The Definitive Guide to Postcard Marketing


This article is not intended to be a sales pitch. I'm not here to convince you that postcards are the supreme marketing channel for all businesses and campaigns. Because the truth is that they aren't. Sometimes postcards are the best option. Sometimes an email campaign is more effective. Or maybe social media is the way to go. Most likely, it is a combination of all three. But in the end, you'll have to decide for yourself.

And that's why I've written this no-fluff, no-nonsense guide. This article is your ultimate resource, crammed full of every aspect of postcard marketing. So, buckle-up. It's going to be an interesting journey.

Other Direct Mail Options

First of all, postcards aren't the only option for direct mail marketing. There are lots of different options. Each one has a variety of pros and cons and are great for specific types of campaigns.

Different types of direct mail include:

  • Letters
  • Self-Mailers
  • Catalogs
  • Inserts
  • Parcels

These are just a few of your choices. And with today's printing technology, the possibilities are virtually endless.

The Six Types of Direct Mail graphic
It’s always good to have choices. Source

Let's take a look at each of these options to determine which ones best correspond with different marketing goals and campaign types.

Small and affordable to print, postcards contain short, personalized messages along with visually appealing photos and graphics. Variable printing allows each postcard to be uniquely crafted for each recipient, and they are a great way to engage new leads and retain previous customers.

Also known as the "classic package," letters involve a standard envelope enclosed with a personalized note and response form. Additional pieces, such as brochures, flyers, and announcements, can also be included to suit the needs of the campaign and the preferences of the recipient. Letters are widely considered one of the most effective types of direct mail.

Although very similar to letters, self-mailers are sent without an envelope. It typically consists of one piece of paper that is folded to the size and shape of an envelope (trifold) and secured with a sticker or tape. And just like letters, this inexpensive form of direct mail can be personalized with variable printing and offers a variety of styles to choose from.

This is a versatile option that is most effective with previous or current clients because its primary objective is to keep people informed on what's happening with the company. They typically contain a variety of information, such as recent achievements or upcoming milestones. It's a great way to stay top-of-mind with past customers and encourage long-lasting patronage.

Catalogs & Booklets
Although a substantial upfront cost is incurred with this form of direct mail, catalogs can offer a huge return on investment when used appropriately and in the proper circumstances. Spanning a large number of pages, these small booklets are typically filled with images and text that display various product offerings.

Circulars, Inserts & Wraps
Circulars are mass-produced retail promotions that are usually printed on lightweight newsprint quality paper, and they are most commonly used to efficiently and cost-effectively distribute ads and coupons for consumer products.

Inserts and wraps are produced in the same way and have the same objective. It's also important to note that neither of these options will self-mail. They are included within a newspaper or wrapped around other marketing content. If you're marketing toward co-consumers, inserts and wraps are a great way to reach the masses.

Parcels & Dimensional Mailers
This is an upgraded option that is typically best suited for exclusive offers intended for high-level B2B contacts. And although it has a high response rate, it is more expensive than other options, so it usually works best for high price point offerings. This will improve your chances of a desirable return on investment.

EDDM vs. Mailing Lists

If you're not already familiar with EDDM, I'll take a brief moment to explain this option and then compare it to using a mailing list.

EDDM stands for Every Door Direct Mail, and it is a delivery service offered by the United States Postal Service that allows marketers to deliver materials to every mailbox on a designated route. It is a very different process than using a mailing list and works great for certain marketing goals.

Want to learn more about EDDM? Check out this article.

Contrary to EDDM, mailing lists allow you to choose which households should receive your mailer. Based on a seemingly endless number of demographic attributes, you can mail your postcard to those people who are most likely to be interested in your offer (and hopefully convert). These attributes include things like geo-location, dwelling type, homeowner status, age, education level, occupation, ethnicity, marital status, children, purchasing behavior, lifestyle interest, and plenty more.

You can compile these lists on your own using data that you've collected from your customer base. However, it's likely easier and more beneficial for you to purchase a list from a professional provider. These companies' entire business model rests on the comprehensive collection of data for marketing purposes. They are a fantastic resource for most postcard campaigns. You'll have to do some research to determine the company that most aptly meets your needs, but here are a few options that should help get you going.

Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list, and I’m not making any specific recommendations here. This list is provided purely to save you time and effort looking for companies to research.

You're Not Cinderella: Postcards Won't Be a Good Fit for Everyone

Listen, I'm not trying to scare you off here. I'm trying to help you. You need to take a hard look at your situation and the resources you have available – time, money, manpower, etc. – and decide what marketing channels are best equipped to help you achieve your goals.

Cinderella's Slipper Image
I haven't gained a pound since high school.

