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Postcards: They're Not Just for Vacations

When you think of postcards, you may picture glossy images of exotic travel locations with greetings from travelling friends and family scrawled on the reverse. However, postcards aren't just a fun tradition — they can also be a vital marketing tool for small businesses.

They're an inexpensive yet effective way to promote products and services, notify customers of a sale or discount, or generate awareness and interest in a company. According to Bob Leduc, author of How to Build Your Small Business Fast with Simple Postcards, "...postcards provide the cheapest, fastest, simplest way to build an inventory of hot prospects who are likely to buy from you today."

Easy and inexpensive to print

You can print basic postcards yourself, if you have the proper supplies and equipment, such as or card stock or pre–cut cards (be sure to use the right size cards), address labels, and a printer.

If you choose a complicated design or are mailing a large number of cards, you'll probably need help from a local copy shop or professional printer. Whichever route you choose, your printing costs should be reasonable. "There are numerous ways you can create your postcards without spending a lot of money," writes Leduc. "Because postcards are simple to prepare, you can easily do all or most of the work yourself... However, it won't cost very much even if you have a professional print shop do everything."

More people will read the message in a postcard than... in any other format since it only takes a flip of the wrist to get the message.

Simple postcards should cost just a few cents each to print. If you decide to go with full–color cards, expect to pay around 25 to 50 cents per card. Most printers offer volume discounts, so take that into consideration when deciding on quantities. Also remember that design services and extras, such as perforations and folding, will be additional.

Save on postage

The cost of sending a first–class letter is 37 cents as of January 2004, but the postcard rate is 23. Those cents add up — you'll save $140 in postage for every 1,000 postcards you mail in the place of first–class letters.

Item  Postage cost per 1,000 pieces
 Postcards  $230
 Letters  $370


Reach the maximum number of eyes

Postcards catch your recipients' attention without requiring them to do anything but turn the card over. "More people will read the message in a postcard than will read the message in any other format since it only takes a flip of the wrist to get the message," writes Leduc.

The attention–getting appeal of postcards is apparent to Bob Schwartz, National Marketing Director for Cutting Edge Media, a magazine publisher in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. "Whenever we do a postcard promotion we can mail out about 5,000 cards for about $2,000 and we could generate anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 in sales revenue," Schwartz says.

A wide variety of uses

Almost any business — from bakeries to banks and carpet cleaners to chiropractors — can use postcards. Department stores and boutiques can notify their client list of special sales, or the arrival of specialty merchandise. Doctors can send postcards to remind patients of appointments. Businesses that relocate can use postcards to alert their clientele of a new address and phone number.

"A concise, straightforward message presented on an attractive postcard will get from 80% to as much as 95% or more readership."¹

RSVP

While it may be easy to get your recipient to read your postcard message, the key is getting a response. "Space on a postcard is limited. With only a few words you have to persuade the reader to take action NOW — with limited risk or discomfort to themselves," writes Leduc. Therefore, you'll need to find a way to make it easy — and rewarding — for the recipient to call or write for more information, or visit your Web site or store.

One way to encourage responses is to use a double postcard. One card has your message and your recipient's address, the other is a reply card the recipient detaches and mails. In general, double postcards will not cost significantly more to print than single postcards. However, since both parts of a double postcard must bear postage, this option will cost an additional 23 cents if your recipient mails it back — a small price to pay to gain a customer.

Offer a coupon or discount

Coupon postcards are particularly successful at getting your recipients to respond because you're offering a discount on something your audience may already want or need, or giving them an incentive to visit your store or use your service. "If you can combine a coupon offer on a postcard that's the magic ticket," says Schwartz of Cutting Edge Media. "That's when we have postcard people call us back up and say, 'holy cow, I generated $5,000 or $10,000 in business."

Use a full-color picture

Pictures often draw more attention than words. Mark Scheetz, Art Director for Cutting Edge Media, who designs hundreds of postcards a year, advises using a full–color picture on one side of your postcard. "Use the front of the card as your billboard," recommends Scheetz. "On the full–color side use a really good illustration, a good image with a really catchy headline."

Choose a picture that's related to your product or service. "Some people like to focus on their product on the front, some like to go for more of a humorous thing. They may have a cool image on the front with a catchy headline, [then you have to] flip the card over and find out what the product is. They both work well," says Scheetz.

Choose your words carefully

Space on the postcard is limited. Make your wording clear, simple, and memorable. "Less is more," reminds Scheetz. "Use... a couple of bullet points about your company to get [your recipient's] interest... I've seen too many people try to put their entire sales pitch on a postcard. It looks like a newsletter...you can't read it and no one is going to pull it out of their mail and want to look at it."

Also, prevent eye strain by making your text a decent size. "Remember, don't go below 10 point or 12 characters per inch for your type style," writes Leduc. Also, use a legible font. Postcards are not the place for fancy script or flowing calligraphy. "Your purpose is to get the individuals who receive your postcard to contact you for more information," writes Leduc. "A concise, straightforward message presented on an attractive postcard will get from 80% to as much as 95% or more readership."¹

Follow the rules

The U.S. Postal Service will not process your cards for the postcard rate if they do not meet specific size and shape requirements. Each card must be (1) rectangular; (2) not less than 3½ inches high and 5 inches long; and (3) not more than 4¼ inches high and 6 inches long."² This means that a 3 x 5 inch index card cannot be used as a postcard, since it is too small.

Ensuring that your postcards meet regulations will save future headaches. After all, if your recipients don't receive your postcard message, how will they ever reach you?

For more information on "How to Build Your Small Business Fast With Simple Postcards", email: BobLeduc@aol.com with the subject: "Postcards", or write: Bob Leduc, PO Box 33628, Las Vegas, NV 89133.


1Bob Leduc, "How to Build Your Small Business Fast with Simple Postcards," 2000, p. 9.
2United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual Issue 55 Plus Postal Bulletin Changes Through PB 22036, November 2, 2000.

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