Postcard – Direct Mail Advertisng – Done Right

Postcards are one of the oldest and most reliable forms of marketing. They have been used nearly as long as the U.S. Postal Service has existed. They can support a wide variety of business goals from lead generation to direct sales, and the costs are easy to control and measure.

With that being said, there are many ways to wander astray when using direct mail postcards, if you don’t know what you’re doing. When this happens, you end up spending a lot of money without much to show for it. And in marketing, there is nothing worse than a dismal return-on-investment (ROI).

One of the ways you can succeed with postcards it to learn the common mistakes people make when using them. In my time working around this medium, I would say the two most common mistakes are the following:

Asking the postcard to do more than it’s capable of doing (i.e., lack of realism).
Failing to offer a strong incentive for the desired action (i.e., lack of value).

So if you can avoid these same mistakes, you’re already on the path to direct mail success. Let’s talk about each one in turn:

Set Realistic Postcard Goals

When you choose this marketing medium, you are sacrificing space in favor of directness. Sure, there’s a good chance most of your recipients will read the postcard when they pull it from the mailbox. That’s why they call it “direct” mail. But at the same time, you are reducing your entire pitch down to a double-sided piece of paper or card stock. So you have to be realistic with your postcard marketing objectives.

For example, you can’t tell people everything about your company, products or services on a postcard. There’s just no room for that. So limit your message to support a specific objective. Tell them only what’s necessary to achieve the goal of your mailing, and make sure the goal is realistic.

Let’s say I’m selling a type of business software, so I’m sending postcards to companies who can use that type of software. Instead of trying to cram all the specifications and features onto my direct mail piece, I would be better off focusing on the primary benefit … and then steering people toward my desired (but realistic response). Maybe it’s a website where they can download a free demo version of the software. That’s something a postcard can accomplish!

Explain the Reward for the Action Taken

It’s a general rule of thumb in marketing that you never ask somebody to do something without telling them what they get out of it. In other words, there must be a clear incentive or reward for taking a certain action. This goes double for direct mail postcards, because you don’t have much room to get people motivated.

Take the software example I used above. If I ask people to visit a website where they download a free trial version of the program, I need to explain the value of that action. Sure, the word “free” will get a lot of people’s attention. But that’s not enough. Perhaps I would tell them something like this: “Get a firsthand look at an easy-to-use software tool that can save you time and energy on a daily basis!” That conveys value, does it not?


Obviously, there’s more to postcard marketing than these two concepts. But if you can start your campaign by avoiding these two common mistakes, you have an edge right from the start. After that, just make sure you have something worth promoting in the first place – a great product or service. The rest is mere logistics.

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