11 Postcard Marketing Mistakes You’re Making


Postcard marketing has come a long way over the last decade in terms of technology advancements and new strategies. As businesses realize this, they are more eager to give it a try. When launching into a new channel, it is critical to make sure you are following best practices and setting your campaigns up for success. These are the 11 top postcard marketing mistakes most newbies make – and if you haven’t done your due diligence – you’re probably guilty of at least one or two. Read on to find some areas where you could improve your campaigns – or pitfalls to avoid as you get started.

1. You’re trying it once – and that’s it.

Just like any other marketing channel – the chances of you sending 1 campaign, knocking it out of the park, and having life-long customers forever is slim to none. Postcard marketing is effective, but it isn’t a silver bullet.

When thinking about postcard marketing, you need to think in terms of a campaign – not just a one-time shot-in-the-dark. Consistent reminders and messages are what helps build brand recognition and recall – which are vital to getting someone to research, and ultimately purchase from your brand. It may take a few interactions with a customer before it results in a sale. However, the eventual conversion usually offsets the cost of postcard printing – even if you are printing multiple campaigns.

Many business owners or marketers try postcard marketing once, expecting a flood of business. When they only receive 1 or 2 (tracked) sales from the campaign, they can end up feeling like they have wasted their money.

Instead of holding your first campaign to critically high standards for sales, treat it like an investment you are making in cultivating your audience. Also budget to send at least 3 or 4 different messages spread out over a couple of months and measure the success of the entire campaign – not just the first postcard.

Additionally, you can use each mailing to learn more about your audience, test different offers, and test different word structure. Consider splitting your list in half to see which headline works better. Then you can use what you learn to make your future postcard campaigns more effective.

2. You’re not creating an emotional connection

One of the top things a marketing guru will tell you is that you have to make an emotional connection with your message. But what does that mean? If you’re selling car parts – it’s kind of hard to stir up emotions with that, right?

Almost nobody is going to look at that dog card and not say “aww!” This is also an emotional response. When your messaging elicits an emotion, people are hooked – they want to learn more.

This was a birthday card that a business sent out to customers. ANY business could use a cute dog birthday card. Think beyond your specific product and service if it isn’t something that particularly lends itself to an emotional response.

You may not go with the “adorable” hook, but there are plenty of other emotional hooks you can use in your campaign. If you’re showing your campaign to a new person (yes, you should bounce your ideas off someone else) and they don’t say that the messaging entices them to learn more, then you’re doing something wrong.

3. You’re not targeting the right people.

Postcards are like other marketing channels – the better fit your audience is for your business, the more likely they are to make a purchase. So to avoid wasting money, you should make sure to narrow your list to the right audience as much as you can.

Don’t settle for a list just because it is cheap or easily available. The most effective lists will probably need a bit of research to uncover, or at least a good tool that you’ve invested in.

There are a lot of ways you can segment your list, depending on how much information you have. You can use any geographic information such as where people are located or how far they are from your business. Imagine receiving a postcard that says “We’re Open and Less Than 10 Minutes Away!” vs. “We’re Open! Visit Us!”

You could also use demographic information such as age, gender, income or number of children as it pertains to your business. There is also the ability to segment based on psychographic information such as hobbies and traits, depending on the list provider you choose. Research various list providers and tools for more ideas on lists you might be able to use and targets you might be able to reach.

Lastly, some list vendors can also provide you with event-specific information. For example, would you like to send a postcard to new movers? What about families who just had a new baby, or households who just bought a new vehicle? These types of lists are available to purchase, and depending on your messaging and offer could help you increase the likelihood of you reaching the right audience at the right time.

Even if you are going the Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) route to save money, there are still targeting options available. You can do research on the neighborhoods that you’re hitting with your campaigns and at least make sure the overall demographic and financial profiles match up with your ideal customer. If you’re a high-end jeweler, you probably don’t want to send to a neighborhood with a lower-income demographic.

In addition to prospecting targets, you should also consider your current customer list. Could you send a postcard to a group that hasn’t purchased in a while in order to re-engage them? Could you send out birthday coupons, or could you target a list of people who only visited ne time and haven’t come back? If you aren’t sure how you would target these different groups, it might be worth thinking about how you are collecting information and how you might collect that moving forward. These types of campaigns can be as lucrative as prospecting, if not more so, since keeping a repeat customer is often easier and more valuable than converting a new one.

