Postcards: These mini billboards can
drive business your way

by John McAlister

Postcards are an inexpensive and effective way to market your business via direct mail. Here are 10 things you should know about postcard marketing.

If you're a small business owner, you already know postcards - the quintessential mini billboards of marketing - are a quick and cost-effective way to reach customers with your message. If you're part of the Greatest Generation, you recall that they used to cost a penny, your vacationing neighbors sent them to show you what a great time they were having, and they said, "Wish you were here."

Over the years, the postage has gone up (34 cents apiece, cheaper using bulk mail services), but the message remains the same: "Wish you were here" -- to visit my store, see my products, study my services, take advantage of my offer and buy!

Postcard marketing aims to attract customer into a face-to-face with the seller. Since most small businesses don't have huge advertising budgets, postcards make ideal tools that are easy to create, target, deliver and track. They give you good control of attracting new customers and keeping your client base informed and in touch with you.

Whether you do your own postcard mailing or have it done, there are steps to take to ensure you get the best bang for your buck and a return that makes your effort worthwhile. Here are 10 postcard-marketing ideas to think about.



1. Keeping it simple
There is a tendency in today's high-tech, multitasking age to use every option available. Just because you have a hundred fonts and a thousand colors to use at your fingertips - don't! Keep it simple in postcard marketing and don't overload your customers with too much information or too much visual clutter. View your postcard as a billboard going by at 65 miles an hour. Keep your message snappy, catchy and quick to read and leave your customers wanting to know more. Make your card memorable and worth keeping and remember it's likely to be the first impression you're making.

2. Where are you aiming your marketing?
Postcards can focus on specific zip codes, carrier routes, residences or business-to-business, sent to households of certain income brackets, property values, ages, purchasing habits, lifestyles, hobbies and even demographics. If your customers are on the grid, you can find them and let them know you're there and have what they're looking for. The more targeted you make your mailing, expect to pay more for the more specialized services.

Newcomers to your area are prime candidates for postcard marketing. If they don't receive a card from you, they are going to receive it from your competitor. Count on it.

For decades, America's Realtors have thrived on postcard marketing; in fact, they probably wrote the book on it. Has anyone NOT received a postcard from their local Realtor informing them that the house down the street just sold? Or that you can get a free market appraisal with just a phone call?

3. Pocketbook friendly
Non-postal postcards likely date back to about 1869 and have been used for virtually every kind of communications imaginable.. The one ingredient that has kept postcards a viable and practical marketing staple in this high-tech, high-speed world is what makes them ideal for the small business owner: They are relatively inexpensive. And in a world where most people gets and deletes dozens or even hundreds of email messages a day, a physical postcard gets attention.

Whatever your mission in business -- advertise your product or service, invite customers to give you a try, brand your business, remind clients you're still there for them, promote a sale - postcards can saturate your market affordably.

The U.S. Postal Service reports that cards are read up to six times more often than other forms of direct mail fliers and mailbox stuffers. That means your message reaches more people for less cost than other methods of offline direct marketing. Getting a good bang for your buck can mean the difference between the life and death of a small business where every strike of the pick needs to hit gold.

4. Getting to know you
Postcards always have been a personal way of delivering a message to friends and family, which may account for why they are so readable for customers. Whatever the reason, people tend to treat postcards as a personal message from the sender - even a business if the card is prepared in a personal manner.

The postcard can be that first meeting, the handshake that says, "You can trust me with your business."

The magic of today's computer graphics programs enable even the smallest business to treat masses of customers as individuals, as special and worth getting to know. Everyone knows that those mid-week stacks of slick advertising fliers impersonally go to thousands of people. A good postcard, however, can be viewed as a personal greeting from a business and can make the recipient feel special.

5. Make your message sing
Not everyone is a creative genius, but today's home office graphics capabilities for the small business owner are virtually limitless. With a few clicks of the mouse, some decent thinking and planning, your postcard can be an eye-catching mini billboard. Your artwork can show off your products; your words can stimulate interest, initiate confidence, attract attention and get the buyer to where you can do your sales thing.

Well-designed postcards are remembered (Yes, there are collectors out there), and can be part of a larger marketing strategy. Your card can alert your buyer that you will be calling, or that they will be receiving an email or other message from you about your product. Postcards are a call to action.

6. Follow that card and let's make a deal!
A special feature to postcards is the ability to track the success or failure of your marketing program. Cards augmented with codes and other information enables you to assess your effort. One of the earliest ways to track postcard marketing simply asked the buyer to bring the card into the issuing business to redeem a premium or discount. It's a good way to say thank-you to your customer for taking the time read your message, and it allows you to analyze the results of your card.

7. Flexibility is a good thing
Not only can your postcard marketing campaign be targeted to a specific audience, but it's easy to flex your message, change it for each audience. Want to know if you're on the right marketing track? Try a small target audience, and then follow up with them to assess your effort, see where it needs to be recrafted and/or enhanced. Once you're satisfied you're hitting all the right keys, then you can kick up your mailing numbers. Spring training works in sports; it can work in your marketing strategy as well.

8. What's in a name
Putting a mark on something to identify its ownership is as old as recorded history and "branding" has become a popular buzzword these days. The idea of putting and keeping your name before the public is a good thing. Postcards can keep your brand in the public's eye, let your established clients know you're still there and ready to do business and pique the interest of potential customers because they will be familiar with your name (your brand) and turn to you when it's time to buy. In business, familiarity breeds respect and can solidify reputations.

9. Secret handshakes
Sending postcards to targeted customers also is a great way to market your business without announcing to you competitors what you are doing. Unless you send your cards to your competitors, only your customers know how you are selling to them and sharing information. It may not be the same as the Manhattan Project, but even the smallest business should have the ability to keep its trade secrets.

10. Multi-tasking cards
Postcards don't always have to be mailed. They are great for handouts at shows, publication stuffers, bulletin boards, the list is limited only by your imagination. It's no secret that good postcards are kept and remembered. Ending up on a refrigerator held by a magnet is a nifty way to keep your message in front of your customer.

Copyright 2014, Attard Communications, Inc.

John McAlister has four decades of experience in newsrooms as a reporter and editor. His consulting efforts have included developing crisis management solutions for distressed clients as well as overseeing media programs and operations for seven Rose Bowl parades and games. John now works from his home office in Big Bear, Calif., where he is active locally in orchestrating various elements of the area’s annual MS Walk and summer festival.
 
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