Format – Direct Mail Postcard

The Direct Mail Postcard

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Direct Mail PostcardDirect mail postcards are one of the most popular direct mail formats being used today.

Because of their simplicity, postcards are relatively inexpensive to design, print and mail (although except for the smallest postcards, postage is the same as regular mail).

Simplicity also helps with your messaging.  Because you have so little room compared to other mailer formats, the postcard forces you to stay on message and focus on the goal of the mailing.

Moreover, simplicity is keeps the reader focused.  There is no opening or unfolding involved.  It’s just front and back – and the reader has to look at it if only to throw it away.

I recommend direct mail postcards all the time, but only if the application is right.  Some direct marketing goals cannot be achieved through postcards.

Many shapes and sizes

The postcard can be produced in many different sizes and shapes.  It’s important to keep a close watch on your dimensions as they will impact your costs to print and mail.

Postcards can be broken down into the following categories – which are based on postage rate categories.

  • Postcard-Rate Postcards
    Postcard-rate postcards which are eligible for reduced first class postage can now go as large as 6×9 inches.  This is a special rate also applies to small double postcards (with folded size of 4-1/4 x 6).
  • Letter-Rate Postcards
    Letter-rate postcards now range in size from 6×9 inches up to 6-1/8 x 11-1/2 inches.  These postcards have the same postage rate as a regular letter.
  • Flat-Rate Postcards
    Flat-rate postcards are larger than 6-1/8 x 11-1/2 inches (including a standard 8.5×11 inches).  These postcards pay a surcharge in postage – the same that is applied to all flat-rate mailers.
  • Square Postcards
    Square postcards are very popular these days because they are different and more eye-catching.  But you will pay extra postage for these cards as they do not comply with mailing standards.
  • Odd-Shaped Postcards
    Today you can find postcards that can be die cut to almost any shape or form.  You are only limited by your imagination and your printer’s ability to die cut.  If you planning these types of cards, check with your post office first.  Chances are you can mail them (although they do say you cannot mail round postcards), but at additional cost.

All postcards must be printed on card stock.  Have your printer check postal regulations if you have any doubts about thickness.

The postcard may be used for lead generation, but it is even more effective for traffic building (at retail stores and trade shows) because no separate reply card is needed. The postcard is also a cost-effective format for lead follow-up, lapsed customer reactivation and list maintenance.

postcard seriesFor small target audiences, consider creating a postcard series with each postcard focusing on a different product benefit or application.  The postcards are then mailed at intervals over a short period of time to the same audience.   Multi-touch postcard campaigns can provide effective brand building.

The pass-along effect

One terrific advantage of the postcard – in fact all self-mailers – is that it has the potential of being seen by others in the office or at home.  We call this the pass-alone effect.

Think about it:  if you walk into a colleague’s office and saw a letter or envelope that interested you, you would never pick it up and read it.  That would rude.

But if it were a postcard, you might very well pick it up and read it because it is not perceived to be personal.  This works to your advantage as a marketer because the postcard could get more eyeballs that just the target recipient.

Disadvantages of the postcard

For all of its advantages, the postcard does have some limitations.

The biggest disadvantage is space. If you have a complex product or service that requires extensive explanation, the postcard is probably insufficient for communicating your message.

If you want your message to be personal, obviously the postcard is open for all to see.

Another disadvantage (although less so today) is that the postcard has no mail-back reply device.  This is less of a concern today as many marketers are relying on landing pages to capture response.  Other response channels – such as the phone, fax, email and walk-up – are also available.


As discussed above, there is nothing really personal about a postcard.  But you can employ personalization techniques to increase readership and possibly response.

Obviously your postcard needs to be addressed to someone so you’ll need to place an address in the address box.  If you have additional information about your prospect, you could easily insert a personalized message at the same time you address the postcard.

Variable Data Printing (VDP)

But the real potential for postcard personalization with the use of Variable Data Printing or VDP.    VDP is a form of digital printing that allows you to print the postcard while inserting personalization.  In effect, you are creating one postcard at a time.

With VDP, you incorporate a person’s name into an image or other artwork on the postcard.  With a very specialized form of VDP, you can actually build your message with customized fonts so your recipient’s name appears in the clouds or imprinted in the beach sand.

Final Note:

When designing your postcard, be sure to repeat your offer on both sides of your postcard.  You never know which way the postcard will land.

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