4. You’re not personalizing.  

In the world of postcard marketing, there are a ton of ways you can personalize your campaigns. You can do everything from add a personalized message including someone’s name all the way to embedding a Google Street view picture of their home or driving directions from their address to your business on your postcards. The sky is really the limit.

I remember receiving a postcard shortly after I received my acceptance to college that incorporated my name into a neat design on the front relating to the school. While this is relatively easy to do, it still made an impression on me and I remember it to this day.

One of the most popular campaigns for local or regional businesses is the “welcome to the neighborhood offer!” that they send to people who have just moved in. This is a fantastic campaign idea, as new movers are almost always developing new routines based on the location of their new homes – which means more opportunity for your business to become one of their regularly-visited spots.

Even if you are using more generalized targeting approaches because of associated costs, you can still include some sort of personalization in your language. It may not be quite as memorable or eye-catching as a postcard with a picture of someone’s home on it – but you can appeal to them on a local level, for example, or incorporate a mention of a recent event – something to make the message seem like it is coming from a person, not just a “business.”

Obviously, the more targeted you are in your approach, the more you will be able to use personalization within your design and your campaign. The more personalized you are, the more likely people are to convert – so you might consider the increased conversions from a more personalized campaign before you go too generic. The increased revenue is likely to cover any increased costs associated with more targeted and personalized campaigns.

5. You’re making mistakes with your list.

If you are using a cheap or free list, or you are purchasing one from a vendor that isn’t reputable, you may be wasting a lot of money by sending to outdated or incorrect addresses. The other thing to know about this, too, is that unless you are paying the extra for first-class postage, you won’t even know it is happening. If you do plan to send a campaign of multiple postcards to the same list, you’ll be wasting money on those addresses every time.

Even if your postcard does end up at the right address, the current residents may be more likely to ignore it if it contains the old resident’s name – especially if the new resident has lived at the address for a while.

Even if you do have a solid list, you will want to check that the address details are all correct before sending it to your printer. We’ve heard horror stories of clients who accidentally deleted the “Address Line 2” field and so any apartment, condo, or office-specific addresses ended up getting recycled by the post office because the campaign didn’t use first-class postage and therefore undeliverable mail was not returned to the business.

6. You’re not considering when your postcards will arrive.

If you do email marketing or social media marketing, chances are that you are taking into consideration when your communication will hit your audience. You probably aren’t sending 1AM emails for new arrivals to your shop or posting your best new menu item to Facebook around that time. Obviously, the mail arrives at a specified time depending on the route, so you don’t have control over that – however, you can still try to roughly gauge the day your postcard will arrive and that can make a difference.

Monday, Friday, or holiday-time arrivals are generally less effective – so you should avoid having your campaign delivered on these days, if possible. Tuesdays and Wednesdays generally see the highest engagement because the overall volume of mail tends to be lighter on those days. You could also time promotions with other local events to increase the relevance and timeliness of your offers.

If you aren’t sure how to gauge when your postcard will arrive, especially if you are sending to other states, check with your post office. They’ll be able to let you know when your mailers should arrive.

7. You’re selling – not compelling.

If you are mailing a brand-new audience – there is no way you can completely convince them to buy from you with the text you can fit on 1 postcard. The key instead is to draw them in with a compelling message and encourage them to take the next step that can lead to a sale – such as visiting your website, coming to a grand opening, or using a coupon.

If your campaign is to previous customers, you can be a little more direct with your call-to-action.

Regardless of your audience, you want to make sure you are motivating with your offer. You want to encourage your audience to do something. Too many businesses send out postcards where the message is simply “we’re here! Visit us!” If another business made the same offer to you and it wouldn’t bring you in – chances are, it isn’t going to work on your audience either.

Some examples of compelling offers include coupons, specials, sales, or discounts. If you can’t afford to do a coupon or special, you can also encourage them to visit your website. If it is an audience that contains previous customers, “new arrivals” or a new item might be more appropriate.

