For most businesses, sending direct mail has traditionally been a major production.
Figure out an offer. Find a direct mail agency and/or printing company. Wait to see the postcard design. Hope it doesn’t look like stereotypical “junk mail.” Many weeks and thousands of dollars later, send your postcards out into the world and pray for results.
If it works, it works. But you should know that these days, sending effective postcards can be a whole lot simpler.
For example, with direct mail software like Inkit, you can design and upload your own postcards, proof them yourself, and mail them directly to your customers, prospects, local residents, or any other list you choose.
You get total control. And a lot of power. And… a lot of responsibility.
Here are 4 principles to help you use all that creative freedom to make your business’s postcards as effective as possible.
1. Use Imagery That Feels Fresh
I’m one of those millennials who pay attention to the direct mail they get. Some of it, at least. Other pieces go directly into the recycle bin, and a lot of that’s due to design.
Corny stock photos? Clip-art-style illustrations? Color schemes that evoke the furniture store in my old neighborhood whose perpetual “going out of business” sale may still be going strong today?
So much direct mail design hasn’t kept up with the times. Which means that if your postcard leads with bright, appealing, real-looking photography, you automatically stand out.
For instance, check out the box of organic goodies on this mailer from Door to Door Direct:
Looks tasty, right?
But say your business isn’t so photogenic. In that case, a friendly illustration could do the trick. Here’s an ultra-cute postcard used in a B2B win-back campaign from a stationery supplier:
It looks like it could be a postcard from a pal, and it’ll probably get attention.
If you have design resources in house, I bet you have someone who’s dying for the chance to create an awesome illustration for a postcard. Give it to them.
2. Cut to the Feeling
An effective business postcard provokes an instant reaction. You want “Ooh, this looks interesting,” not “Hm, let me sit down and read this.”
Here are two direct mail pieces I received recently.
One’s for a mattress. One’s for a spa. You might think that the spa would naturally do a better job generating emotion… but you’d be wrong.
Both of these offers are ultimately about relaxation, but only the Casper mailer helps me visualize that state: a new man, well-rested and refreshed. The spa mailer focuses on the comparatively bland message of “exclusive holiday offers”—which doesn’t feel so unique this time of year.
3. Think Less Like Email, More Like Social
If you’re in a digital-first marketing department, you may have an advantage over old-school direct mail designers.
You’ve seen what works on social media and display channels. And those are the writing and design skills you want to transfer over to your postcards.
Where many first-time postcard creators go wrong is treating direct mail like email. They pack in lists of benefits, add multiple calls to action, and generally present customers with too much information.
Instead, aim for the in-person equivalent of an ad click or an Instagram like. Your postcard just needs to be interesting enough to avoid the recycle bin. It doesn’t need to make an ironclad case for a sale.
4. Don’t Overcomplicate (or Overemphasize) the Offer
Beyond the headline, there’s another problem with the spa mailer above: it kind of stresses me out.
Three different packages. Different discounts on each one (though I have to do the math if I want to figure out how much). A bunch of fine print. It’s a lot to take in.
At Inkit, we’ve noticed that many of our most successful users stick with one simple offer, like giving away a free entree or telling customers there’s a big credit waiting inside their account.
So if you’re wondering what offer to use, try this formula: “Hey, here’s something free.”
Super simple. Super effective.
One final note on designing your offer. Remember the Casper mailer? Turn it over and it offers a $75 discount. But that doesn’t show up on the front of the card, and it’s not even the main focus of the back side.
The focus is the benefits of the Casper brand. And that’s intentional.
The Casper marketers know that while a particular offer gives you a reason to reach out, it should never overpower your core value proposition. A discount on something customers don’t really want is never going to tempt them.
On the flip side, when your postcard creates a bold, fresh impression of your brand, you might find yourself getting customers who don’t even care about the discount code. We’ve seen it happen for Inkit users time and time again.
Interested in taking your business’s postcard marketing into your own hands? It’s easy to grab a free Basic plan (and pay only for the postcards you send).