Postcard Perfect

A 20-Point Checklist to Ensure a Successful Postcard

Oftentimes, a brand finds that mailing a postcard makes more sense than a catalog. There are many reasons you might want to mail a postcard; including, the announcement of a customer-only sale, a new product introduction, a last chance deadline or even a seasonal sale. While this format is not necessarily a cheaper alternative it does offer the recipient a sense of urgency and demands immediate attention.

The burning question, though, is do postcards still work? In a digital world the answer is surprisingly, yes! Consumers still appreciate the efficiency and “quick read” a postcard provides. As marketers, we certainly appreciate the cost effectiveness of a postcard, especially when they work! However, this format must work especially hard as you only have seconds to grab a recipient’s attention and explain your offer. And that’s no easy task with the limited space a postcard provides. So, how can you create a postcard that will stand out in the mail and motivate customers to respond? The following is your 20-Point Postcard check guaranteed to keep your efforts humming.

Before you continue, keep in mind two things you MUST answer when a postcard is received … “Who is it from, and what’s in it for me?”

Your 20-Point Postcard Check:

The Offer, the most important component.

1. Create an Enticing Offer. Keep in mind, an offer doesn’t always have to be a discount. It must be something your customers care about and will motivate them to action. An offer can be something as simple as a free quote. So, is your offer simply stated and easy to understand? Complex and multiple offers can dramatically depress response.

2. Guide Them to the Next Step. Is it clear what you are asking the reader to do? If you are selling a product, tell customers how to order. If the postcard is a store traffic generator, make sure customers understand they must redeem the offer in your store (and make sure you tell them where the store is). If your offer is a request for more information, make sure you clearly explain how to complete the next step.

3. Lead with Proven Winners. If your postcard is designed to sell, is the product unique or a best seller, one that accurately reflects your merchandise uniqueness? This is particularly important when you are mailing to prospects. Always present proven winners and choose a product that best reflects future offers and/or merchandise. Otherwise, you may impede repeat purchases.

Copy that motivates:

4. Grab Attention. Is your headline incredibly compelling? Headlines are the most important copy component and must stop readers in their tracks. Is your headline visually “loud” so that it’s the first thing readers see? Does the rest of your copy support the headline? Headlines are so important that they are worth testing to find the one that customers will respond to the most.

5. Keep it Brief. Is your copy short, sweet and easy-to-process? Customers will not read long copy in a postcard format, period. Use short paragraphs, bullet points and lists to quickly explain your offer.

6. Answer the Question “What’s In It for Me?” Does your copy specifically tell the reader what they are going to get by responding? Leave no question unasked so customers will feel confident with their decision.

7. Repeat Your Offer. Have you repeated your offer more than once? Offers should be repeated at least twice, if not more. In fact, try including the offer on both sides of your postcard or at least as a teaser on the address side. The goal is to not hide the offer … never assume that the reader saw it just because you stated it once.

8. Track and Measure. While it’s not always easy to track the success of a postcard, adding an offer code will help. Boldly ask customers to include an offer code because tracking will help you determine success. Copy like “Mention Offer Code XXX” can help increase your capture rate. If you’ve included a coupon, be sure to include your tracking code on the coupon. If your website is an order option, consider using a unique landing page that directs them straight to the offer. Oftentimes, online coupon sites will pick up your offer code but that’s okay. Yes, it muddies your tracking efforts but who wouldn’t mind more sales?

9. Version Your Message. Are you speaking appropriately to your audience? It’s not often that the same copy will work for both customers and prospects. With prospects, you lack credibility and need to quickly build a comfort level. For customers, always recognize them as a customer using copy like, “Special Customer Offer.” For business-to-business customers make sure you understand who will be processing the postcard and who will make the decision.

10. Include a Strong Directive. Have you included a strong, visible, call-to-action? Use directives like “Call Now” or “Order Now” followed by easy to understand order instructions.

Graphics that grab attention:

11. Use Images to Tell the Story. Have you included a photo of what they are getting? If it’s a service, does your imagery reflect the end benefit? Remember, you only have seconds to explain your offer – the right photo will grab attention and help readers understand your offer. Don’t be afraid of included bold, interesting graphics as long as they grab attention!

12. Be YOU. Does the overall look closely reflect your brand? This is critical when mailing to customers. If a recipient quickly “recognizes you” in the mail, chances for success increase. Be sure to place your logo on both sides!

13. Watch Your Back (side). Have you included key components on the address side of your postcard? The “back side” of postcards are typically read before the front simply because people tend to read who it’s mailed to first. Plus, many households receive so much mail that the postal carrier will band the mail together – with the address side “up.” If possible, include visuals, the offer or teaser, your logo and contact information on the address side of your postcard.

14. Warm It Up. Is there an opportunity to use bright colors? The warmer the better (red, yellow, orange). The eye naturally gravitates towards warm colors more than dark or dingy colors. If you can only afford to print one color, consider colored paper stock – again, the brighter the better.

15. Include a Visual Cue to Act. Mission critical: Have you included a coupon or a strong, visual call-to-action? It doesn’t matter if the coupon is intended for use or not, consumers recognize a coupon as an offer. It’s a flag that says, “I’m asking you to do something.”

16. Be Straightforward. Is your type easy to read, using only one or two type fonts? Never get cute with type … remember the goal is to quickly convey your offer.

Production matters:

17. Broaden Your Message. Have you considered the value of mailing “large”? While this will affect cost, consider the trade-off of increased response because your postcard stands out in the mail. While mailing a postcard up to 4-1/4” x 6” will save you money (and will reach your recipient quicker via mailing first class), you can mail up to 6-1/8” x 11-1/2” for only pennies more.

18. Ensure It Will Mail. Have you checked your aspect ratio? No, this is not rocket science, just a set of rules that ensures your postcard makes it through postal equipment. Basically, a piece cannot be too square or it tumbles and jams in the sorting equipment. The aspect ratio is the length divided by the height of the piece. An acceptable range is 1.3 to 2.5.

Of Special Note:

19. Consider Unique Formats. Have you considered applying “special effects” used to involve your customer and increase response? There are many successful techniques that marketers have used including double-postcards, partial fold-overs (also called folded self-mailers), scratch-offs, cutouts, stickers and personalization. Some of these require special postal and printing considerations. Special techniques should be considered but only when weighing the additional cost against the potential response. Simply ask yourself, “What else can we be doing to involve the reader?”

20. Test and Refine. And last but certainly not least, are you consistently testing with the goal of finding your most effective and efficient postcard possible? Even if your current postcard program is successful, you should be vigilant in trying to create a better mousetrap. There is always room for improvement!

If you are currently mailing postcards, how many of these 20 questions were you able to answer affirmatively? Many marketers minimize the creative effort when producing a postcard when, in reality, postcards can be much more difficult because of the limited space. When creating your next postcard, remember that ultimately there are three goals you must achieve with your design: grab attention, quickly explain an offer and get a response.

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The Catalog Blog covers opinions and information on all things catalog. Have something to add? Leave a comment below. Catalog University is devoted to helping you get ahead in the fun and fascinating world of catalogs. If you want even more information about cataloging, including FREE Pub Talks, be sure to sign up for the Cat-U mailing list. We will never share your name with 3rd parties.

Lois Brayfield; Dean of Creative, Catalog University + CEO; J.Schmid & Assoc, Inc.