Postcards: The Essentials are Bold, Brief and Compelling

postcard direct mail Here’s how to produce amazing results from tiny territory and precision creative.

By Lonnie Hirsch

Postcards–the unpretentious little urchins of the direct mail game–can be a heavy hitter in your marketing mix. But for as unassuming as a postcard may appear, there are a lot of significant rules to this game that can make the difference between bust and bonanza.

On the plus-side, postcards are generally affordable despite recent postage rate changes. There is no envelope to mask your message, and friendly, attention-getting cards get through the mailbox clutter. Done right, postcards can produce a healthy Return-on-Investment as well as boost and extend the effectiveness of your overall strategy. And that idea brings us to the first of 9 tips in the checklist.

1. Postcards do not stand alone. But they can be one strong tactic when properly fit into a broader plan. Don’t count on a big splash from a one-time drop of a few postcards (and then conclude “they didn’t work.”) So…2. Think quantity. In building a practice marketing plan for a client, we often recommend mailings at a minimum of 5,000 pieces for the first of several weeks.3. Think frequency. Repetition (in just the right measure) works. We would typically build a marketing plan that begins with a postcard “drop” in the first week, followed by additional drops of a similar size every other week over 4 to 6 weeks.4. Take a breath, if needed. These numbers can sound a little astronomical to the uninitiated. But we know from experience-hundreds of clients, millions of pieces of direct mail and many years-this is simply what’s needed to be successful. Conversely, if you were thinking a lot smaller numbers, there is little need to read further. Stop now and avoid the disappointment…or call us and we’ll explain.5. Think multi-dimensionally. Postcards are not universal in size, shape, weight…and ultimately postage cost. But, as a starting point, there are specific postal requirements (including penalties) that establish the territorial rules. Regulations and rates changed recently, and you can expect to pay a premium if you try to play out-of-bounds. Knowledgeable and professional creative help knows how to design to the right size for maximum effectiveness without paying a premium.

Postcards provide limited real estate to accomplish a lot of tasks. Subtract some space on the card for the correct address allowance, barcode and return address, and the remaining breathing room for your message is tight. Plus the typical reading time can be just this side of a few nanoseconds.

So, in addition to size, here are some of the other creative considerations…

6. Think single-focus offer. Nail this one down tight. Postcards are offer-driven, meaning that it is the precise, strong offer that needs to be communicated instantly. There is no time or space for long or detailed text in this media. Start and end with the main point–a clear and compelling offer. You need to grab attention and communicate a single-focus message in just a few words.7. Think benefit. Within the confined space, connect the offer/message to a benefit of importance to the reader. The offer is the “why they should act now,” but the bigger-picture benefit is “what’s in it for them.” Maintain focus, but there may be more than one benefit.8. Think bold graphics. The visual elements of a postcard (color, picture, symbol) need to be strong to help get attention and be directly supportive of the message. Anything weak is not seen, and an unrelated graphic is meaningless, confusing or distracting.9. Think call to immediate action. A well-composed creative message inspires response, so the means of response–your phone number, for example-needs to be obvious. (You would be surprised at how often we find that the phone number is not obvious and sometimes missing.) And having a clear deadline, expiration date, limited quantity or consequence of inaction that is connected to the offer communicates immediacy and increases response.

These considerations are part of the formula for success and, frankly, it’s a tough creative challenge to manage all these tasks with few words and small size. You can call us to discuss how postcards may have a well-considered place in your marketing program.

If postcards are the right tool for you, we have the creative resources to craft a powerful message…plus, we can make the arrangements for highly affordable and efficient production steps to handle the printing, addressing, sorting and mailing.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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