How To Launch a Direct Mail Test – Part 2, Postcard Campaign

by Gil Zeimer on December 9, 2010
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In part two of this four-part series on direct mail testing, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of using a postcard campaign, with part one reserved for email campaigns, part three for letter campaigns, and part four for radio campaigns.

These best practices for using postcards have been garnered through my 20 years of writing campaigns for a variety of small businesses. To punctuate my advice, I’ve included a sample campaign I wrote for Brainstorm Networks, a small Internet Service Provider that was later bought by a larger company.

1) Think bigger – Over the years, I’ve had better success using oversized (6” x 4” postcards) like the ones shown here, versus the traditional 5” x 3” size because the bigger ones break through the clutter of standard #10 envelopes you receive. It’s always a good idea to take a sample to the post office to check the mailing costs before you print them; oversized or square cards usually cost a bit more.

2) Make it colorful – In the past, it cost more to print in full color than black-and-white. Today, with on demand digital printing, the cost difference is negligible. It’s worth it anyway; bright colors have a lot more impact than monochrome.

3) Tease your readers – You don’t have to write War and Peace on the front of the postcard. Just a simple, catchy headline of 10 words or less should be enough to entice them to flip it over and read more, such as the sample headlines shown on the front of the three postcards on this page.

4) Choose an all-type layout, illustration or photo – With the availability of thousands of low-cost images at www.iStockPhoto.com and other sites, there’s no excuse for having a boring layout. For Brainstorm Networks, our budget was so limited, we used type treatments for the copy featuring their corporate colors.

5) Keep the body copy simple – As you can see on the flipside below, the postcard copy should be a few paragraphs with some bullet copy. The shorter it is, the bigger it can be.

6) Make the offer prominent – I like to use dotted lines around the offer in the coupons to make them jump off the page like a coupon. Or at least use large, bold type. The easier it is to see the offer, the better it will perform.

7) Be professional – Even if you think you can craft or design a strong headline, brief copy and a strong offer by yourself, I suggest you hire or consult with professional direct response copywriters and designers to guide your creativity. They may say your campaign is fine, offer ways to improve it, or candidly tell you to start over.

8) Mail to your best customers and prospects – Where email costs virtually nothing to send, you have to pay for postcard printing and postage. You have the option of sending by First Class mail for quick delivery or Bulk Rate, which can take up to a week but costs less. Per a Direct Marketing Association 2009 survey, expect a direct response rate of 3.65% for your own list and 1.65% for a prospect list. Your direct response rates may vary, but try to have the mail arrive on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, which are usually the best days for getting a response.

9) Test the offers – As with the email campaign, you can test offers with different postcards. In the above Brainstorm Networks series, the savings on DSL service ranged from $545 to $670, plus free DSL equipment and installation. Very important: Always remember to include an expiration date to make your prospects take action sooner, rather than later.

10) Track results – Set up a spreadsheet to track how well your campaign is doing with each mailing, noting the date mailed, the number of postcards mailed, and the responses you get. For this campaign, the “Does Your ISP Only Serve Business?” postcard got a whopping 6% response rate — possibly because of the flipside grid comparing Brainstorm to other ISPs — while the other postcards each got a very respectable 4% response.

Also in the “How to Test a Direct Response” series:

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