“Postcards are the simplest, most cost-effective format available. They’re an excellent choice for making an announcement or driving customers to a store, website, or event.”
United States Postal Service
A postcard is one of the most versatile, inexpensive, and effective tools you can have in your marketing tool kit. Compared to the effort and cost of a brochure or a traditional direct mail package mailed in an envelope, a postcard is quick, easy, and a great way to stretch your marketing budget. In addition, some kinds of postcards will help you keep your mailing list updated.
What is a Postcard?
Think of a postcard as a miniature billboard – a design space that can hold:
• a photograph of a new product, a staff member, or your location
• a handwritten message to customers
• a reprint of a press release or published article
• a reminder of an upcoming event
• a request for an appointment
• a mini newsletter
• a discount coupon or admission ticket
• a newsworthy happening in your company
The advantage of a postcard is that it does not have to be opened to be read, and if creatively designed, can have impact far beyond its size and cost.
Perhaps when you think of a postcard, you think of two sizes: 4.25 x 5.5 inches (one-quarter of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper) or 5.5 x 8.5 inches (one-half of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper). These two sizes are common and popular, in part because they fit on a standard letter-sized sheet of paper.
To the United States Postal Service (USPS), a postcard is a self-mailer – something that is not in an envelope. A self-mailer can be either a single ply like a postcard, or can be folded over like a brochure or an invitation. It can also be a wide variety of sizes – from 3.5 x 5 inches to 6.125 x 11.5 inches.
Though a postcard may not immediately come to mind when you think of a self-mailer, this can be a very effective direct mail marketing piece. Since postcards do not have to be opened to be read, you may be able to engage the reader with eye-catching graphics or an attention-getting headline. For example, vivid color blocks can draw the reader in to your copy without the reader’s conscious decision to participate. This allows you to make the most of the seven-to-ten-second window of opportunity to interest your reader.
The Advantages of First Class Mail
Mailing the postcard at the first class postage rate has definite advantages. First, the postcard receives delivery priority over all other classes of mail except Priority and Express. Secondly, it is eligible for ancillary services such as forwarding and address correction at no charge or at rates lower than for standard mail. Here is an example: if the postcard is undeliverable as addressed (UAA) and has Return Service Requested as the ancillary service endorsement, then the postcard will be returned at no charge to the sender with the new address or with the reason for non-delivery.
Because the ancillary service of return service requested is available at no charge, postcards are an excellent way to update your mail list. For less postage than it costs to mail a letter, you can get the information you need to keep the addresses in your mail list current. And with approximately 17% of the population moving every year according to the US Postal Service, this is an important part of mail list management.
When is a Postcard Not a Postcard
To be eligible for the postcard price, the card must be:
• shaped like a rectangle with an aspect ratio between 1:1.3 and 1:2.5
• not less than 3.5 or more than 4.25 inches high
• not less than 5 inches or more than 6 inches long, and
• not less than .007 inches or more than .016 inches thick
If a postcard exceeds 4.25 x 6 inches, then the USPS classifies it as letter mail for the purpose of determining postage. So despite the advantages of using a postcard size for mailing, when you need more room for your message than can fit on 4.25 x 6 inches, you will have to move to a larger size.
One popular size is 5.5 x 8.5 inches – half of a sheet of letter paper. This size offers advantages in printing, since it is a clean cut with no waste out of an 8.5 x 11 sheet. For example, if you want to take delivery of 1000 postcards, it will take a press run of only 500 sheets to produce a yield of 1000. However, since the USPS considers this letter-sized mail for the purpose of determining postage, it now becomes advantageous to consider using the standard mail class for your mailing.
Standard Mail has two very big pros over First-Class and Presorted First-Class. First, it is the least expensive commercial postage class… almost 50% cheaper than First-Class. This enables you to save quite a bit on postage. Second, it also allows up to 3.3 ounces per piece without any increase in postage. If your mail is heavier than 3.3 ounces, the postage surcharge for being overweight increases very gradually.
These reduced rates invite the interesting prospect of an over-sized postcard – perhaps 6 x 9 inches or even a full 6 1/8 x 11. These “super size” postcards are eye catching in a stack of mail because they will be either taller or longer than the rest of the mail-pieces.
Regardless of the size you select for your postcard, you will need to pay close attention to two things: the aspect ratio and the mail panel. The aspect ratio is the relationship of the length to the height of the postcard. It is calculated by dividing the length by the height. To qualify as letter mail, the aspect ratio must fall between 1:1.3 and 1:2.5. If you mail often, you might want to request a handy template of letter sized mail dimensional standards from the USPS.
Seven Uses for Postcards
1) Direct prospects to your website. Using a postcard to direct prospects to your website has traditionally been one of the best ways to announce a new or updated site.
2) Feature a single product or service. Consider a series of postcards that feature your fastest selling or most useful products and services.
3) Test an offer. Using a postcard to test various offers is a cost-effective way to determine which offer generates the greatest response rate.
4) Remind people about an event. Postcards can be an important part of building attendance at an event such as a fundraising activity.
5) Provide something of value. A postcard can serve as a redeemable coupon or discount certificate in order to reward customers or encourage prospects to make an initial purchase.
6) Convince prospects to move ahead. A postcard provides an alternative to phone calls and emails in order to convince a customer to move ahead.
7) Highlight a staff member. Remember, people buy from people. Help your customers get to know your customer service and sales staff.
Effective Use of the Mail Panel
Contrary to common usage, the mail panel on a postcard does not need to take up the entire right half of one side. An addressing area of 4 inches wide by 2 ¼ inches high is sufficient for most ink jet addressing machines or for affixing labels.
When positioning the mail panel, remember this important rule – to meet the aspect ratio, the mail panel must be oriented so that the length is greater than the width. If the width is greater than the length, the postcard will be subject to a surcharge for size.
We’d also like to remind you that we would be happy to relieve you of remembering all these things by designing for you. Just call any of our friendly customer service representatives at 781.337.0002 for help.