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Economies of Scale: Marketing with Post Cards

A post card mailing campaign, properly planned and carried out, is an efficient and cost-effective way to market to customers and prospects. Less time-consuming and costly to produce than a brochure or folded self-mailer, a post card is more affordable yet no less effective. Whether your objective is business promotion, product or service advertising, brand identity, donation solicitation, or a service or event reminder, a post card gets the job done efficiently and cost-effectively.

Post cards play nicely with others

Because post cards don’t require opening for the message to be seen, they have an impact even on those who don’t actively engage with them. A well-designed post card has the main message in plain view and catches the reader’s eye with a strong headline or graphic, resulting in a high read rate. Although a post card typically – though not always – has less space to deliver the message than a self-mailer, the post card’s reach can be extended by referring to a web site for more details. Post cards have a longer “shelf life” than e-mail and are easy to file for future reference. Post cards work best for short messages and for generating leads (not closing sales). And they are remarkably effective when compared to electronic mail. According to the Direct Marketing Association’s Statistical Fact Book 2012, the average response rate for direct mail was 4.4% for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer mailings compared to 0.12% for web-based e-mail. That explains why use of direct mail is growing as an element of business marketing plans.

Post cards and EDDM

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), a program launched in December 2010 by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to help businesses tap into the power of direct mail, has become a very popular way to use post cards. EDDM is a way to mail to every address in a specific area (defined by carrier route or ZIP code) at the very lowest postage rate available and without needing to put an address on the mail piece. This makes it the lowest cost-per-piece direct mail option.

The USPS has specific rules that apply to EDDM mailings and are similar to those governing non-EDDM direct mail. One of those is the size of the mail piece. Since 2010, the initial size specifications have been steadily expanded and now provide an extremely wide range of choices for post cards, ranging from average to super size. (The specific dimensional requirements may be confusing to interpret, but we can help you determine if the size you have in mind fits the requirements.)

Besides size restrictions, other EDDM requirements include wording and placement of the indicia; wording to use in place of the address; how the mail must be bundled and labeled; what paperwork must accompany the mailing; how postage is paid; and how many pieces of mail can be sent each day. Businesses who want to use EDDM can work with a printer and/or commercial mailer like Millennium PrintingCorporation or do everything themselves.

EDDM versus regular targeted mailing

For some kinds of businesses, EDDM is an ideal way to conduct a direct mail marketing campaign; for others, regular targeted direct mail is best. The businesses that benefit the most from EDDM are those whose target customers can be found clustered in a carrier route or ZIP code. Usually this means the business serves a broad spectrum of the population at large – people of all ages and income levels. Some examples are take-out or casual dining restaurants; general retail stores; florists,2bakeries and convenience stores; automobile service and repair, car washes, personal services (beauty and barber shops, dry cleaners, drug stores); and home services (home, carpet and window cleaning, landscaping/yard service, pest control, handyman services).

The key to knowing whether to use EDDM or more targeted direct mail is to determine if there is a sufficient concentration of the target audience in a carrier route or ZIP code. First the business defines its target audience with measurable demographics like household income, age of head of household, presence of children; etc. With this information, it is possible to obtain a count of households in a carrier route or ZIP code that meet the criteria. Compare that count to the count of deliverable addresses in the carrier route or ZIP code, and the answer will be clear. In general, the less restrictive the criteria, the more likely EDDM will be beneficial.

Here’s an example: a local pizzeria is targeting households within a 7 mile radius that have an annual income of at least $35,000. Using the income criterion, a commercial mail list provider can determine how many households within the radius meet the criterion. This number can then be compared to the USPS count of households. If the numbers are similar (say, 4,700 versus 5,000), then EDDM is the best way to mail.

If a business has a more highly specialized target audience, EDDM may not be the best choice. An obvious example is a swimming pool supply and service business. It is unlikely that a sufficient concentration of swimming pools could be found in a specific carrier route or ZIP code. So instead of using EDDM, this business owner should purchase a mailing list of households with swimming pools, perhaps with an additional criterion of household income.

Post cards and online marketing

One very effective use of post cards is to integrate them with online marketing – using a post card to deliver a compelling offer that drives a prospect to a web site or landing page. Here prospects can be prompted to complete a form or quick survey, redeem a coupon, or otherwise identify themselves. This is now the basis for active follow up.

Here are the advantages of using a direct mail post card with online marketing rather than online marketing alone:

  • At the web site, there’s no need to ask the prospect for comprehensive contact information as there would be for prospects who get to the web site through pay-per-click or a search engine. You already have contact information; you only need one piece of information (such as a code printed on the post card) to tie back to the mailing list.

  • Prospects are more likely to read the initial message on a post card than an e-mail message. As we mentioned earlier, in 2012 the average response rate for direct mail was 4.4% compared to 0.12% for web-based e-mail. It is easy to delete e-mail without opening it or to block an e-mail sender. With a post card, it is hard to avoid seeing some part of the message – especially a compelling headline or graphic that may cause the recipient to pause in the process of discarding the mail piece.

  • By starting with a post card, you can develop a targeted audience. Using demographic characteristics of your current best customers, you can obtain a mail list of others whose demographics (age, gender, income level and more) are a match. This puts the post card in front of prequalified leads, increasing the likelihood of response.

Post cards promote success

Post cards are a valuable part of the marketing toolkit for businesses and organizations. Versatile post cards can be applied to many different selling and customer relations situations. They can be used by themselves or as part of online marketing.

We can help you plan and carry out an effective post card direct mailing campaign. We are experts in using headlines, text, photographs, illustrations and white space to grab the reader’s attention and promote response. Please contact one of our sales representatives at MPC by call 781.337.0002 for an appointment to discuss your next post card project.


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