When you hear “direct mail piece,” what’s the first mail piece you think of? For most people, the answer is a letter or a postcard. A postcard is something that everyone is familiar with and probably receives at least once a week in their mailbox. It’s one of the pillars of direct mail and has been for a very long time.
Did you know that in 2017, the United States Postal Service processed close to 2.8 billion postcards? And that rate is actually quite a bit lower than in past years. Just 10 years ago in 2007, the USPS processed 5.8 billion postcards! Needless to say, there are still A LOT of people sending them.
If you're someone interested in sending a postcard direct mail campaign, what does that process look like? This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of designing your own postcard.
How To Design A Postcard [Step by Step Guide]
Step 1: Define The Objective
Before diving in, you need to first lay the foundation for your postcard. Start with defining your purpose for the postcard. What do you want to accomplish with it? Are you trying to promote an upcoming event? Are you emphasizing your new service that’s available to your customers? Looking to drive more traffic into your store with a limited-time sale?
It’s important to understand what your objective is: to keep you on track as you work through the design process. Without having a goal, it’s easy to stray away from what you’re trying to accomplish. Use this as a guide when making decisions.
Step 2: Choose A Headline
Since you have your objective defined, how are you going to achieve that with your postcard? Perhaps the most critical element of your postcard is the headline. It can make or break your campaign because it’s the first thing the recipient sees. If it’s not effective, it will be the last thing they read. Your headline needs to encompass the whole message of your card. When effective, your headline will capture your reader’s attention until the end.
There are many different types of headlines to choose from so here are a few examples:
- Provoking and challenging the reader: “Are You Prepared for the Next Stock Market Crash?
- How-To: “How to Collect from Social Security at Any Age.”
- Warning: “Warning: Two-Thirds of the Middle Managers in Your Industry Will Lose Their Jobs in the Next 36 Months.”
- Secrets: Here’s the Secret of How I Lost 40 Pounds in Just Thirty Days.
Regardless of the headline you use, keep in mind how you can provide a solution to their problems.
Here’s some more headline inspiration for you.
Step 3: Create A Call To Action
You can do everything right and have your customer ready to buy, but without a clear call to action, your efforts will be in vain. It needs to be simple and clear for how should they respond. If you want them to visit your website, provide the URL in several places in a bigger text size. If you want them to bring the postcard into your store, convey this in clear and short terms.
Give them simple instructions to follow. Sometimes it might be best to explain the call to action in three bullet points or a checklist. Your customer will want to respond, but might not know how to respond. This call to action should be a priority in your postcard so do your due diligence to get it right!
Step 4: Show The Benefits To The Reader
You got your reader hooked with your headline, but why should they follow through with what you’re advertising? Show the reader the benefits of your product and service. Why should they take their car into your auto shop for the next oil change? What makes you the best dentist in town? How are they going to benefit by using your consulting services for their marketing? Give them solid, convincing reasons for why you are the solution.
Plus, include an offer to reduce the risk for them. As consumers, we’re wary of taking risks. Because, we don’t know what the results will be until it might be too late. Reduce that chance of risk by giving them an incentive or risk-free offer. Offer a satisfaction guarantee or money back. Or give them a 30-day free trial. You might have them sold on your benefits, but they need to feel safe committing to what you’re selling.
Step 5: Pick A Design Program
Congrats! You’ve laid the foundation for a successful postcard design, so now it’s time to start making some actionable steps. You have all your content, headlines, and other text ready, so you can start making some headway. You need to pick a program to design the postcard. There's lots of choices out there, so let me give you three recommendations to choose from.
- Adobe InDesign/Illustrator (Difficulty: Expert)
- Canva.com (Difficulty: Medium)
- Microsoft Publisher (Difficulty: Easy)
Each of these programs have their own pros and cons, so I’d encourage you to do a little research into which is the best fit for you. Design experience and pricing will probably determine the right one for you. Here’s a more in depth review of each program.
Step 6: Get To Work!
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and start going to work on your design. You have your content ready and your design program picked, so start plugging away. Be sure to follow some of the general design best practices. Some of these are: color consistency, use of contrast, easy legibility, and striking images.
Having effective design will keep the reader interested and easily move them through the path you’ve set on the card. Here’s a quick pro tip. Establish a hierarchy of importance with your different headlines and subheads. You can create this by differentiating your text by size or by font. Be sure to do this within reason though, as a multitude of fonts and sizes can be distracting to the reader.
Step 7: Review And Edit
You’ve done all the work — so now you need to step back and make sure everything looks right. It’s easy to get caught up in the design process and not realize that you’re missing bits of crucial information.
Here are some things you want to make sure you’ve included in your artwork.
- Your contact information and logo
- Call to action details (URL, phone number, address)
- Images and graphics that contribute to the message
- Correct postcard size, per postal regulations
- Room for an address block
- Bleeds built in for printing and trimming
- Strong offer
- Catchy headline
Once everything passes the final inspection, it’s ready for launch. Pair it with an accurate and targeted mailing list and you’re ready for success! Don’t forget to partner with a quality mail house who can print and mail it for you.