If postcards are an option worth pursuing, great! Keep reading, and I'll provide actionable advice that will help you launch a successful campaign. But if you decide that other marketing channels will likely produce better results than postcards will, that's fine too. Just keep in mind that postcards can give a huge boost to your branding efforts, and we all know how important branding is for improving the ROI across all marketing channels.

Get Your Plan Together

If you're still reading, then I'll assume that postcards are a great option for your campaign, and you have every intention of moving forward with this marketing channel. If so, that's great. Now let's get to work.

Word cloud magnifying glass FACTS graphic
To begin a successful postcard campaign, we start with the facts.

Organize Your Data

The first thing you need before you can proceed is tons of data. Seriously. You need to gather every scrap of information you can about your company’s advantages, your customers, and your potential leads. The more info you have, the more effectively you can sculpt your strategy to produce top-tier results.

Not sure what info is useful? Here's a shortlist of must-haves that you definitely need to include.

Your Customers
Name, age, gender, race, income level, own/rent home, purchase history, purchase frequency, lifetime value, and anything else you can think of.

Your Business
What sets your business apart from your competitors? What are your company’s competitive advantages? One way to do this is to take your “elevator pitch” and break it down into a list of qualities. Go ahead. Write them out and be as thorough as possible.

Mix It Up: Use a Multi-channel Approach

Pay attention here. This is a major aspect of postcard marketing where many businesses miss the mark. Postcards are best utilized as one component of an overarching strategy that encompasses multiple marketing channels.

Multichannel marketing graphic, showing many of the marketing channels available
It's like a marketing treasure map.

Even more than a campaign's value offering, the primary function of marketing is branding. You want to hit people with your brand as many times as possible and in as many ways as possible. This helps to establish trust with prospects. With that said, there are some specific ways that postcards can augment the effectiveness of other channels. I'll give just a couple of examples to help illustrate the point.

Use your postcards to encourage people to visit a campaign-specific landing page for your website where they can opt-in to submit their email address for a valuable offer. Maybe they'd like to receive a valuable list, a master class, informative webinar series or another type of offer. Or perhaps you can require an email address to access an informative webinar series. The choice is yours, and the options are many, but be sure to offer true value.

By printing your mailers with a landing page URL and trackable slug included in the design, you can gather the device and IP information for all visitors to that page. This information is enormously helpful for remarketing to these prospects with search and display ads and is a great way to nurture their progress through the sales funnel.

Postcards can boost your social media or outbound efforts, as well. They are a versatile tool and can be creatively implemented across a wide range of marketing plans. All you need to do is start brainstorming ideas that align with your company's strengths. Don't be scared to punt the task to your team and see what they come up with.

If You Don't Plan, You'll Fail.

Set Goals for Your Postcard Campaign

What do you want to achieve? More leads? Branding? Product awareness? Increased revenue? It doesn't matter what you're aiming for. What matters is that you explicitly state what you want.

Spending time and money on marketing without having clearly defined goals will only waste your precious resources. My advice is that you get SMART.

Make sure your goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound
SMART: A Smart Way to Achieve Your Goals
SMART: A Smart Way to Achieve Your Goals

Get SPECIFIC on what you'd like to accomplish. If you want more leads, decide how many more you want. Or perhaps set a weekly or monthly quota for the number of new qualified leads you want streaming in from your postcard campaign.

Make sure your goals are MEASURABLE. You need quantifiable data in order to determine if a goal has been met. Don't just say you want increased revenue. Do the math and come up with an increased percentage that delivers an adequate ROI to justify your ad spend.

Set ATTAINABLE goals. Postcards can create some pretty incredible results, but they aren't magical. I mean, they probably won't take you from a garage startup to an IPO listing in three months. So be realistic. Set the bar high, but not so high that you can't hit your target.

Focus on reaching RELEVANT goals. This might seem a little ambiguous, but it's more applicable than you may think. If you want to hit a monthly quota for new customers each month, postcards can help you reach that goal. But purchasing a new company vehicle or landing a celebrity endorsement simply aren't relevant goals to set for postcard marketing.

Always ensure that your goals are TIME-BOUND. Set a due date for your desired results. Don't let things drag on-and-on. If time expires before you've hit your mark, reevaluate your situation, make adjustments to your strategy, and try again.

Identify Your Target Audience

Effectively identifying your audience should be a no-brainer for any marketing campaign, and postcards are no exception. Before you can send mailers to top prospects, you need to determine who those people are. If you send a postcard to someone who is statistically unlikely to purchase your product, you are wasting your time and money.

