Archive for April 2010

Are You Still Selling Your Father’s Postcards, Print Strategist?

April 13, 2010

Postcards are more popular than ever, though many writers and designers run for cover when they hear the word. Some don’t like condensing the message into such a small space. Others dismiss them as low-end, low-value promotions for companies that can’t afford anything else.

But savvy print strategists know better.

Postcards can be performance powerhouses when done right. In fact, they sometimes do remarkably well even when done poorly. One of the reasons they continue to work is that postcards come “pre-opened.” There’s no decision to make. The offer is right in front of you. Postcards draw immediate attention and give your customers more than a fighting chance to entice prospects even when the sender is unknown.

Perfect for today’s over-messaged marketplace.

Understanding Postcard Basics.

Although our intent is to encourage you to take the form to its highest level, there are four postcard basics that your customers need to get right no matter what technology you integrate into their campaigns:

  1. Attention-demanding Headline. They only get a few seconds to gain attention, so headlines must be big and benefit oriented.
  2. Involving Visual. Draw in the recipient by making the visual and headline work as a team. Visuals should be as large and involving as possible. Showing a product or service in action is always an effective recommendation.
  3. Persuasive Copy. Maintain interest with strong, feature- and benefit-oriented copy. Since the postcard is likely the first in a multi-step approach, copy should entice and qualify.
  4. Call to Action. Be sure your customers are telling recipients exactly what action to take and to assume nothing. They should direct the person to “Call toll free today for a free sample and information kit,” or whatever is the appropriate action for the program. Multiple, user-friendly options tend to work best.

Adding Some Technology Juice.

Separate your clients’ postcards from the competition by taking advantage of the technology you offer (or should be offering):

  • Encourage Data Mining. From variable data digital printing to inkjet imaging, print technology provides opportunities to personalize and customize postcard mailings. There’s a strong likelihood that your customers have plenty of existing data to elevate the performance of their postcards. Encourage them to start simply, if necessary, and then help them work their way up. But do bring data into the picture. Every personalization step they take will deliver better results. Keep in mind that there’s also worthwhile demographic information to append from outside sources while they’re building their internal database. Offer to provide data services through an outside partner or, if you have one, your in-house team.
  • Personalize. Get your clients past the “name thing” quickly. It’s not that using someone’s name isn’t worthwhile—it is—but today’s variable technologies allow marketers to do so much more with photos, graphics and copy if they know anything at all about their target. You can help them create postcards that are variable in every respect with digital presses or do something as simple as offline-inkjet imaging a store location map while you’re doing the addressing. You can also help them create postcards with personalized URLs (pURLs) that connect recipients to a personal landing page where they typically receive an incentive for their effort. Advise your customers to provide offers at the personal landing page that go beyond the original promise, such as an opt-in newsletter or club membership. Besides the personalization effect, the big benefit of pURLs is that they provide a reliable method for tracking postcard recipients who went online as a result of the promotion, whether or not they took advantage of the offer.
  • Involve. Postcards can now be more involving than ever. Consider QR Codes, the two-dimensional barcodes that enable smartphone users equipped with the correct reader software to scan the code. This causes the phone’s browser to launch and redirect to the programmed URL. A real estate company, for example, could offer a property on the postcard and the QR code might take the recipient to a video tour of the home. But don’t dismiss involvement devices such as scratch-offs, repositionable notes and other proven techniques that can boost the effectiveness of postcards.

The bottom line is that postcards not only work, but also are evolving tools that can achieve virtually any level of marketing sophistication your customer requires. They provide a great opportunity for Marketing Service Providers to take customers beyond commodity postcards and into more sophisticated solutions.

While you’re at it, why not demonstrate your capabilities through your own postcard campaign?

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates helps printers of all sizes develop and execute effective marketing strategies. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer

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Do’s and Don’ts of Postcards.

April 13, 2010

We once knew a youth soccer coach who was 10-0 in her first season and knew it was the coaching. Then she went 0-10 in her second season and knew it was the players. Consistent success depends upon bringing all the elements together. Here’s how to help your clients trounce the competition with their next postcard campaign.

Do

  • Grab attention with a bold headline—postcards have to work fast.
  • Focus on one big idea and one main point per card.
  • Emphasize what the recipient will get by taking the next step.
  • Include all the elements of a direct mail package in short form—letter, brochure and reply.
  • Use tracking identifiers to know what’s generating inquiries.
  • Include a strong, crystal clear call to action.
  • Make the card interactive with QR codes and other devices.
  • Use a personal message style over a display ad approach.
  • Increase the card size to 6” x 9” if possible—higher response rates and more marketing space usually justify the costs.
  • Approach your database work as carefully as you would any other mailing.

