afresh: The Humble Postcard is Making a Comeback

Posted by Dustin Macdonald on May 1, 2021 in afresh | marketing
The Humble Postcard is Making a Comeback

Click here to for Direct Mail Postcards: 7 Ways to Grab Attention With Your Headline

Click here to for the Project Spotlight

The Humble Postcard Is Making A Comeback

If you were a contestant on Jeopardy and the answer was "Postcards," what would the question be? How about:

"What is one of the most incredibly effective, yet under-utilized methods for driving qualified buyers to your business or website?"

Many businesses think postcards are a little old-fashioned for this era of Internet Marketing, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Online marketers are discovering that using email lists as an effective form of marketing is fading fast due to the unfortunate avalanche of SPAM (unsolicited commercial email)! Internet Service Providers and individual consumers are now trying to filter out the ever growing glut of SPAM. But, unfortunately the software developed to assist in SPAM control is not terribly accurate and a very large amount of legitimate communications between a business and its customer base is being unintentionally blocked by these filters.

And even if the email does get through, it is often lost among the other 200 or so emails in the receiver’s inbox and simply gets bulk deleted. As a result, email is no longer a reliable method of maintaining contact and building a relationship with customers.

Yet, most small businesses do not have large budgets to conduct full fledged direct marketing campaigns. The humble postcard comes to the rescue! The humble postcard can serve both online and offline businesses well, driving traffic to both brick-and-mortar stores as well as commercial websites.

Famous copywriter Gary Halbert says most people sort their mail over a waste basket. As they mentally separate the mail into two categories, junk and personal, the junk mail drops directly into the wastebasket unopened. But the postcard is already open. It is small and easily read at a glance so the likelihood of the message getting through is increased greatly. And at the same time the production and mailing cost remain economical.

Postcard advertising and postcard marketing are back in vogue. Marketing postcards can be sent to customers as personalized postcards for any number of occasions, including holidays, birthdays, special events, or special offers and they help to economically keep businesses in touch with their customer base and develop that all important relationship between the business and the customer. Promotional postcards should be in every marketer’s bag of tricks!

Direct Mail Postcards: 7 Ways to Grab Attention With Your Headline

If you’re reading this sentence, you’ve just supported the point I’m about to make. Direct mail postcards with numbered headlines offering solutions work!

The formula is simple:

First, pick a goal or an accomplishment (saving money, increasing performance, improving health, avoiding pain, etc.). Then tell the reader how to accomplish this goal in X number of steps. Or give them X number of ways to achieve the same goal.

Here are seven tips for using numbered headlines on your direct mail postcards:

  1. Use odd numbers. With all other things being equal, odd numbers have been shown to outperform rounded, even numbers. They appear more legitimate and scientific. That’s why Listerine “kills 99% of germs” instead of 100%.
  2. Write numbers as numbers. Numbers catch the eye better in numerical form (7), as opposed to written form (seven).
  3. Crank up the benefits. To increase the motivating power of your numbered headline, simply increase the reward promised by the headline. For example, instead of “7 Ways to Decrease Your Debt,” you might say “7 Ways to Eliminate Your Debt.” Only one word has changed, but now the promise of value is much greater. “Decrease” is vague. “Eliminate” is absolute.
  4. Write clearly. Keep your headline simple and straightforward. The reader should understand the benefit right away. She should not have to read the headline twice or puzzle over it. Number and benefit … it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.
  5. Use strong action words. Instead of telling readers how to “increase the safety of their computer systems,” tell them how to “safeguard their data and shield their servers.” Strong words conjure up strong emotions. Boring words yield boring results — drop them from your direct mail vocabulary.
  6. Deliver on your promise. If your postcard headline mentions “21 Ways to Increase Your Email Marketing Success,” you better follow up with (you guessed it) 21 ways to improve the reader’s email marketing. At the least, offer a summary or excerpt of those tips and then point to a full report that offers the rest. Stay away from “bait and switch” headlines that don’t deliver on the promise. Trickery and deceit will get you nowhere.
  7. Follow a formula. Develop a formula when creating your headlines. This will help you ask all the right questions and shape a headline around the answers to those questions.

Example formula: Audience Product Number of parts Benefit Headline

Now let’s imagine we’re a financial services company using this headline formula for a direct mail postcard. It might go something like this:

  • Audience: Middle-income taxpayers Product: Financial seminar
  • Number of parts: Three
  • Benefit: Saving money
  • Headline: Get More Money at Tax Time — 3 Simple Steps

You can see how the formula builds the headline.

It also helps us identify the heart of our message and the audience it’s intended to reach.

Bonus Tip: Write a Dozen, Keep the Best. Headlines can make or break a direct mail postcard. So don’t settle for your first attempt. Even professional copywriters rarely hit the mark on the first try.

Personally, I’ll write at least a dozen versions of a direct mail headline. Then I’ll eliminate half of them (the weaker half) right off the bat. Then I’ll put them aside for a day or so, and when I review them again I’ll pick what I think is the best one.

Project Spotlight: The Power of the Postcard

It’s easy to give an honest opinion of a product or service that you truly believe in and use yourself. So, this issue’s Project Spotlight features our firm’s use of Postcards to promote our own services.

Years back, after the dotcom bubble burst, we found ourselves in a very different marketplace than it had been for years, not unlike what we are going to experiencing again with COVID-19, and we needed more clients. So, we began a multi-pronged marketing approach that included ramping-up our full-color postcard mailings.

We designed a multi-postcard campaign that highlighted the key areas of our business. For our target audience, we chose the niche markets that we had been successful working with in the past. We purchased mailing lists for those niche markets, stamped and addressed the postcards, and away the postcards went!

Since the campaigns launch, the postcard portion of our marketing campaign has contributed to over 65% of our new business since we started the campaign! At this point, it is important to note that the postcard portion of our marketing campaigns was only one part (albeit a very successful one) of an approach that included, email marketing, newsletters, networking, viral marketing, and a few of our own “secret weapons.”

Postcards have been an essential part of our marketing toolkit for years, and they’ve brought thousands of dollars worth of business to our Web and graphic design studio. Don’t underestimate the power of the postcard!

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