Here are the four steps you need to take in order to identify your audience:

  1. Understand your product or service.
  2. Segment the market.
  3. Conduct thorough research.
  4. Choose your audience.
4 Steps to Know Your Target Audience
Lucky number…4? Is that a thing? Source

Step 1 – Understand Your Product or Service
Take the time to write out the product/service features and customer benefits. We’ll touch more on benefits in just a moment. But for now, you just need to take stock of what it is that your product does or what service you can provide people. What improvements does your business bring to people’s lives? I’m sure you already know the answer to this question, but writing it all down will help you understand which groups of people might be the most interested.

Step 2 – Segment the Market
The market is a crowded place filled with prospective customers who might be interested in your offering. But if your marketing campaign stands any chance of performing well, you need to narrow the scope of your efforts. Segment the market to find the people who are most inclined to purchase. For example, a landscaping company should segment the market to include only homeowners, because renters are unlikely to have a yard in need of landscaping.

Step 3 – Conduct Thorough Research
Once you've segmented your audience, condense the prospect pool even further by conducting extensive research. You want to know all you can about your prospects. But how do you do that?

Other marketing channels can often be a great way to gather intel. For instance, you can run a sample Facebook ad to test the market and gain specific demographic info on your ideal customer. And using this information, you can then create your buyer personas. The more information you have, the better off you'll be in the long run.

Step 4 – Choose Your Audience
Now is the time to make the final decision. Armed with your perfect customer personas, you're fully equipped to send your postcards to the right people who are most likely to convert. Don't be afraid to dissect your audience into sub-segments. If it helps your ROI, do it.

Develop A Compelling Offer

I hate to point out the obvious here, but sadly, it needs to be said: Propose an offer that people actually want. Duh, right? You'd be amazed at how many people fail at this part of their postcard campaign. In their defense, though, it can be a little trickier than most folks realize.

You see, it's not enough to merely tell people WHAT your offer is. You must communicate the benefit that it brings to their life. In other words, WHY should they care? It doesn't matter how great of a deal you're offering. If people can't immediately see how it improves their situation, they won't spend a dime.

And most importantly, illuminating the benefits of your offer provides your prospects with an emotional motivation to purchase. And emotions drive revenue.

Check out how emotions drive revenue:

Benefits Ladder graphic
Emotional Benefits are the best benefits

People just want to know what (if anything) you can do to improve their situation. The keyword to remember here is BENEFIT. What benefit will the recipient receive from your offer?

Let's take a look at some examples:

First Bank of Baldwin Postcard Example

But what’s in it for me, Lori? Source

Cut your mortgage payment non postcard example

This A.R.M. is killing me! Source

See the difference? It's all about what your product can do for them and how good they'll feel if they choose you.

Set Your Marketing Budget

This is a massive subject, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of making sure your numbers are correct. Be as thorough as possible, and make sure you know exactly how much money you need to allocate for your marketing budget.

Facebook advertising cartoon
I've had this exact conversation more than once. - Ed

Obviously, this step of the marketing process will require a lot of math, so pull out your trusty calculator and grab some #2 pencils, because we're about to do some number crunching.

Not really. I hate math, so I'll let you handle the equations on your own. I will, however, point out the three primary calculations you need to make before you can set your marketing budget.

  1. Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
    This calculation determines the total revenue you can expect from an average customer throughout the total extent of their relationship with your company.
  2. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
    As I'm sure you know, new customers can be expensive. It's important to determine how much each one costs so you can properly budget the amount you'll need to spend in order to reach your growth goals.
  3. Customer Profitability (CP)
    Simply stated, after accounting for your total expenses, this figure predicts how much profit you will receive from each customer through the complete duration of their business with you.

If you need some assistance completing these calculations, you can find the formulas in this article. It also takes a deep dive into every aspect of budget setting and will most likely answer any additional questions you may have.

At the most basic level, you need to verify that your customer is spending more on your company than your company is spending on them. That's Business 101, right?

Here's a highly simplified depiction of what you need to shoot for:

LTV vs CAC: Successful vs Unsuccessful Model
Remember playing on the see-saw as a kid? Me neither.

What do you want people to do?

At first glance, this might seem like the point where we'll discuss the call-to-action. Not quite. We'll get into that a little later. But first, you need to establish what you want your prospects to do. Let me say that in a different way. You can't give an effective call-to-action if you don't know what that action is.

So, figure it out. Do you want people to visit your website? Would you like them to use an in-store coupon? Or would you like them to call your office to speak with a sales representative? Regardless of your goals, it's important that you give this question ample consideration. And remember that priorities change from year-to-year and even quarter-to-quarter. So, be sure to always revisit this question before beginning any new marketing tactic.

Branding: Establish your voice, tone, and style

Let's spend some time discussing who you are as a company, and how you'd like to be perceived by customers and prospects. Are you a hard-driving authority figure that commands respect and patronage? Or are you a whimsical free spirit who draws customers like a moth to a porch light? The characteristics of your business impact how you present yourself and how you communicate your value and expertise.

