Postcards Evolve from a Means to Send a Note to a Means to Build a Business

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July 10, 2012

Postcards came into existence in 1840 when people were looking for an easier way to send quick notes. It wasn’t until 1869 that they actually escaped being enclosed in an envelope and advanced to stand alone, stamped postal pieces. Flash forward a couple hundred plus years and postcards have become the little direct mail engine that could.

Postcards enable businesses to get a message or offer quickly out the door for immediate leads and sales. Postcards drive a 1-7% response, depending on a variety of variables and industry (warm or cold list, size of card, personalization, and most importantly, the offer). Postcards make the phone or cash register ring and drive customers online to make a purchase.

Postcards have transformed from an eloquent note form to a sales generating powerhouse. However, as powerful as postcards are they often get forgotten by marketers because of flashier alternatives, which include flash drives, iPads, iPhones, QR readers, and YouTube videos.

So if you’ve forgotten how far a simple postcard can take your business in a compressed period of time, use this blog post as a 10-minute refresher course that can inspire you to generate an instant return on investment this month.

A Trust Earner

Postcards are great at building a customer relationship over time. Plan a monthly postcard campaign for your service business or an informational 8 x 8 campaign (8 touches in just eight weeks). As a result, you’ll have a hot customer to call who is familiar with you or your business rather than someone who doesn’t know you from Adam.

If your postcard is designed to make the phone ring, never underestimate the power of a human being on the other end of the line to further build trust. In other words, make sure you have the staff, receptionist, customer service reps or salespeople ready to be at a phone when the new business generating postcards hit the mailbox. You will convert more leads to sales or warm prospects by having someone to take those calls vs. an interested person going to voicemail or an answering service.

The quick turn, high-trust building, low-cost factors that postcards deliver make them the medium of choice for:

  • Retailers that use them as bounce back promotions aimed at getting customers to return to the stores to make another purchase.
  • Doctors, dentists, and veterinarians who don’t want you to forget to schedule that appointment when it is time for flu shots, teeth cleanings, or vaccinations.
  • Seasonal businesses that want to be first on your call list to engage a lawn care service, pest control company, pool service, or golf club membership.
  • Realtors who incorporate them into their monthly customer touch points, so their face is always in front of a buyer or seller at least 13 months before they are ready to buy or sell.

Good Alone, Better Together

Has your pendulum swung too far to the digital side? Have you shaved your print budget to the bone to shift dollars to social media and watched your leads or sales dip as a result?

The marketing gospel says when something is working, don’t mess with it. Postcards with the right image, list, offer, and execution work. Unfortunately, some businesses try to save a buck by shifting 100% of their efforts to email. Just because there are now more marketing channels available, it doesn’t mean any should be completely replaced. Marketing dollars should be assigned to channels based on results and based on which channels pull the best results in tandem.

With all the hype about email marketing, social media, and GroupOn type promotions, some companies have tried to omit print materials altogether (postcards, brochures, leave behinds, annual reports) only to learn the hard way that print is vital to any marketing mix like flour in bread. In fact, when postcards are supplemented with digital media (landing pages, Quick Response Codes, and digital giveaways like reports and whitepapers) your response rates can jump 20-30%.

Print is not something you can or should delete from your marketing mix. Direct mail or postcard campaigns are just becoming more targeted and accountable than before because metrics have improved. To compete in this area, you need both print and digital in your marketing mix.

Trackable and Oh So 21st Century

In the 1800s, one would have to wait a month of more to hear that their note had been received. Today’s technology brings postcards out of the dark ages and into the 21st Century with trackability through QR codes or directing recipients to your company website, a general offer specific landing page or better yet a personalized URL (PURL).

Directing your prospects to PURLs is the equivalent of sending every prospect a warm and personal letter written just for them. They like it and respond accordingly.

A bank’s customers’ certainly did. It increased enrollment in electronic banking more than 625% when it switched from standard direct mail to variable data printing combined with a PURL. And the U.S. Postal Service has noted that response rates increase as customization does. This simple tool offers an exceptional ROI – an added benefit when marketing budgets are under tighter constraints and scrutiny (and when aren’t they).

Professionally Printed, Professionally Presented

Thanks to the short-run capabilities of digital printing, postcards are affordable and beautiful. Though using your office printer may appear to help you save in short term, it can never give you the same quality that a professional printer will provide. Send your postcard project to a high-quality printer that gives you impressive quality at very affordable prices.

Postcards Are a Stand Out, Hands-Down Winner

Check out the infographic above and you’ll see that postcards only make up 7.1% of the U.S. mail stream, they stand out against the combined 35% of flyers, circulars, catalogs, and magazines. Use postcards as your secret weapon in bringing in new business.

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