By Frankie Kangas
Small is beautiful: For its size, the postcard packs the biggest wallop of any mailing device. Why? It has instant visibility because it’s out there to be seen and read immediately. No envelope to fuss with or hide your real message.
Most people find postcards irresistible, and will look them over even if they eventually throw them away. This means prospects get your message and then decide, where as an envelope all too often deprives you of that chance.
Because the postcard requires so little effort, it is more likely to generate action: it is read and acted upon immediately, rather than being shelved along with the other mail for possible later action.
More bank for your buck: The postcard is much more cost-effective than other marketing tools for many uses. For example, compared with a direct mail package, the postcard is cheaper to produce, to stuff, and to mail.
A postcard-sized display ad in a metropolitan daily newspaper will normally cost several times as much as a postcard mailing. And the postcard, handled properly, will provide a much greater return on investment, because it is more precisely targeted, and not wasted on non-prospects like the majority of a newspaper’s readers.
Unlike an ad, the postcard competes with only a few other items in the mailbox that day, rather than with the 350 ads in a typical daily newspaper. And if the postcard is a ” keeper,” if it has a coupon or some valuable information, it will be around to repeat the sales message long after the newspaper is discarded.
For many small business, a postcard can be more effective than a brochure, at about half the price, or less. Used as a “mini-brochure,” it offers the added benefit of forcing you to focus your marketing message to fit in a small space. As a postcard, your mini-brochure is much cheaper to mail, and more likely to be read.
Postcards can have a wide variety of uses, but they are most effective for three marketing tasks:
- Prospecting for leads
- Reselling current customers
- Maintaining customer contact.
Prospecting by postcard: The postcard is a cheap and effective method for generating leads, often as the first step of a two-step sales effort. Such a postcard will offer recipients a free incentive, or invite them to send for more information. This inexpensive first step qualifies prospects for the next, more expensive, step of the sales effort.
We have seen two-step selling with postcards work for products and services as varied as computer software, bookkeeping and tax services, marketing services, and computers to name only a handful.
Reselling current customers: We often quote a study by Fortune Magazine which found it is five times easier to sell to current customers than to acquire new ones. To reap the benefits of your investment in current customers, you should be continually soliciting business from them. Postcards are one of the most cost-effective ways of doing so.
Franklin Quest illustrates this use with a postcard notice of upcoming seminars for customers who use their Franklin Day Planner. A jazz band in our area uses postcards to notify fans of their schedule of appearances. A shoe store sends postcards to its customers with a color photo of a new line of shoes they’re selling. A carpet store notifies preferred customers of a private sale event with a postcard.
Maintaining customer contact: It has been estimated that you should contact each customer at least eight times a year to retain them as active customers. This means the customer must see your advertising, visit your business, get a phone call, receive a mailing, or have some other form of contact from you.
A postcard is an ideal way to keep your name current with customers at a low cost: You can find dozens of reasons to contact your customers during the year. If you move, acquire a new line of merchandise, hire a new chef or a new sales representative, or have some other news worthy change in your business, you have a solid reason to make contact. If you don’t have a reason, invent one.
A good example of this kind of postcard use is the Mini-Marketing Newsletter, a new postcard-newsletter we have developed for business-to-business customers. One side of the card provides marketing tips developed by Win-Win Marketing, and highlights your company as the sponsor. The other side is blank for addressing, and also allows space for printing or writing your sales message.
This type of contact is especially effective because it provides valuable, interesting information which the customer will want to keep for reference. That means your company’s sales message will be repeated every time the customer looks at the postcard.
Good postcard markets: Postcards are an easy and cost-effective way to reach a market that is confined to a small geographic area. It has been estimated that the majority of customers for a typical retail sole proprietorship are within a quarter mile area of the business. For franchises, the estimate is three quarters of a mile. When you can locate your market this closely, it pays to use the mail to solicit business, and the cheapest form of direct mail is a postcard.
The same holds true for markets which are geographically widespread, but small and highly specialized. Buyers of American Indian artifact and owners of pot-bellied pigs are good examples. With a good list, you can reach your highly targeted market without the waste of advertising in a newspaper or magazine whose circulation includes people who aren’t interested in your product.
It costs less to be creative: Postcards are a versatile marketing tool that can be used in an infinite variety of ways by small businesses. We’ve received postcards selling everything from computers to bed & breakfast inns; in designs ranging from a pink telephone message to a $5 discount coupon for a lube job.
Because they are so low in cost, postcards let you be creative without breaking the bank.
Postcards – they’re small, fast, cheap, and effective. With a little thought, they’ll probably be a winner for you.
Postal Regulation for Postcards: To qualify for the postcard postage rate, the maximum dimensions are 4-1/4″ x 6″. Postcards outside of the maximum allowable dimensions are processed either manually or mechanically. That means slower mail.
Precise information of postal regulations can be found in “A Guide to Business Mail Preparation” (publication 25), available free from: U.S. Postal Service Headquarters, Marketing Dept. Regular Mail Services Div. 475, L Enfant Plz SW, Rm 5541 Washington DC 20260-6336.
Other Postcard Uses
- Appointment reminder
- Address change
- Introduce new employee
- Gift certificate
- Personal notes
- Thank you note
- Clean your mailing list
- Sale announcement
- Valuable information
Frankie Kangas is president of Win-Win Marketing, a marketing firm which specializes in small business. She is also publisher of the Win-Win Marketing Newsletter For Small Business. For a free sample issue of the newsletter, call 800-292-8625.
[From Connection Magazine, November 1994]