So, what exactly is a brand?

Company Brand
A brand is a combination of many different factors, including but not limited to a logo, website, tagline, and color scheme. Increasingly in recent years, a brand also includes a company's culture, management style, business structure, pricing model, and philanthropic efforts.

But knowing your brand is not enough. You also need to know how to accurately communicate your brand to your audience. In a nutshell, it boils down to three main characteristics:

  1. Brand Voice
  2. Brand Tone
  3. Brand Style

Brand Voice
Voice is how a brand expresses its distinctive personality to consumers through consistent and uniform communications across all content, including words, images, attitude, and values.

Brand Tone
Contrary to a brand's voice, the tone can vary widely depending on the situation, and it is primarily used in order to express empathy and form a connection with the audience. In order to encourage strong brand engagement, proper tone implementation requires a firm grasp of not only the brand's overall identity but also the buyer personas.

Brand Style
Style is the way that something is written or said, and it can include vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, length of sentences, abbreviations, acronyms, bullet points, and much more. Because it so closely affects the way that information is communicated, style has a close relationship with both voice and tone.

With the definitions out of the way, here are the steps you need to take when crafting your brand identity.

  1. Gather your content.
  2. The 3-word Challenge
  3. Make a chart.
  4. Ensure consistency.
  5. Stay on track.

Step 1 – Gather Your Content
Compile all blogs, articles, social media posts, videos, and any other customer-facing content you have created. Now, put on your thinking cap and examine each one closely. Does it sound like you? Or does it sound like a competitor? Hold on to the good ones and set aside the others that don't match your intentions.

Step 2 – The 3-word Challenge
Take the "keepers" from your content list and examine them closely. What do they have in common? What traits do they exhibit that you think best describe your brand? Now here's the tough part. Condense your answers into three one-word categories. That's right. Distill your entire brand identity into three little words.

For a working example, let's pretend your brand is:

  • Passionate
  • Quirky
  • Authentic

Now, describe each one of these characteristics in further detail by describing how you'd like them to be perceived by your audience.

Like this:

  • Passionate – expressive, enthusiastic, heartfelt, action-oriented
  • Quirky – irreverent, unexpected, contrarian
  • Authentic – genuine, trustworthy, engaging, direct

This should be a challenging exercise for you and will likely require a considerable amount of time and effort. If it's a simple task, then you're either doing it wrong, or you're too far advanced for this section. Go ahead and skip to the next topic.

Step 3 – Make a Chart
Now that you've established your brand’s voice, you need to get even more specific by writing out the essential "Do's and Don'ts" for all your content. A fantastic way to demonstrate these clear expectations is to create a chart in which your primary characteristics and their descriptions are listed alongside their proper (and improper) executions. This will become your essential reference tool for ensuring consistency across all of your content.

You can set up your chart similar to the one provided below:

Brand Voice Chart

Notice that this example has a secondary characteristic listed. Irreverent is a specific way to achieve a quirky attitude, and therefore deserves a special listing. If you have a sub-category that you need to explore, this is a great way to do it.

Step 4 – Ensure Consistency
This is a no-brainer. It's pointless to go through the effort of establishing your brand's voice, tone, and style if you don't share this information with your team. You should definitely meet with anyone who creates content or has direct contact with your customers. But I would also advise you to inform your entire staff. Even if they won't work with this information during the course of their regular duties, it's important that everyone be aware of the company's brand. Because after all, they are all a part of it.

Step 5 – Stay on Track
Change is inevitable, and businesses are no exception. As your company evolves, be sure to review your chart regularly and refresh it as needed. Are the primary characteristics adequately shown across all content? Are there certain do's and don'ts that aren't working? Do you need to make some additions to the protocols?

Whatever your needs are, it's advisable to meet with key stakeholders at least once a quarter to review the performance of your team and the brand. If something isn't producing the desired results, change it.

Write It Right

Craft a Strong Headline

If the overall design manages to catch the recipient's eye, then they might decide to read the copy on your card. If so, the first thing they'll read is the headline. And you've got about two seconds to grab their attention and encourage them to read further. If your headline is weak, you've lost a potential lead.

Here are the four steps to follow when crafting your headline:

  1. Know your audience.
  2. Evoke emotion.
  3. Include numbers (if applicable).
  4. Be clear and concise.

Step 1 – Know Your Audience
This is day-one marketing stuff here. Understand your audience and cater to their needs and preferences. Study your customer data carefully by searching for common traits in your mailing list or talking with employees in customer-facing roles. You might even want to reach out directly to some customers by asking them to complete a survey.

Step 2 – Evoke Emotion
Information on its own does not motivate buyers. Instead, it's emotions that drive people to act. We'll explore this notion further in the section on "Power Words."

