Postcard Marketing: The Definitive Guide to High ROI [2022]

Here is an overview of what we will cover:

  1. Debunking the myth - “Direct mail is dead”
  2. Why choose postcard marketing?
  3. How to get started with postcard marketing
  4. Have a marketing goal in mind
  5. How do I market to existing customers with postcards
  6. How do I target new prospects with postcard marketing?
  7. How to design postcards that sell
  8. Writing an effective call to action
  9. Stand out with personalized postcards
  10. How to choose and use images effectively in your postcards
  11. What size postcard should I send?
  12. Know what type of postcard paper stock you should choose
  13. Postcard Printing Specifications
  14. How to measure the results of a postcard marketing campaign
  15. How much does postcard marketing cost?
  16. So, to recap...
Photo of an elephant, with the frase "is direct mail dead?"

Debunking the myth - “Direct mail is dead”

Let’s get straight to the elephant in the room…

There’s no doubt we live in a digital world. Isn’t direct mail, well, “old school?”

However, when you look at the data, there is no denying the impact that direct mail can have on your bottom line.

With sophisticated new tools and technology that enables powerful personalization and segmentation for online and offline store owners, it’s no wonder direct mail is seeing a resurgence in popularity.

Just check out these stats:

  • In 2018, existing customer response rate was a whopping 9%. That’s the highest number since the report started and is nearly double the previous year. (source)
  • Direct mail generates a higher response rate than any direct digital marketing medium -- 5-9X greater than email, paid search, or social media (source)
  • In 2018, the direct mail prospecting response rate was 4.9%. That’s a big jump from 2017 and the highest since the report started in 2003. (source)
Graph of the Response Rate By Selected Media 2018, with Direct Mail leading the list with 9%

  • A recent study by The USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Temple University’s Center for Neural Decision found that “participants spent more time with physical ads. Participants had a stronger emotional response and remembered them better. Physical ads...leave a longer lasting impact for easy recall when making a purchase decision. Most importantly, physical ads triggered activity in the area of the brain that is responsible for value and desirability for featured products, which can signal a greater intent to purchase.”

Think about it.

Email inboxes are more cluttered than ever. How many times have you clicked DELETE on a promo email without reading it, even from a brand you love? (We’ll wait while you tally it up.)

Consumers are becoming more and more blind to the bombardment of banner ads, while costs continue to skyrocket.

On the other hand, postcard marketing can be your new marketing secret weapon. And in this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to launch a successful campaign that drives increased revenue, loyalty, and profits.

Why choose postcard marketing?

Direct mail comes in many forms; letters, catalogs, brochures, etc. So why are so many businesses choosing postcards?

According to the USPS, promotional postcards are more than 5X as likely to be read and scanned compared to other forms of direct mail.

Think about it - no spam folder, no unsubscribe button, no promotions filter, no envelope to open, no channel to change. Your message is literally staring your customer in the face.


Plus, your customers actually want to read mail from you. Really.

Studies have shown that people love to go to their mailbox and this trend has not changed in the “digital age.”

Postcards are simple to design and flexible enough to work for many different types of promotions, both online and offline.

Physical postcards are “sticky;” they “stick” with a customer for far longer than a random email that gets deleted within seconds. They are easy to hold, easy to read, and easy to save. Think about something as ubiquitous as Bed Bath and Beyond postcard. Everyone seems to know someone that has one of those postcard discounts laying around.

Postcards can elevate your brand. It is one reason major retailers have been using direct mail for years. However, many online and smaller business owners have never even considered it as part of their marketing strategy, perhaps because of the perception that it’s expensive, difficult, or not targeted.

Fortunately, it has never been easier for any size business to create an effective postcard campaign targeting highly relevant customers and often for less than the cost of a click.

Tracks with the word 'start'

How to get started with postcard marketing

Before putting postcard marketing to work for your business, start with these two fundamental questions.

  1. Which of my customers should I target?
  2. What message do I want to send them?

We’ll dive deeper into how to think about your target audience and messaging below.

Next, you’ll need to consider a few other details:

  • Size
  • Design
  • Printing
  • Mailing

If you’re an online store owner, there are new software tools that connect directly to your ecommerce store and make it easy to design, print and mail your postcard campaigns. (Full disclosure, we’re one of them.)