8. You’re not keeping it simple.

Have you ever received a postcard with so much text on it that you cringed and threw it in the trash before even reading it? It happens a lot. You can’t possibly include every detail about your business on every piece of marketing. It ends up being completely ineffective.

Try instead to focus on the main components – the headline, the image, and the call-to-action. The headline should tout your biggest benefit and be big and bold. Your image should be emotion-provoking. The call-to-action should be clear and compelling. Tell your audience exactly what you want them to do. Any other copy should be the bare minimum you need to support the other 3 elements.

Again, considering your initiative as a campaign rather than a one-time postcard can help with this. Maybe you focus each of your postcards around the top 3 reasons people choose your business. You will still want to make sure that each of your postcards can stand up on their own with a complete message in case one of your postcards gets lost or ignored, but you can certainly build a more complete brand message through multiple communications instead of just one.

9. You’re not providing next steps.

Some marketers forget one of the most important elements – the call-to-action. They think by providing a great photo and headline that they’ve provided everything needed to encourage action from their audience. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

The key to any marketing initiative is to reduce friction. The clear way to reduce friction for your audience with a postcard is to provide simple next steps. What exactly do you want your audience to do? Though few would admit it – your audience, like everyone, appreciates being told what to do. They want decisions to be easy. Tell them to visit your store or visit your website – spell it out for them.

Additionally, you’ll want to make sure to include appropriate contact information as well. Provide your business’s address if people will visit it as well as your web address, even if your call-to-action is a coupon that can only be redeemed in-store.

10. You’re not proofreading.

Think back to when you were in school. Do you ever remember a teacher handing out a worksheet or assignment with a typo on it? You probably snickered with other students about it. Although it may not have had a lasting impression on you in that case, because you likely saw that teacher every day and they had plenty of other opportunities for their reputation to recover – as a business, you don’t get that luxury. If you make a mistake on your first impression, you could end up tarnishing the entire relationship.

To avoid this, make sure you have a few people proofread everything before you send it to print. Even if you are using minimal copy, it is still a good idea to get some other eyes on it, too. A mistake can be more costly than you might even want to consider.

11. You’re not tracking results

A lot of small businesses don’t spend a lot of time pouring over marketing metrics. If you’re a small business owner, your time is limited – and you may not feel like you have time to be that detailed. You know a couple of customers came in and mentioned your postcard – and maybe for you, that was enough.

If your postcard cost is relatively low, or your profit margins are particularly high – maybe it was enough. But unless you have a really solid understanding of your lifetime customer value, you shouldn’t rely on simply guessing – especially if you want to justify continuing to use this channel over time.

Instead, you should try to get to a point where you can determine the return on your investment. There are a lot of ways to track the ROI of a postcard campaign. You could include custom coupon codes, custom URLs, or require the person to bring the postcard in to redeem their offer. You could also include QR codes as another source of measurement for the success of your campaign.

No matter which tracking method you use, you’ll want to keep an eye on not only how many new customers or sales you received from the campaign, but you’ll also want to track which version won, if you did any sort of testing.

By measuring the ROI from each of your marketing channels, you can make better decisions about where to spend your marketing dollars moving forward.

We hope this list has helped you identify where your postcard marketing may be falling short, and ways you might be able to avoid making common mistakes. If nothing else, maybe you got an idea for a new campaign to consider that might help you grow your postcard marketing channel.

If you are guilty of any of these common mistakes – it is OK. Just focus on moving forward and correcting any mistakes you might have made in the past. Did you try sending one postcard a few months ago, but decided the cost wasn’t worth it? Consider trying another campaign. Have you accidentally sent out messages with typos? Do better going forward. Are you guilty of sending out postcards that have entire novels on them in size 8 font? Don’t stress about it. Instead – do better going forward. While it can be hard to change someone’s first impression, it isn’t impossible – and the fact that you’re making an effort to do better moving forward can go a long way in your customer’s eyes.


I would love to hear any of your questions and thoughts about your own postcard marketing campaigns. If you want to brainstorm personalized postcard ideas for your business or need help figuring out how to build the perfect recipient list, I want to hear from you. Call or email me – or chat with me by clicking the bottom right button.

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