Step 3 – Include Numbers (if applicable)
If your offer doesn't include a number, that's fine. Don't force one into the headline if it doesn't belong. If you do have a number though, it can be helpful in grabbing the recipient's attention while they are casually scanning through their mail.

Pro Tip: Be sure to use numbers and symbols instead of words and letters. For example, "20% OFF" is more effective than 20 Percent Off." Pretty big difference, right?

There's no ambiguity with this one:

Example of a clear and direct offer from a sporting goods retailer

Step 4 – Be Clear and Concise
When it comes to headlines, creativity takes a backseat to clarity. People aren't interested in seeing how clever your writing is. Just keep it brief and hit them with the facts.

Like this:

The North Face postcard, super direct and clear


Here’s where you can really make a difference in your ROI. Personalization is hands-down your best tool for generating conversions. And while there are many different ways to achieve this, the primary vehicle for personalization is Variable Data Printing (VDP).

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Variable data printing is an automated process that enables the text and graphics of direct mail to be uniquely tailored for each recipient.

Personalizing your postcards allows you to customize the elements of your design according to the individual attributes of the prospect. And thanks to the benefits of VDP, the possibilities are virtually endless.

For instance:

  • The recipient’s gender, age, location, or other demographic information can determine the image used on the card.
  • The copy text can change depending on the recipient’s name, industry, or preferences.
  • The offer itself can vary per the recipient’s location in your sales funnel (prospect, lead, customer, repeat buyer).

Really though, these examples only scratch the surface on all the possibilities that personalization has to offer. Scout specializes in personalization – it’s what we do best. Let’s take a look at a couple of projects we completed for previous clients.

We’ll start simple. Our client, a real estate broker, needed to add a personal touch and convey a sense of comfortability to the recipients. This tactic can go a long way toward helping your brand feel familiar to your prospects – even if they’ve never heard of your company before.

To help our client, we used Variable Data Printing to include the name of the prospect on the card that is delivered to their address. The name changes for every postcard, and it always corresponds to the addressee.

Like this:

"Corey, this home was just listed" postcard Michelle Kim, realtor

Now let’s take a peek at the backside. Specifically, I want to point out the map in the upper right corner. This map shows Corey the best route he should take to visit the new listing that the postcard is promoting. Like the name on the front, the map is different on each postcard and the starting point (A) always corresponds to the address provided.

Also notice the QR Code. The recipient only has to scan the code with their smartphone and the directions will appear on the screen. No need to type in the address by hand! Pretty incredible, right? We’ll get into these codes in detail a little further in this article.

Back of Michelle Kim postcard with map

Now if you think that was cool, then you’d better buckle up, because we pulled out the big guns for this next example. Our client was a roofing company operating in a crowded market, and they needed a way to stand out among their competitors. So here’s what we did for them:

Viirt postcard showing Google maps roof and customer savings

You’re looking at an aerial satellite picture provided by Google Earth. The house pictured with a blue colored roof, is the home of the recipient and is located at the address shown in the white box. Let me say that a different way, the recipients of these postcards are shown a picture of their house. How’s that for an attention grabber?

But that’s not all we did. Notice the square footage and other details provided in the box. This information was calculated with the help of Google Earth and is used to provide an immediate estimate right on the card. There’s no need for the prospect to schedule a time for an estimate. That barrier has been removed. With absolutely zero hassle, the recipient knows exactly how much a new roof will cost.

Now compare that image with another postcard from the same campaign:

Viirt postcard showing Google maps roof and customer savings
Different address. Different house. Different estimate amount. Absolutely awesome.

But wait, we’re not done yet! Take a look at the reverse side of the same postcard and notice the personalized slug that is at the end of the website URL. By visiting this web address, the recipient is taken to a landing page where they will find a completed estimate form detailing the cost breakdown on their new roof, as well as a simple one-click step to proceed with the sale.

Back of Viirt postcard

By taking these extraordinary measures to personalize each postcard, we removed nearly every obstacle blocking the prospects’ path to conversion. And with such a short, streamlined sales funnel, our client’s revenue skyrocketed. Let me be clear. This is the type of postcard marketing that can produce a sky-high ROI.

And remember, these examples are only the tip of the iceberg for what is possible with personalization. Let your imagination run wild and create a strategy that will make the leads come pouring in. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to Scout. Because like I said, personalization is our specialty.


This is considered by many to be the most important aspect of your entire postcard design. If you want to stand a chance at getting a high conversion rate, then you have to nail your CTA (call-to-action). So what does that mean?

Well, as you might imagine, there are tons of opinions floating around the internet on how to craft the perfect CTA, and most of them vary slightly in one direction or the other. But for the most part, they all have a few things in common.