With PostPilot, we can connect directly to your online shop with a click of a button. This simple connection means you no longer have to manage lists in excel, can build automated campaigns as easily as you send an email campaign, and design your postcard with a user-friendly drag and drop editor right from your computer (or upload a design).

For physical store owners or other service providers, there are great all-in-one print shops that help you do everything from managing and providing lists for you to providing custom print options for your specific needs.

Let’s dive in to learning how to select the right target audience for your campaign.

Have a marketing goal in mind

It may be tempting to start with a general offer and blast it to everyone in your customer list. But that's a mistake.

In fact, bad list targeting is the #1 reason for poor performing direct mail campaigns.

Think of your postcard marketing campaign more like a pay-per-click campaign. Going too broad to an audience that is not highly relevant or engaged typically results in wasted spend. Generic, impersonal ads fail to truly engage readers or get them to take action.

Fortunately, there’s a much better way to send out a postcard marketing campaign—one that’s more strategic, cost-efficient, and effective—and it starts with knowing your audience.

Crowded concert, with the phrase "it's starts with knowing your audience"

Which of the following are you trying to achieve with your campaign?

  1. Get existing customers to come back to your online store
  2. Acquire more new customers
  3. Increase your brand awareness
  4. Cross sell complementary products to recent customers

Your answer will help determine the goal of your campaign and impacts how the targeting and content of your campaign. Let’s walk through these strategies in more detail.

How do I market to existing customers with postcards

According to invesp it can cost 5X more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. That same study shows the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, while the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.

Your existing customers or house file is a gold mine, waiting to be tapped.

But how? Where do you start?

Most online stores don't make much profit on their first order once you factor in acquisition costs.

The solution is simple: Get your customer to make a second purchase.

A second purchase with a much lower customer acquisition costs (ideally closer to zero) generates significant gross profit. Check out how long it typically takes a new customer to make a second purchase.

If you have a product that needs to be replenished (think food or makeup), create an automated campaign to fire off a personalized reminder or offer if they haven’t repurchased within the expected timeframe.

Here are some other ways to drive more retention, loyalty, and revenue:

Cross sell similar or complementary products.

Think t-shirts to jeans customers, different styles of jewelry, or your best selling items. Send a postcard with an incentive to get them to explore similar products and categories.

Postcard with 25% off discount and the copy "Online only - WE MISS YOU!"

Reach out to customers who haven’t made a purchase in a while.

For example, if you run a clothing brand and you have customers that haven’t purchased in 90, show them what’s new. Take a look at this case study of one customer using this strategy to achieve a 762% ROI.

Give them an incentive to come back. Typically the more time that goes by from their most recent purchase, the less likely they are to purchase again. You can even increase the discount amounts over time, so that you’re only giving greater incentives to the customers becoming less likely to buy again.

Lego VIPs Get The Star Treatment Postcard

Acknowledge your VIPs.

These repeat, high value customers often are small in number, but make up a disproportionate amount of your revenue. Make them feel valued and exclusive to encourage them to keep choosing your products and brand.

Promote new models and upgrades.

Perhaps you have a shoe company and every year you come out with a new version of your signature running shoe. Try reaching out to customers that purchased the older version and let them know it’s time to upgrade.

Dick's Sporting Good postcard annoucing a clearance event

Raise awareness for major events.

From open a new physical location, releasing a new product line, or having a site-wide holiday sale, make sure your customers don’t miss the big news.

With a wide variety of criteria available to filter and segment your customers based on nearly any imaginable attribute, there is no shortage of ways to ensure the right message reaches the right customer at the right time.

Now let’s take a look at how to use postcard marketing to target new prospects.

How do I target new prospects with postcard marketing?

Once we’ve mastered sending postcards to our existing customers, you can think about how to acquire new customers. The two most common ways are:

  1. Purchasing consumer lists
  2. USPS Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM)

With lists purchased from a data provider, you get some level of control over what consumers you want to target. You typically pay per lead, e.g. $100 per 1,000 leads. Depending on the data vendor that you use, you may have access to attributes such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Income
  • Marital status
  • Size of household

However, it’s important to note that the quality of the lists can vary greatly, and that these are cold prospects.

Translation: Don’t expect the same level of results as when marketing to your existing customers.

There is also a relatively new option out there when it comes to leads.

The US Postal Service also offers Every Door Direct Mail or EDDM. It allows you the business owner to send postcards to a postal code or carrier route.

