness. Four years ago when we started he had a mailing
list of 250. Now he mails to over 1,200 a month. We’re now working on
his 36th card (we repeated our favorites over several mailings).
Whenever he speaks with clients they always mention they enjoy his
cards. The copy on one of my favorite cards: "When your loan manager
goes on leave does your customer service follow suit?" He’s famous in
his industry for his post cards.
Creating successful cards is easy:
On the billboard side: as you would for any advertisement, design for
3 levels of readership: 1. a big BOLD HEADLINE to entice scanning
readers. This copy is for folks who just glance at your card to get
the idea. If you entice them with a clever headline, they’ll continue
reading. Your headline has one objective: drive the reader into the
rest of the copy.
2. SUBHEADS are then written and designed to intrigue and arouse the
reader further. This is the "not quite as large as the headline type,
and not quite as small as the body copy type" line that encourages the
smooth transition between the two areas. This line also has the same
objective as the headline: get customers to read further.
3. The first line or two of the body copy must be smart and sharp -
written and designed from the getgo to fulfill the specific objective
of... keeping the reader reading. The complete transition of a scanning
reader to a confirmed reader still hasn’t taken place yet.
After the first few clever lines in your body copy, the reader is then
hooked: he’s made a commitment to read the rest. Now you can start
selling your post card objective whether it is to 1. generate an
inquiry via phone by having readers call for further information, 2.
generate an order directly from the card, 3. get them to come into your
retail store, or 4. send (write or fax) for more information. Don’t
forget to tell the reader exactly what you want him to do, and be
At the bottom of the post card your logo may be the same size but
certainly no larger than your telephone number, which should be big
enough to see clearly if the card is laying on a desk and a cataract
patient is trying to dial your number while standing there with a phone
in one hand.
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.
It’s OK to send a card more than once. Successful cards can be sent
forever as long as they continue to successfully cover their costs.
Unsuccessful cards or cards tougher to track can still be sent
regularly. You get sick of looking at your cards long before your
customers get tired of receiving them. If any customers complain, hey
- you’re getting noticed.
Traditional post cards - those small manila cards you can buy at the
post office - may be used for technical, reference-only mailings to
engineers and computer geeks. If you want a reference-looking card
almost like the one the government would put out notifying you of a tax
lien, this is the one. "Now shipping version 4.3" doesn’t necessarily
need to be in full color.
Also, if your sole intention is to notify a broad customer base of a
technology change or B2B product (perhaps as unglamorous as your launch
of a new ball bearing, or other necessary product information) as
cheaply as possible, the standard manila cards the post office issues
will work here, too. But if you’re selling something the least bit
upscale, or want to command attention, use a larger card of better
Double post cards are good for feedback. Besides the larger area for
image and copy, you can get an easy-to-use response vehicle in the same
piece of mail. This format of cards is great and tests well for
well-known and re-up magazine and newsletter subscriptions. They also
are good for purging your database of old names and bad addresses, and
for asking recipients for recommendations for new names and gathering
addresses for mailing and email lists.
Getting your card back
While double post cards are the norm, if you’re not die-cutting one
side for the address to show through, it’s always a problem figuring
out which side to address, which is the billboard side, and which side
to address to get it back to you.
There are a few alternatives: first, consider a triple post card:
three cards scored and folded over to the size of one card. For the
little extra it costs for the small square of paper and the extra fold,
you get a third more selling space, and it’s cheaper than a diecut.
It’s also much easier to design a dedicated return card that doesn’t
have to double as something else.
Alternatively, you can leave the return address side with an address
grid the recipient fills out before sending back. If your computer
printer can print a name and address upside down - you can print the
recipient’s name and address and/or any priority or special coding in
the upper right-hand corner of the return card above the address grid.
This is above the fold. Below the fold is the address side to whom you
are sending the card. This eliminates inkjetting on the second (back)
side of the card in a separate inkjet pass. It’s an exceptionally
easy-to-use return-card format.
With a single card you can have recipients fill out a few questions in
a survey, then fax the whole card back to you. This type of card is
great for surveys - which I believe are one of the most under-used
types of promotions. When you engage a client in a survey, it can be a
cleverly disguised promotional piece designed to increase your brand
awareness, feel customers out to see if they’re ready to buy, or
entrench your advertising message more firmly into their mind. But,
that’s another article...
Bring in some visual recognition
When creating a multi-card campaign, keep the image and the message
the same on the address side of each succeeding card. It’s usually
institutional copy anyhow on this side - name, address, phone, blah
blah blah. The address side is also a good place for a few bold lines
or a free offer to the reader to get more information: "Call now to get
our free booklet about ____."
As with any campaign of repeated exposures, your logo plays a an
important part of your visual identity. Your mark should be strong
enough so that someone who sees it the first time, remembers it the
second time, and each time thereafter.
Don’t forget - a post card campaign is not a single mailing, a
campaign by definition is a sustained effort over time, so mail
frequently. And above all: it’s direct mail and direct mail is always
a game of numbers - mail as many cards to as many people as you can.
Word Count: 2,300
Jeffrey Dobkin, author of the incredible 400-page marketing manual, How
To Market A Product for Under $500 ($29.95), now has a second book,
Uncommon Marketing Techniques ($17.95) - 33 of his latest columns on
small business marketing, exactly like the one you just read. Both
books are available directly from the publisher - 800-234-IDEA. He is
also a pretty good speaker, a direct mail writer (specializing in
response-getting sales letters) and web content copywriter, and a
marketing consultant. To place an order, or to speak with Mr. Dobkin
call 610/642-1000. Fax 610/642-6832. Email: email@example.com. From The
Danielle Adams Publishing Company, Box 100, Merion Station, PA 19066.
Satisfaction Always Guaranteed.
THE DANIELLE ADAMS PUBLISHING COMPANY
------------------------------------ · ------------------------------------
~ Post Office Box 100 · Merion Station, PA 19066 ~
Telephone 610/642-1000 · Fax 610/642-6832
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