Everyone agrees that a great Call-to-Action should:

  • Use second-person pronouns ("You").
  • Tell the reader what to do (don't ask).
  • Give a deadline (provide urgency).
  • Use power words (motivate toward conversion).

Second Person
Always use second-person pronouns. Don't say he/she/I/we or anything besides "YOU." Remember, your postcard is a direct communication to the reader. So treat your CTA as if you are giving them a direct instruction to buy your offer.

Be Commanding
Regardless of your brand voice or style, you must give a commanding CTA. This isn't the time to make a polite suggestion ("Please visit our store some time.") Like a drill sergeant, you have to tell people exactly what you want them to do ("Come to the store today!). See the difference?

Make it Urgent
An expiration date is a crucial aspect of your overall postcard copy, but it's especially vital for your CTA. The bottom line is that people are motivated by a limited time offer. Even if your expiration date is arbitrary, include it on the mailer. You've got to push people to take action, and the expiration date is the absolute best way to do that.

Potently Powerful Power Words
First of all, what is a power word? Is that even a real thing? Well, yes. Yes, it is. And if you don't already know about them, you need to spend some time and become intimately familiar with how persuasive these words can be.

According to, a power word is:

"A word that often evokes an emotional response, positive or negative, in the target audience, leading to a desired outcome."

Essentially, there are certain types of words that are especially good at evoking emotions. And as we discussed earlier, emotions are what drives conversions. Your postcards have to make recipients FEEL something, and power words are a great way to achieve that.

Take a look at these examples:

Marketing power words graphic
marketing words to avoid graphic

Grab the Crayons: It's Time to Design!

Beyond the words you use, your postcard design must draw people's attention, elicit a desire for your offer, and subconsciously guide them toward your CTA. And somehow, you've got to do all this in an aesthetically pleasing manner. If that sounds tough, it's because it is. If you're not already an expert at this type of work, I advise you to enlist the talents of a trained professional. Fortunately for you, a lot of postcard printing companies have in-house design teams who can help you along the way.

Let's break it down into steps:

  1. Command Attention
  2. Create Desire
  3. Contact Info
  4. Visually Direct Toward the CTA
  5. Achieve overall balance.

Step 1 - Command Attention
Be bold. Imagine you're stranded on a desert island, and the only way you'll be rescued is if someone reads your postcard. It sounds silly, I know. But you get my point. This isn't the time or place to be subtle. Use bright colors and stark contrast to catch the eye, and large lettering that can't be ignored.

Step 2 - Create Desire
Don't overthink this one. It sounds more complicated than it really is. Your product should be appealing. Soooo…show them your product. It's that simple. If the recipient sees something they like, then there's a good chance they'll desire it.

Here's a perfect example:

Free offer from Chipotle postcard
Well, now I know what I'm having for lunch.

Contact Info
All of your efforts will be wasted if prospects have no way to get in touch with your business. No matter if your goal is to increase phone calls, in-store visits, text messages, or website traffic, put ALL of your contact info on every mailer. Give people choices to reach out to your company using their preferred method.

Visually Direct Toward the CTA
A designer might tell you that there's a lot of nuance in carefully guiding a reader's eye toward the CTA. And they're probably right. But I'm not a designer. I'll just say that you need to make it obvious. Don't make the reader search for it. This isn't a scavenger hunt.

Here's a great example:

Anatomy of a postcard graphic
If you can't find the CTA, you're fired. Source

And to offer some contrast, here's a postcard who's call-to-action is pretty tough to find. And keep in mind that the red box is not actually printed on the card. It's just there to help you find the CTA.

Whatever you do, don't do this:

Hello Fresh postcard bad example
Go ahead and search for it. I'll wait. Source

Achieve Overall Balance

Believe it or not, we're all art critics. Well, maybe not exactly, but we do appreciate balance. Our brains find it pleasing. And happy brains spend money. So try to get some symmetry in your design or at least balance a "heavy" side with something bold on the opposite end. It will go a long way to creating a design that motivates people to convert.

This idea can become pretty tricky, so it's probably best to trust the advice of your preferred design professional. But to give you an idea of what I'm talking about, take a look at the designs below.

Kittrell and Associates postcard

Nice Backside!

Right off the bat, let me point out the obvious: There is no front or back to a postcard. There is only the side a recipient looks at first. To them, that is the front.

We use the terms front and back while in the design stage because it makes it easier to communicate for design purposes. But you never know which side the prospect will look at first. That's why it is critical to make sure both sides are stunning. If their first glance is on a side with a weak design, then it's almost guaranteed that they'll never flip the card over to see the other side.

Look at the example pics below. Both sides show a strong value offering and CTA paired with consistent branding. This is a textbook example, and you can find out more about what makes it so great if you read this article.

