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Strictly Business: Promotion Through Postcards
Posted Dec 8, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

I like receiving postcards. They usually have a big, eye-catching photo or illustration to enjoy, and the information they convey is short and to the point: "Having a great time. Don't forget to feed the dog." These very same qualities—an eye-catching graphic or headline and a brief message—make postcards a great tool for low-cost, high-impact marketing. Here's why.
     First of all, they're ready to read. Flipping over a postcard to see what's on the other side is a natural thing to do. Unlike mail that comes in envelopes, you'll never dump it based on where it came from without at least a glance at what it says. Because a postcard requires so little effort, it's more likely to get read and generate action. And everyone who makes pictures for a living knows a picture is worth a thousand words. A postcard with a picture on it can pack a punch far greater than its size would indicate. Postcards also give you more bang for your buck. Compared to other forms of mailed advertising (such as direct mail packages) postcards are cost-effective. They're less expensive to produce, print, and prepare—no stuffing, folding, or sealing—and they are usually cheaper to mail.
     Serialized postcards, designed to complement each other in looks and message, can present your information repeatedly in a memorable way. This is much better than sending a single mailing because it applies the principle of "persistence selling." According to research, 70% of all new business is gained after the fifth contact. Similar results come from repeated direct mailing.

When I first moved to Lansing, Michigan, three years ago, my first business goal was to pick up at least one new client from the area's advertising agencies. I had 19 agencies and design firms on my target list. I wrote five unique postcards, and, since I was trying to get ad agency creative directors to respond to my message, I presented my services in a rather off-the-wall fashion. (Headlines included: "Will work for food" and "Hire people with hooks.") I included a brief testimonial from a current or former client on each card to reassure the recipient that I was a professional and could be trusted with assignments. With the design costs, printing (50 of each card), and postage, my total investment was $295.15. I mailed out one card to each agency every Monday for five weeks, timing it so most agencies would receive the card on Tuesdays. (At ad agencies, Mondays are way too hectic for anyone to pay much attention to unsolicited mail.)

I didn't want to be inundated with new projects, so I decided not to make follow-up phone calls. But I also thought of this as an experiment to see how the cards would do by themselves. During the first three weeks, nothing happened. On Thursday of week four, one of the larger agencies contacted me to schedule a meeting, and subsequently contracted my services. From my initial investment of $295.15, I received a 5% response rate (1 out of 19), and after six months of steady assignments, my return on investment was 2900%!

Although you could run a postcard-sized display ad in a daily or weekly paper, it would probably cost several times as much as a postcard mailing. When mailed to the right people, a postcard mailing is much more precisely targeted than a display ad, so money isn't wasted on people who don't care about your product or service.

If you get inquiry calls or hits on your website, or obtain a mailing list for businesses in your area, send these new prospects a postcard. Don't just introduce yourself. You've got to give the reader instructions on what to do next. If the lead came from a mailing list, refer the reader to your website. If the lead came from your website, direct the reader to call for a free rate card or brochure.

Using postcards in this manner can work for products and services as varied as transfers to DVD, wedding videography, VHS or CD duplication, editing services, or live event shooting—basically, any product or service that you offer.

It's much easier to sell to current customers than to acquire new ones. To reap the benefits of your investment in current customers, you should constantly be soliciting business from them. I find it best to contact each of my clients between six and eight times a year to retain them as active customers. This means that they must see my advertising, visit my business, get a phone call, receive a mailing, or have some other form of contact from me almost every month. Postcards are one of the most cost-effective ways of making this contact.

You can find dozens of reasons to contact your customers during the year. If you move, acquire a new line of products, hire a new employee or sales person, or have some other newsworthy change in your business, you have a good reason to make contact.

Because they are so low in cost, postcards allow you to be creative without breaking your bank. There are many websites that offer postcard design and printing at inexpensive rates. Check out vistaprint.com, overnightprints.com, and imagemedia.com for starters. And keep in mind the bonuses that come with first-class postage: speedy delivery, and address correction information to update your list.

Small, fast, and cheap—the postcard may be the most efficient marketing tool you'll ever use.

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