Do Direct Mail Postcards Work?

By Michael Tasner | Direct Mail Marketing

Mar 27

For some reason a lot of business owners seem to be abandoning offline marketing and in particular direct mail postcards.

Not only is this a bad marketing decision, I believe the only reason this is taking place is due to “shiny thing syndrom.”  Ill be the first to admit that I have it as well.  You hear about the “latest and greatest” and you want to jump on it.

The latest and greatest stuff tends to focus around the web. Yes the internet has totally changed the marketing landscape, but offline marketing still can produce profits like you’ve never imagined. Direct mail postcards are one of the fastest, most targeted ways to generate those profits

Here are four tips to generate profits from direct mail postcards:

  1. Determine the value of each new customer to your business. There are various ways to determine the value of each new customer.  Some business owners will look at the initial sale, what is that first sale worth?  If you are selling business consulting, that first sale could be worth $10,000 or even more.  I recommend you determine the lifetime value of your customer.  If you own a restaurant for example, I’m sure the value is more than $50 from that one meal, it may be closer to $250, $500 even more.   I would rather you be conservative in your numbers, but at the same time, understand that these customers are worth a lot more than just one sale.

  1. Design your budget/investment based on potential outcome. So if you are locked and loaded with the value of each new customer, how many customers do you want?  How much will the campaign cost to reach enough people to generate those customers?  One mistake I see small business owners making each and every day is setting up the budget based on what they believe they can afford.  Rather than base your budget on what you believe you can afford, back into the numbers based on some very conservative projections from the upcoming campaign.

Here’s an example for a dry cleaning business:

Let’s say you sell dry cleaning services within a 10 mile radius of your storefront.  You determined the lifetime value of a new customer is $1000, and you can afford to invest $200 in this first campaign to acquire the customer. While you will not make money in the first month, you are confident you can also generate referral business quickly.  If your objective was to bring in 20 new customers, the budget you would want to set is $4000 for this first campaign.   Keep reading to learn if that budget will generate the results you are after.

  1. Acquire a very specific list.

You want to be as specific as possible when purchasing a list.  The way to do this is to make sure you have ample data on your current/best customers.  Where do they live? What kind of cars do they drive?  How many kids do they have?  What are their job titles?  The more information you have the better.  This allows you to laser target your list for better conversions.
  1. Nail down your call to action

Don’t have four different calls to action on your direct mail postcards, stick to one call to action. If you want them to call your dry cleaner to schedule a pickup, make that the call to action.  Call us today to get 75% off your first dry cleaning order and a special gift. Make sure the call to action is dialed in and simplified to one thing.
  1. Do a series of 3-4 mailings to the same audience

Sending out 1000 postcards once is not going to produce the same result as sending out 3-4 different direct mail postcards to the SAME PEOPLE over a month or two.  Marketing gets better with repetition.  When I’m doing a campaign like this, I always send at least 3 postcards to the same people over the course of a month or two.
  1. Look at using PURL

PURL stands for personalized URL.  Are you going to respond better to a direct mail piece that has your name and special URL or one that does not?  Most likely you said the one that is customized.  Not only do PURL campaigns see better conversion rates, they merge online marketing with offline marketing.
  1. Spend the extra for oversize postcards

You want your direct mail postcards to stand out from the crowd.  One easy way to accomplish this is to spend the extra investment on oversized cards. As a final point, the big question I always get asked is “how much will this make me.”  I’ll give you a waffle answer first and then a different answer right after.  The first answer is, it varies based on the market, the type of postcards etc.  The second answer is I have seen numbers as low as 1% and as high as 7%. So if you have a targeted list of 1000 names, ideally you will convert between 10-70 people.   If we look back at the dry cleaning example, 20 customers was the number we decided we wanted to accomplish. To make sure we hit the number we may want to expand the names to 2000, take a shot and see what the conversion looks like on the first set of cards.  Armed with the numbers, you can make some intelligent marketing decisions.
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About the Author

Online & Offline Marketing Expert, Former CMO of Guerrilla Marketing, Speaker & Author obsessed with keeping you in business via No Joke Marketing.

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(2) comments

Jules June 10, 2014

Thanks for this specific post, I had been second-guessing my BIG postcards, the printing, the postage…and doling them out sparsely. I am going to work out a new marketing plan using some of your ideas

    Michael Tasner June 10, 2014

    Jules, thanks for the comment. We are fans of direct mail, when done right, and when the focus is on one physical call to action versus multiple. Postcard mania is the company we have used in the past

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