Grubhub postcard
It's pretty close to perfect. Source
Back of Grubhub postcard with $10 off offer

This is the back of that same card. Source

All the Colors of the Rainbow

Did you know that blue expresses dependability? Or that red shows excitement? It's true. The power of colors on our subconscious is nothing short of remarkable. Take a look at the chart below to see what reactions are caused by different colors. Which ones work best for your brand's personality and your campaign's goals? Get scientific in your process here, and run some experiments on your staff, friends, and family. Then compile the results and choose the color(s) that work best for you.

Color emotion guide
Color emotion guide

Stay in the Lines: Follow the USPS Design Rules

The United States Postal Service has strict guidelines for postcard mailers. Don't make the mistake of overlooking these requirements. No need to worry, though. They're pretty simple and easy to follow.

Here's what you need to do:

Postcard clear zones: bleed, trim, edge
You'd better not color outside the lines, kiddos. Source

Must-haves for Printing Your Postcards

Bigger is, in fact, better

Large postcards get more attention than small ones. Plain and simple. And that's pretty logical, right? Generally, your mailer will be received among a pile of other letters, flyers, and envelopes. The bigger yours is, the greater the likelihood of it standing out in the crowd and getting noticed by the recipient.

Big goldfish vs little goldfish

Say hello to my little friend. Source

And yes, the bigger the card, the higher the cost will be per piece, and you'll need to factor this price increase into your budget considerations and predictive ROI calculations.

Generally, your size options are as follows:

Postcard sizes and thickness diagram
Postcard sizes and thickness diagram

This is actually the layout of my house. Source

And yes, thickness matters too.

Similar to card size, the thickness of your postcard impacts the perceived value of your business and your offer. If your card is flimsy, that's how your brand will be perceived – cheap and unreliable. Look, I'm not saying you need to etch your offer in stone. I'm just advising you not to cut any corners at this point in the process. You're in the home stretch!

Here are some sizes you can expect to see:

Paper thickness table.
Don't' make it complicated. Just go with a "normal" postcard stock.

From top to bottom, this chart shows the weights of different paper types from lightest to heaviest. The pounds are the weight of 500 sheets (or a ream) of paper. For example, 500 sheets of Tracing Paper weighs 25 lbs. The GSM is another way to measure the weight. It stands for “grams per square meter.” But look, the bottom line is the higher the number, the thicker and heavier it is.

Find Your Goldilocks Printer

Not every printer is created the same. The truth is that some are fantastic, and others are terrible. With such an important investment like postcard marketing, don't get screwed over by an awful printing company. Take the time to research all your options before making a final decision. And believe it or not, Scout has good experience helping clients navigate this all-important selection process.

Cartoon - Nobody's Perfect Mission Statement
You can do better ;)

The main things to look for in a great printing company are:

  • Fast and Responsive Service
  • High-quality Production
  • Custom Design Expertise
  • Strong Focus on Conversions

Fast and Responsive Service
If they drop the ball on customer service in the beginning, imagine how bad it could get after they already have your money. Find a company that is invested in your long-term success.

High-quality Production
Great service is vital, but it doesn't mean much if they deliver an inferior product. Be sure to find a printer who is meticulous with every detail of the job and offers an extensive list of vibrant color choices. Flat, dull colors, or one bad cut can ruin an otherwise great design, and you don't want someone else's shortcoming to decrease your ROI.

Custom Design Expertise
Most of us aren't designers, and hiring an in-house graphic artist isn't a cost-effective option for most companies. So, find a printer who can handle every aspect of the design process, and who is eager to work side-by-side with you every step of the way. This will save you a massive amount of time and effort versus trying to complete the design on your own.

Strong Focus on Conversions
Pay special attention to this one. Lots of printers do only one thing – they print. But frankly, that's not good enough for your needs. You've got to find a company that will help you convert your prospects and reach your goals. Anyone with the machinery can print postcards, but you're looking for a partner who has the know-how to get you across the finish line.

Track Your Mailers: Attribution Techniques and Calculating ROI

When your postcards generate conversions, make sure they get credit for it. You need to accurately track your campaign’s performance and attribute the success to the postcards. Don’t let another channel steal the glory. But how do you do that?

Well, if you have any experience with postcard marketing or have at least run a google search on the topic, then you have likely come across a mentioning of personalized URLs, custom phone numbers, and QR codes. Scout specializes in these advanced tracking methods. But for those who are unfamiliar, here's a brief rundown.

Personalized URLs (PURLs)

This is exactly what it sounds like. Each postcard can be outfitted with a one-of-a-kind URL that is linked with a specific household. This URL sends people to a landing page created for the campaign and allows people to take advantage of the offer being made. By using PURLs, it's easy to identify precisely who visited the landing page and credit the postcard campaign for the visit.

