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Postcard Your Way to Profits

By: Sue Barrett

Sue Barrett works for HomeBusinessCenter.com, which has helped hundreds of people successfully start their own home businesses since 1997. HomeBusinessCenter.com is a resource for entrepreneurs who want to be successful in a home business: new home business ideas, simple how-to guides, easy-to-use marketing tools, small business financing, e-commerce help and lots more.

Offline advertising can often be overlooked and sometimes completely omitted from a marketing plan.  That's a mistake for some, but it can be an opportunity for you to reach potential customers before your competition does.

Sure, I'll admit that you can reach zillions of people By marketing on the internet.  But contrary to my original belief, not everyone surfs the web 24 hours a day.  

Besides saving you time and money, postcards are easy to create, convenient to use, offer fast message delivery and instant visibility. 

Postcards are an excellent opportunity for you to boost your sales and name recognition, while taking a break from the traditional (and sometimes boring) direct mail material.

Take a look at a few benefits:

1. Low Cost.
Overall, postcards are an inexpensive marketing tool. You can be creative and test-market on a small scale before committing to an entire marketing campaign.

Do you market to a small area or highly-specialized market?  Postcards are a inexpensive way to reach your target market and your target market only.  Even with trade journals, you often spend money advertising to a significant number of people who will have either no
interest in your product or service or never even see your ad.

2. Save time.
Once designed, postcards are quick and easy to address and mail out.

3. Fast.
Within a matter of days, you can have your message directly in the hands of an interested client.

4. Convenient.
Adjust mailings to fit your marketing schedule. Mail as many and as often as you want.  You also can more easily make changes at the last minute.

5. Flexible.
Postcards can be used in a variety of different ways to promote your business.

6. Instant visibility.
You don't have to depend on a prospect opening an envelope or having the time to read through a lengthy brochure.

7. Higher likelihood of being read.
Instead of hundreds of other magazine or newspaper ads, your postcard competes only with the day's mail.

8. No fancy equipment required.
You can easily outsource the design work, copy writing and printing. There are also resources that enable you to
pull-off the creative development yourself and still come out with a professional-looking card.

There are lots of ways postcards can be used. They can broadcast a plethora of different messages for virtually any
product, service or event.  Before you get started, you'll want to take a look at all of your options and decide what works best for your business.

Your marketing focus will fall into one of three main categories: prospecting for leads, building repeat sales or maintaining customer contact.  First decide who you will be targeting.

1. PROSPECTING: Finding New Customers

In prospecting, postcards are often used to qualify leads; the first step of the two-step sales approach. The second step involves following up with the most qualified leads and giving them more detailed information and making the sale.  So here, the objective of the postcard is to get he customer to request more information (by phone, fax, e-mail or mail), so you can accumulate names to follow up with.

To quickly qualify prospects, offer them  (a) something valuable (b) for free, and (c) requires them act in order to receive.
  • Introduce your company and offer a free gift to all prospects who send in their names and addresses.

  • Announce an event that you are hosting that they can participate in for free if they respond

2. RESELLING: Building Repeat Sales

Most marketers will agree that it's much easier and more cost effective to sell to a current customer than to find a new customer. Most successful businesses are built on repeat orders, but why stop at just a repeat order?  

Additional information or a simple suggestion can build repeat orders, plus increase the amount of your customer's average purchase and the frequency at which he or she purchases from you.

But don't stop with just one follow-up!  Satisfied customers can be sold again and again as long as they are kept satisfied.  There are all sorts of reason why your happy customers would want to hear from you.  Here are just a few:
  • New products or special promotional offers

  • Special upcoming dates or events

  • Holiday-specific promotions

  • Birthday cards offering special birthday discounts

  • Monthly contests or drawings 

3. COMMUNICATIONS: Maintaining Client Contact

Even if you don't have a specific product you're promoting, you still want to keep in touch with your patrons to let them know you appreciate them and haven't forgotten about them.  Get into your customer's mind and stay there!  Contact them several times throughout the year, so that when they're ready to buy, they'll buy from you.

Any change, addition, celebration, event or newsworthy information about your business is a reason to contact your customer.  If you don't have anything new and exciting happening with your business, create something fast before you go out of business.  

So how can you maintain contact with your shoppers without being a nag?  Postcards, of course!  With a message and design that's positive, creative and interesting, you can add a little fun to someone's day. 

Once you've decided who your target market is and your reason for contacting them, you can develop your marketing message and design.

GETTING THEIR ATTENTION

Layout

As with any marketing medium, layout design and ad copy play an important role in the success of your postcards. Be creative, but remember a few simple basics so your customer understands your message and is motivated to purchase.
  1. Don't waste space.  White space is better than a bunch of words that clutter your message.

  2. Headlines need to be well-positioned and thought-out.  They'll make or break the success of your postcard.

  3. Use graphics only if they have a purpose and contribute to the communication of your message.

  4. In a series of postcards, use a consistent design so your cards are easily and quickly recognizable.
To qualify for the lower postcard postage rate within the U.S.A., the maximum postcard dimensions are 4 1/4" x 6".  Anything larger will cost you more in postage, but may attract more attention and result in higher sales

Ad Copy

You may have the best product n the world, but how you present your offer can determine whether or not it sells. That's where your ad copy comes into play. Since space is limited, you need to be brief, specific, direct and clear in your message.  Count to five, and your prospect is either intrigued by your offer, or throwing your postcard in the trash.

Four steps to reach your goal:
  1. Get your prospect's attention.

  2. Secure his or her interest.

  3. Gain his or her belief in your product or service.

  4. Convince your prospect to act.
Sound challenging?  It's actually easier than you may think.  Focus on keeping the message simple and seeing it from the recipient's viewpoint.  Here are some tips:

1. How to attract attention:
  • Send something funny and entertaining that will stand out in a pile of mail.

  • Use bright colors or bold print.

  • Provide valuable tips, useful information, or a money-saving coupon that they will save for future use
2. How to secure interest:
  • Talk to your customer as if they were right there with you. Fill the copy with 'you'.

  • Show how they will benefit by using your product or service 
3. How to get them to believe in you:
  • Use the word 'guaranteed' to give the purchaser more confidence in your product/service/company

  • Act professional and trustworthy - don't use extravagant claims or fancy language.
4. How to convince them to act:
  • Offer incentives like a limited-time price reduction.

  • Explain clearly what you want to prospect to do next (request more information, RSVP, place an order, etc..)

  • If the objective of the postcard is to get an order, make sure the prospect can order instantly either online, by fax or 24-hour phone service

  • If you want the prospect to request additional information, make it extremely easy and convenient for them to do so.

WHO TO MAIL TO?

You basically have two options here. You can use a mailing list you already own (of current customers most likely) or you can purchase an outside list. A good mailing list is key to a successful mailing, so do some research when making this decision.  Some tips:
  • Leads that have shown interest in or purchased a product or service similar to what you are offering.

  • Cheap leads are usually not targeted and not pre-qualified.

  • Avoid lists that are out-of-date. This is not the place to be cutting costs. It will cost you more money and of course more time in the long run.

  • Start with list quantities practical for you to handle.
Then, as you increase your mailings, you can save money with larger discounted orders.


PRINTING

Your business, offer and budget will help you determine whether you should go with a full-color glossy postcard or a simple black and white card. Both can be designed to look classy with a well-thought-out design, heavy cardstock and a professional printing job.

If you have lots of different promotions, you can order discounted bulk postcards printed on one side only and still have the flexibility of changing your sales message on the other side.

© Sue Barrett 2000. All rights reserved.

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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