How to write a postcard for maximum response

November 16, 2009 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: How-to Guides 

postcard sampleIn today’s down economy, more and more businesses are turning to postcards to advertise their products and services.

Postcards are cheap, versatile, effective, and easy to produce. Plus, you can get them in the mail fast and get results in just days.

The postcard shown here is an example. Click it to see both front and back as a pdf. This is a postcard I created for one of my clients a couple years ago to generate leads for a product. And it’s a prime example of how to make a postcard work.

Some copywriters have trouble with postcards because they don’t understand the format. Is it an ad you mail? Is it a small self-mailer? Is it like a billboard? Or is it merely support for other campaigns?

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Use a postcard to drive “traffic.” With few exceptions, postcards are not a good format for direct sales. Their true power is in getting attention quickly and driving people to take a second step immediately.

For example, you can drive people to a website, drive them to a retail store, or drive them to request information. In marketing lingo, we’re talking about the “two-step” sales process.

2. Focus on one big idea per card. Just one. Not two or three. ONE. If you have more than one idea, create more than one card.

For example, a client of mine wanted to cheaply generate leads from a targeted audience. However, we didn’t know which of several benefits would be the most compelling. So instead of cramming a laundry list into one card, we created a series of cards with one benefit each. This helped maintain focus in each card, from the headline to the call to action.

3. Get attention with a bold headline. Sure, you should have a picture on the front too. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s not. Only words drive action.

And since a postcard must communicate a powerful message quickly, you must have a powerful headline to do the job. All the usual headline rules apply, including selecting your audience and conveying a benefit.

4. Make a simple, compelling offer. Again, your goal is to drive people to take the next step. So your offer should be related to that. In other words, if you’re selling the world’s greatest widget, don’t present an offer for the widget on your postcard. Rather, your offer could simply be for more information about the widget.

This can take the form of a demonstration, sample, brochure, or some other free item. That and that alone is your offer on the postcard. Don’t get ahead of yourself and try to close the sale right away.

5. Provide a clear call to action. If you’ve gotten attention with a headline and made a “next step” offer, you must issue a call to action that is direct and unambiguous. “Go to and ask for your customized sample pack today!” Notice that the call to action tells your prospect what to do and how to do it.

6. Load up on information. Yes, a postcard should be quick and direct. Yes, you should focus on one main point. But that doesn’t mean you have to be spartan with your copy.

Don’t believe people when they say a postcard can’t use long copy. Long or “longish” copy works great even on a small postcard. However, given the next-step nature of the offer, all the information should be about what the prospect will get when he or she takes the next step, not necessarily about the product or service itself.

If you’re offering an information kit, list all the things in the kit and talk about what the prospect will discover, but without revealing too much. Tease, don’t tell.

7. Think direct mail “package” not “postcard.” That’s right, package. When I create a postcard, I’m really creating a mini-direct mail package, complete with letter, brochure, and reply. Why? Because what makes a direct mail package work is the same thing that makes a postcard work. At least it’s what makes my postcards work.

The “letter” is a short, personalized message on the address side of the card, complete with salutation and signature. The “brochure” is the information on the front of the card. And the “reply” is simply the call to action for a phone call, website visit, or trip to a local store.

8. Use a “jumbo” postcard when possible. The typical postcard is about 4″x6″. However, jumbo cards can be up to 6″x9″ or larger. You don’t get low postcard rates, but response is generally higher for two reasons. 1) The card is bigger and stands out in the mail. 2) You have more room for information.

Remember, a postcard (at least the sort of direct response postcard I’m talking about here) is not a billboard or a print ad. And it’s not a piece of slick corporate advertising. It’s a kick in the seat of the pants or a sharp punch between the shoulder blades to get people to take just one, teeny little step forward.

The real sales pitch will happen at that next step: a detailed Web landing page, a salesperson in the retail store, or followup information.

Note: You CAN use a postcard to make direct sales IF you are mailing to current customers or if you are offering something that is cheap and familiar.