This is important information to have because it allows you to create highly targeted remarketing tactics. Someone in that household took the time and effort to type in the URL and visit the site. That's a big deal! And it means that they are now considered a hot lead that likely only needs a slight nudge to convert.

Custom Phone Numbers

Similar to PURLs, customer phone numbers are unique for each campaign. However, it's important to note that each postcard in a campaign will have the same phone number. So this won't allow you to know exactly who called the number, but you can gather data for the total number of calls received from the postcard campaign. And if your campaign spans across multiple area codes, this information might be useful to determine which areas show a greater interest in your product or service.

It's important to note that these custom numbers redirect people's call to ring on your normal business line. So when calls come in, you don't know which number the caller dialed. And in order to properly track the effectiveness of your postcards, you need to train your staff to ask callers where they found the number or discovered the offer.

Take a look at this for more info:

Rules of the Road - Tracking Response Rates
Yay! An excuse to hold another staff meeting.

QR Codes

Think of QR Codes as a hybrid of the previous two examples. They are campaign-specific like the custom phone numbers (not household-specific), and yet they also allow you to know exactly who converted.

Sounds like a nice mix, right? Here's how it works.

With the QR Code printed on the postcard, prospects use their smart devices to scan the code. This sends them to the campaign landing page where they can access the offer – just like with the PURL. And this is great for marketers because now you have their device information. This makes remarketing a breeze.

Century 21 Postcard Design
This is a bold QR design. Yours could be displayed more subtly.

Do Some Number-Crunching: Calculate Your ROI

The tracking results have come in and have been tallied. Now the time has arrived for you to evaluate your results. But what's the best way to determine the return on your investment?

I'm so glad you asked.

ROI = (Net Profit/Cost of Investment) x 100
ROI = (Net Profit/Cost of Investment) x 100

Common Postcard Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

I'll Say It Again: Find the Right Fit

I know I covered this quite a bit at the beginning of the article, but it's worth mentioning again. Make sure that postcards are right for your campaign and business goals. This is true of any marketing channel as well. Why spend precious time and resources trying to boost your growth by leveraging a marketing channel that isn't properly equipped to help you achieve your goals? You'd be throwing money away, and it doesn't take an MBA to know that's no way to run a business. So make sure you evaluate all facets of your situation before moving forward.

And again, I'm not trying to persuade you against postcards. On the contrary, I think postcards are a fantastic option for a whole slew of situations. I'm simply warning you to make smart marketing decisions and spend your money wisely.

Date other people…I mean marketing channels. Wait. What?

Postcards are most effective when used in conjunction with other marketing channels. Don't rely on them as your only tool to make all your dreams come true. Instead, consider them a valuable member of your marketing team.

Go All-in

Like all marketing, postcards take time to realize their full potential. Although it's possible to see positive results within a week or two of sending out your mailers, reliable big-picture data won't become visible until at least three to four months (maybe more). So be patient.

Also, keep in mind that mailing one postcard isn't going to cut it. When it comes to marketing, repetition is the name of the game. Be prepared to send multiple mailers across a wide time frame. This drives your brand and value offering into the subconscious of your prospects. And then, when they finally have a strong need, your company is the first choice that comes to mind. So, remember: It's a marathon, not a sprint.

Some More Pointers

5 Direct Mail Mistakes to Avoid.
If you were paying attention, this stuff should mostly be a review :)

One Final Thought

There's a long-standing rule of postcard marketing that divvies up the importance of each design aspect as follows:

  • 40% Audience Selection
  • 40% Value Offering
  • 20% Design

Like this:

40-40-20 Rule: 20% Design - 40% Offer - 40% Audience
The 40-40-20 Rule

But I suggest you hold yourself to a higher and more specific standard. This will help you focus your efforts where they matter most and will ensure that you don't overlook any important aspects that could contribute to your campaign's success (or failure).

Try this on for size:

Postcard Marketing Pie Chart. The Offer is 20%.
Mmmmm, pie (chart). Source

The primary difference here is the addition of "Timing." We haven't touched on this at all yet, but it is a valuable lesson to learn. I'll list some blatant examples to illustrate my point.

  • Don't send a "Back to School" offer in February.
  • Don't mail a Christmas postcard in July.
  • Definitely don't offer people a discounted product that they previously purchased for a higher price.

You get the point. It all comes down to research and having a thorough understanding of your audience and your goals. Leave no stone unturned and maximize your results.

Questions from the Class?

I would absolutely love to hear your questions and thoughts. Are there any points that you'd like to discuss further? Are you unsure how to implement some of these ideas into your own marketing strategy? Do you think I'm a terrible writer who probably never made it past the sixth grade?

Whatever your thoughts or questions are, I want to hear them. Call or email me or chat with me by clicking the bottom right button.

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