8 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Next Postcard Campaign


I challenge you to do a little behavior analyses on yourself the next time you get your mail. Most people do a quick sort, setting the bills aside to pay later, and culling out the “junk mail” in the nondescript envelopes from unrecognizable names (to open and read later). All postcards are glanced at (before tossing into the recycle bin or saving) to see if they are important.

Wait a minute. Think about what you just did. The first, and probably only pieces you read during the first pass-through were the postcards – especially if they were colorful, unusual, or had an interesting headline.

This is a marketing tactic many businesses already know; postcards are a great way to grab someone’s attention. More importantly, virtually 100 percent of postcards are read. Why?

Envelopes need to be opened to read what’s inside. When I look at my mail, most of the unfamiliar mail in envelopes is tossed immediately. While I toss most of the postcards, too, I actually read the postcards in the process. It’s fast, easy, and I don’t seem to waste any time. It doesn’t require any effort. I almost can’t stop myself – especially if the postcard is colorful or has an interesting picture or graphic.

Postcards are ready-to-read, which means even when I do toss them – I’ve already seen the message the sender wanted me to see. That’s powerful stuff.  It’s the fundamental reason postcards continue to be one of the most effective direct-mail marketing tools.

Postcards are a great way to:

  • Generate leads
  • Promote special offers and coupons
  • Introduce new products and services
  • Stay in touch with your customers
  • Test different messages and offers

Postcards are easy to create, typically have good response rates, and are the least expensive way to advertise using direct mail. Proof lies simply with the number of postcards in your mailbox. However, like every other marketing tactic, it is important to avoid some of the pitfalls that can make your next postcard campaign much less effective, or even fail completely. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

Mistake #1: A Lack of Focus

How effective do you think a postcard campaign by a custom swimming pool builder would be if they were all mailed to a zip code saturated with mobile home parks? Probably not good.

Obtaining a list of the best possible prospects is the most important factor for successful postcard marketing campaigns. Your in-house list is the best place to start, but if you don’t have one (you need to get busy compiling one if you don’t!) you may be able to rent a subscriber list based on specific criteria for your target market.

Mistake #2: Marketing is a Marathon – not a Sprint

You need to run a campaign, not just a single mailing. How many times do you have to nag your spouse, kids, or employee to get something done? Consistent repetitive mailings are more effective because when customers see your name repeatedly, it slowly builds credibility and familiarity. It may take several contacts (mailing campaigns are contact points!) before your marketing efforts generate a sale, but the eventual gain of a customer and their revenue should offset the small cost of postcard printings.

Mistake #3: Cold, Hard Professionalism (Be Friendly)

Your postcards need to look professional, but they also need to have a warm, friendly message that evokes a pleasant emotional reaction from readers. Funny is fun and effective, too. Postcards that feature a brief, personal message generate significantly more leads than formal, impersonal ads.

Mistake #4: Bad Timing (Timing is Everything)

Figure out when your postcard will arrive, and only mail on days when the arrival time will fall between Tuesday and Thursday. Mondays and Fridays are less effective (I’m less effective those days, too). Also, plan your holiday mailings carefully to avoid three-day weekends. The midweek slot is better because generally there is less mail on those days. Consult your local post office (or feel free to give us a call) if you need help determining when to let your postcards sail.

Mistake #5: It’s Just a Postcard…

Your postcard is not a substitute for a brochure or your other marketing materials. Postcards are designed to grab the reader’s attention, make them curious, and prod them to visit your website, store, special event, or to use a coupon, which might even be the postcard itself. You probably are not going to close a sale with a postcard. There simply isn’t enough space for all that information.

Mistake #6: Poorly Crafted Headline, Image, or Message

Short, attention-getting, compelling headlines are 20 times more effective compared to postcards with bad headlines, or, God forbid, no headline at all. Combine your headline with the image side to guide the reader to the message side. The image needs to be relevant, attractive or fun, and brightly colored. More importantly, the message should clearly state what you’re promoting.

Mistake #7: Complicating your Message

Embrace the KISS method, and Keep It Simple. Remember your behavior analyses? You only have a few seconds to catch the reader’s attention, and if your postcard is a mini-catalog, or resembles War and Peace, your reader probably isn’t going to read it. Use simple language and short, direct sentences so the reader instantly understands your message. Never promote more than one thing per card. Tell the reader what is important and how to obtain more information.

Mistake #8: Failure to Read What You Wrote

Spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors really drive some people crazy, but even a less critical reader will notice the error. Simply put, failure to proof read really makes your business look bad. The best writers proofread their work over and over. If you write your own copy, try reading it aloud, and invite several other people to read and review your work before you print it.

The next time you consider postcard marketing, keep the above tips in mind. You may be surprised how well the new campaign works. Well planned, well-executed postcard marketing can lead to significant increases in sales revenue. By avoiding the above mistakes, your next postcard mailing should be more effective.

If you are considering implementing a postcard marketing plan, and have any questions, contact me. Don’t forget to ask about our customized sort and filter options to help deliver your message to the most likely tour & travel buyers.

About the Author...

Stephen Ekstrom is a well-recognized tourism marketing authority whose influence reaches over 500,000,000 travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a trusted fixture in the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor and program facilitator. Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, manages a network of nearly 5,500 opted-in global travel trade buyers, advising and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.