This is likely even less targeted than purchasing a list, as you don’t know anything about the recipient other than their address. These are best used when you have a physical location and are looking to generate awareness.

How to design postcards that sell

Once your audience is selected, good design and messaging are crucial to maximize your campaign performance. Key aspects of every good postcard design:

  • Have a clear call to action
  • Keep it simple
  • Maintain a consistent brand aesthetic (i.e. stay on-brand)
  • Know what size postcard you should send
  • Try to stand out
  • Personalization where appropriate
  • Make sure you follow the USPS rules

With PostPilot, many of these best practices are already built in to our templates. A good graphic designer should also be comfortable with these practices.

However, let’s walk through each in more detail, so you know what to look for in your design.

Writing an effective call to action

Any good campaign includes a strong call to action.

What’s a call to action? In a nutshell, it’s an image or copy that prompts the reader to take a desired action.

This might include:

  • Drive the consumer to visit your website
  • Push the consumer to make a product or service purchase (typically with a discount)
  • Prompt a phone call from a consumer
  • Register for an upcoming event
  • Follow you on social media
  • Get the consumer to visit your physical location

The call to action reflects the ideal outcome of your campaign.

Three signs, saying "Free trial!", "Sign up today!" and "Join now!"

Stand out with personalized postcards

“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language,” is one of the most seminal lines from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.


Because it’s true.

As humans we our brains naturally engage and get excited when we hear our own name. Use that to your advantage by personalizing your postcard with merge fields that allow you to dynamically insert their name or a wide variety of other attributes.

Making the content more relevant helps you stand out and engage the reader.

How to choose and use images effectively in your postcards

A picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s definitely true when it comes to advertising when you have to make a quick impression.

The right image helps with instant recognition, evokes emotion, educates and inspires. It helps communicate your message and makes it more memorable.

Different postcard designs

Be sure to include your logo prominently so the recipient easily recognizes the sender (you) as someone they’ve done business with.

Use high quality product photography whenever possible. If you want an eye catching background or accent image and don’t have access to high quality photos, stock images may be a good option.

Stock images are photos taken by professional or amateur photographers and available to use either free or for a fee. There are great stock images available for free at sites like Unsplash or Pexels. Shopify even has it’s own library of free stock images.

Tropical beach
Laptop on a desk

Traveller sitting in front of a car

Other resources offering images for a fee include iStockphoto, Photodune, or Shutterstock.

When using image files such as PNGs or JPGs, remember to use images that are sized properly for good print quality. A minimum of 300 DPI (Dots Per Inch) is recommended. Anything lower runs the risk of looking pixelated or blurry.

DPI is calculated as (width of image in pixels) / (width of product in inches) and (length of image in pixels) / (length of product in inches). For example, a 1275px x 1875px image used to create a 4.25" x 6.25" postcard has a DPI of 300.

What size postcard should I send?

With many different postcard sizes available, we often get asked how to choose.

At PostPilot, we offer the most popular:

  • 4.25” x 6.25”
  • 6.25” x 9.25”
  • 6.25” x 11.25”

4x6”: The is used in the large majority of campaigns and often the best bang for your buck. it qualifies for the USPS first class delivery times and the standard postcard mailing rate.

It may seem small, but typically when you keep your copy succinct and clear, you don’t need more room than this.

You can also easily repurpose the same design for international campaign as well, if you have customers in other countries.

6x9”: If you have more to say, or simply want to ensure you stand out in the mailbox, this card is for you. However, it comes at an additional cost. You can also test different campaigns and different sizes to see which gets the best ROI.

6x11” AKA “The big daddy.” If you were struggling to get noticed or fit everything onto a 6x9”, this is the size for you. Perfect for big announcements like major sales or new launches or locations.

If you have a specific design in mind, it may be possible to use a custom size. Keep in mind that anything over 6” x 11” will require a much higher “Flats Rate” from the USPS.

Know what type of postcard paper stock you should choose

At PostPilot, we use 120#, double sided, UV coated, full bleed card stock, so you can rest assured you card will be high quality.

If you’re using a printer service, you should be familiar with some of the options:

  1. Finish
  2. Thickness
  3. Color or B&W
  4. Single-sided or double-sided

When it comes to finish, think of coated as glazed donut and think of matte as a cake donut (without frosting).