Related posts:

  1. How to write a direct response TV commercial that sells
  2. How to write a powerful, response-boosting guarantee

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Smart Comments

12 Comments on How to write a postcard for maximum response

  1. Neil Mattingley on Nov 17th, 2009 9:46 am
  2. Hey Dean

    I loved this post. Thanks a lot.

    I’m just putting together some postcards for a real estate company I work for.

    Your ideas will definitely shape that process; particularly the emphasis on driving traffic as opposed to expecting an immediate sale.

    Many thanks for sharing such rich material.

    Neil Mattingley
    Perth Australia

  3. Dean Rieck on Nov 17th, 2009 10:35 am
  4. Neil,
    Real estate companies frequently use postcards. But there are so many real estate companies out there using postcards, mailboxes are cluttered. That and the real estate market is bad right now. You have your work cut out for you.

  5. BrianJUY on Nov 17th, 2009 2:15 pm
  6. Hi Dean,

    I really like your post… It’s really good information.

    Neal… Do your postcards, don’t get discouraged.

    The Real Estate Industry is booming in the US for those real estate professionals focusing on the right part of the market.

    In the US where Real Estate Agents are making their money is doing Short Sales. Loan Officers are doing Loan Modifications…

    I live in Uruguay, but work with a company in the US that provides pre Notice Of Default data for both Agents and LOs in the US… as well as pretty much any type of data you can think of for US consumers & businesses… 80-90% of the data I sell is used for Direct Mail.

    The secret to doing a successful direct mail piece is all about who you are sending it to… Targeted data will yield you better results than shotgun mailings…

    You can have the best designed postcard in the world with a .2% response rate… if it doesn’t go to the correct demographics…

    On the other hand, I’ve seen crappy looking post cards pull a 3-4% response rate because it was targeted to the right demographics.

    I’m a huge fan of direct mail for real estate professionals because I see it working on a daily basis… But, the biggest mistake I see for most DM is people not targeting the right demographics for their products or services…

    That’s just my 2 cents…

    .-= BrianJUY’s last blog … Zoë Likes to Scream =-.

  7. Dean Rieck on Nov 17th, 2009 2:27 pm
  8. Thanks for the insights, Brian.

    For the record, I wasn’t trying to discourage Neal. I was just remarking that real estate is tough right now and lots of people are using postcards. I’m sure there are pockets of the industry that are good, and there are signs of recovery here and there. But it’s going to be a while before things are normal again.

  9. Randall Huff on Nov 17th, 2009 3:50 pm
  10. Nice post Dean.

    I have lost count of the number of postcards I have done over the years. Your article was a nice validation of my approach.

    #6 stood out to me. I will get many inside the corporation that say ‘That’s too much copy for a postcard’ and I have to tell them to not be afraid of telling your story. If it is a good one that has value, they will read it. And if they engage enough to read it, they will take action if you ask.


  11. Dean Rieck on Nov 17th, 2009 3:58 pm
  12. Randall,
    I hear you. Sometimes I have to repeat the “long copy” discussion with long-time clients. People have their mind set on postcards having short copy.

  13. Joseph on Sep 9th, 2010 3:30 pm
  14. Dean,

    This article is great. Related to step number 4, if you were offering something for free, could you go ahead and close the sale with the postcard, or would you only try to get them to the website where they can find more information and then decide to “buy.” In my case it’s free Bibles.


    p.s. This post is perfect for an assignment I’m working on. Thanks for the help.

  15. Joseph on Sep 9th, 2010 4:39 pm
  16. Is it worth it to pay to have a focused list?

  17. Dean Rieck on Sep 9th, 2010 8:43 pm
  18. @Joseph: Rarely can you close a sale with a postcard unless you’re selling a service that is known to the prospect, such as house painting. And even then, you’re really just generating a call. You have to close over the phone or in person. Products are rarely sold with postcards. However, postcards are ideal for driving web traffic to a sales page.

    And yes, you should always use the most targeted list possible. The list is vital, and I always recommend you use a list consultant rather than try to choose the list yourself or rely on a list broker who is selling you a list. Finding good lists is an art form.

  19. Joseph on Sep 10th, 2010 10:52 am
  20. Thanks Dean. I don’t anything about using a list consultant, but I’ll definitely look into that.

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