Don’t

  • Get spooked into ultra-short copy—the billboard notion is a myth.
  • Use technical words or jargon—this isn’t the place, if there ever is one.
  • Forget to include incentives for taking the next step.
  • Think that color and graphics will outperform personalized content—put them together for maximum results.
  • Try to make the sale on the postcard—they are multi-step marketing vehicles.
  • Use smaller than 8 pt. type anywhere on the postcard.
  • Neglect direct mail basics—get your lists, offer and creative right in that order of priority.
  • Accept any old paper—your stock selection is a visual element too.
  • Think that postcards are just for small companies—check your mailbox.
  • Settle for your office printer.

By Larry Bauer

Missed Getting Your Copy of The Little Book of Marketing Do’s & Don’ts? Not to worry. We printed plenty of copies, and we’d be happy to connect you with one. The Little Book of Marketing Do’s & Don’ts is a collection of the eight most viewed “Do’s & Don’ts” published by our PrintStrategist newsletter to date including:

  • Taglines
  • Print Advertising
  • Referrals
  • Trade Shows
  • Corporate Brochures
  • Direct Mail
  • Thought Leadership
  • White Papers

Simply email Larry Bauer your postal mailing information and we’ll send you a complementary copy.

Grandiose Generalizations About Postcard Design.

April 13, 2010

Think of a postcard almost like a combination of a billboard on the highway, key messages from a brochure and a call to action from your sell sheet. You’ve got barely seconds to capture your recipient and THEN, you have to give them enough of the details to beguile them. Grab their attention like a billboard but provide follow through like a brochure—that’s the trick.

Design Generalizations for Postcards.

Remember, a generalization is just that and there will always be exceptions. Here’s my list of design tips for smart postcard designers:

  • All caps, bold, condensed and italic is likely not the most readable treatment for your hard-working headline. You must find a balance between a visually strong headline and one that’s easily read. Select a typeface that works, and don’t over embellish it. Do all this while staying true to your brand image.
  • Images should be unique and compelling IF you have them. Keep in mind that it’s not 100% necessary to have an image with your headline; a headline could be the main visual in and of itself. But if you include an image, choose one that’s not likely to be overly used in your market, or have an image shot custom for you.
  • Don’t put a strong message on a wimpy card stock. The post office’s guidelines are the minimum and are not what we recommend. The sturdier the better and not so shiny it squeaks or reflects light rather than your message. Think of this postcard as your handshake with prospects when you’re not available. Keep it firm and not too squeaky.
  • Consider a straight perforation across one end for any coupon detachment if you can’t afford a fancy die to cut the shape you want. Often, a single straight perf will be a tad cheaper. You just need to design it into your card creatively.
  • Skip the paragraphs of prose on your card and go for short-and-sweet messages. And keep the quantity of those to the bare minimum. Filling your card with FREE FREE FREE and loads of platitudinous drivel will make your key message and call to action hard to find quickly. All you do is end up in the trash sooner.
  • Respect the reader. Despite what some advertisers in the 70’s would have us believe, customers are smart and getting smarter. They learn from each other and share information online and off. So make your message/point/deal intelligent and easy to pass on in other media.
  • Don’t even think about clichés. They don’t position you as better or unique—just as someone who doesn’t have an original thought.
  • I know Larry said in his Do’s and Don’ts list to not use type smaller than 8 point. I’m going to go one better and advise you to keep it 10 points or larger. Remember, folks are reading often at arms length in their entryway when they get home from a long day at work. Lighting in entryways is often insufficient for small text.

Postcard Anatomy 101.

Front: Capture with a compelling headline and/or visual. Don’t over do it, just get them to stop and read or take the card to their desk.

Back: Follow through with the details (But not too many. This is not the place for your legal counsel to practice writing warranties.)

Prioritize your copy by what gets read first. In roughly this order, humans see visual, read headline, captions, offer and then details. So no skimping on captions and offer copy. Get it right and make it work hard for its space.

Use white space to direct the reader to what you want them to read first and second. Don’t worry about third. They may not get that far.

Postcard Gallery.

One Hit Wonders.

Stromberg Allen tri-fold postcard

The above tri-fold card was designed as a single-hit, pre-show mailer, just weeks prior to a key trade show. It included a teaser image to get them to open, and then followed through with booth number and incentive to visit during the show.

Three Times or More is a Charm.
Recchia Postcard Campaign

You can also create a series of more than the standard three cards and schedule it to run for several months. Also don’t feel pressured into doing what everyone else does: try a different colored paper stock, try illustrations instead of photography, mix it up and be different to stand out from the crowd.

And one last thing: DO schedule overlapping smaller quantity mailings of your cards so you have time to follow up between each. You are planning on following up via phone after mailing aren’t you?

By Julia Moran Martz

Upcoming Newsletter Topics.

April 13, 2010

Just a few of the topics we’re working on for future newsletters:

  • Using envelopes as your “get opened” tool.
  • Evaluating illustration vs. photography.
  • Choosing the right personalization strategy.

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