If you have a lot of photographs, stick with a coated (gloss) finish. If you’re looking for a more subtle feel or something that is easier for the recipient to write on, go with the uncoated (matte) finish.

The higher the number, the thicker the paper stock. At a minimum you need 100# to meet USPS requirements. The thicker the stock the more it feels sturdy to the recipient and is more resistant to damage during transit.

UV coating can help keep your designs smudge free and add a bit of rigidity to the stock, specifically while going through the USPS high speed sorting machines.

Unless it’s for artistic reasons, use full color.

Use as much real estate as you have available by printing on both sides.

Postcard Printing Specifications

Postcard design guidelines

In the design template above, there are 4 aspects to consider.

  1. Bleed area (and trim size)
  2. Trim Size
  3. Safe Zone
  4. Address block and postage area

In printing, bleed is printing that goes beyond the edge of where the sheet will be trimmed. In other words, the bleed is the area to be trimmed off. The bleed is the part on the side of a document that gives the printer a small amount of space to account for movement of the paper, and design inconsistencies. Artwork and background colors often extend into the bleed area. After trimming, the bleed ensures that no unprinted edges occur in the final trimmed document.

It is very difficult to print exactly to the edge of a sheet of paper/card, so to achieve this, it is necessary to print a slightly larger area than is needed and then trim the paper/card down to the required finished size. Images, background images and fills which are intended to extend to the edge of the page must be extended beyond the trim line to give a bleed.

For example, for postcards you'll typically create a file that is actually 4.25" x 6.25" instead of 4" x 6".

Not having backgrounds and graphics extend into the bleed area could result in a white or unprinted border around the edge of the postcard.

When placing copy or images on your card, keep in mind the safe zone. That ensures that it won’t get cut off when the card is trimmed after printing.

On the back of the postcards, there is a space marked off as the ink-free-area. The is where the address block and postage area will be printed. Anything in this area must be left blank to be accepted by the postal service.

When you use PostPilot, our design editor shows the bleed area and warns you if any aspects of your design are potentially outside of the safe zone.

How to measure the results of a postcard marketing campaign

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

With a measurable goal in mind, you need to be able to track how many people achieve your goal and whether your campaign is profitable.

Here are some simple methods to track postcard marketing performance.

Discount codes

Discount codes are a simple, but effective way to track postcard marketing campaign results. Simply include a code on your postcard campaign that is not available elsewhere.

As your postcards get delivered, track how many orders are placed using that unique code.

With PostPilot and Shopify, discount code tracking is built into the platform.

Custom URLs / Website landing pages

Another option is to send recipients to a custom landing page built specifically for your campaign. You can track the performance of customers visiting that specific page.

For optimal results, ensure you have a consistent design and message on both the landing page and postcard.

Custom phone numbers

Finally, some businesses prefer consumers to contact a sales rep or request a phone consultation. In this case, a custom phone number is a great way to track the effectiveness of your postcard.

Call tracking can be surprisingly easy to set up. Services like Grasshopper or CallRail provide the ability to assign different phone numbers to different advertising campaigns. Add a unique phone number to each postcard campaign, then track how many calls each campaign receives, as well as the length of each call and other details.


How much does postcard marketing cost?

The biggest drivers of cost are typically the quantity and size of your card, along with whether you’re sending your campaign domestically or internationally.

Some services charge separately for printing and postage, while others provide a single cost to cover everything.

With PostPilot, you can expect to pay one a flat price that includes the cost of printing, postage, and delivery. The cost decreases as you send more. For example, a 4.25” x 6.25” postcard campaign in the US starts at $0.89 per card, dropping to $.69 or less depending on quantity.

Other costs that may be applicable including copywriting and design if you do not have those capabilities in-house.

You can often find good freelancers from services like Upwork or Fiverr. Be sure to keep in mind that great copy and creative can make or break your campaign, so don’t cut corners here.

If you are purchasing a mailing list from a data provider, you might expect to pay between 1 to 10 cents per address depending on volume and the level of segmentation or data points that you’re looking for.

So, to recap...

Postcard marketing can be a highly effective channel to increase revenue and customer retention. New tools allow you to easily design and build targeted, personalized campaigns.

Ready to get started growing your bottom line with postcard marketing? It’s free to create a PostPilot account if you want to take it for a spin and see how easy it is to build your campaign.

Still have questions? Need help building your campaign? Just want to chat about marketing? Drop us a line. We’re here for you.

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