Let’s cut to the chase. It’s not easy to create a powerful postcard design that converts your potential leads into customers. And unfortunately, there’s not a standard template that works well for every company or campaign. It’d be nice, but it’s just not possible.
Now, I’m not naive. The internet is a vast and untrustworthy place. And I’m sure that with a quick Google search, you can find plenty of websites that offer all sorts of postcard templates that you can use.
At first glance, these probably seem appealing. And if you’re looking to design a generic business postcard and you’re not concerned about earning a good return on your investment, then one of these templates might be your best bet. After all, if you don’t have high standards, what difference does it make?
But if you want to learn how to create your own template that is uniquely designed to fit the needs of your business, and is practically guaranteed to get you a fantastic ROI, then you need to read every word of this article.
Before we dive into it all, let me state a couple of essential points so that there’s no confusion.
First, I will not provide you with a cookie-cutter template for you to use. You won’t find a drag-and-drop solution here. And you know why not? Because that won’t help you to reach your goals.
When it comes to postcard marketing, taking the easy route will usually cost you more money in the long run. Instead, I will provide you with all the tools you need to craft a template that is custom-tailored to achieve your company goals. You’ll learn all the vital elements of postcard design and why they’re essential. And you’ll gain the confidence needed to implement these ideas.
Secondly, I’m making myself available to you. I live and breathe postcard marketing, and it makes me nauseous to find terrible designs in my mailbox. So, for my sake, I urge you to please reach out to me with any questions you have.
Are you trying to begin a design, but you’re unsure how to get the ball rolling? I can help! Do you have a completed design, but you’d like some feedback before you spend thousands of dollars to have them printed? I’m here for you!
And please know that this is not a sales pitch. There’s no payment required to get my advice. I’m genuinely interested in helping because, in the big picture, raising the quality of one design is ultimately a boon for the entire industry.
With that said, what can you expect to learn here?
This article will cover the following topics:
- What elements of postcard design drive conversions?
- How can you effectively implement those elements into your design?
- How can you get professional feedback on your design before having it printed?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m excited! Let’s get to it!
BE SMART WITH YOUR POSTCARD DESIGN
As I’m sure you’ve seen time and time again, there is a seemingly endless stream of terrible postcard designs that incessantly plague your mailbox each week. They usually contain crappy photos, wordy yet uninformative text, and have zero relevance to your needs and desires.
Oh, this reminds me! I need to do my laundry.
So, if these designs are so awful, why do companies still waste time and resources to create and distribute them? They do it for two reasons:
- They are too close to their product and unable to place themselves in the recipient’s shoes.
- They are under informed on how to present their value offering effectively.
When it comes to postcard design, it is easy to overwhelm the recipient and therefore decrease the likelihood of a favorable ROI.
The two most important things you need for a high-quality design are a perfect image and motivating text that elicits action. Let’s take a look at each of these aspects separately.
A Perfect Picture
It doesn’t matter whether you plan to use a photograph, an artist rendering, or a crayon drawing your kid drew in kindergarten class. The rule is always the same: Quality is key.
If you don’t have a top-notch image, your postcard will wind up in people’s trashcans before they read a single word.
And I’m not just talking about getting a high-resolution pic. That’s important, of course. But you also need to be sure that your image clearly communicates your message and supports your text in a unique and aesthetic way.
Allow me to explain my image selection process by sharing an example from a previous client.
Ecovolt Solar came to us here at Scout, looking for a unique way to present their residential solar panels to potential customers. And when it came time to choose the image, the first thing I did was Google “solar panels.”
I know what you’re thinking. “Seriously? Is Google your big tip? That’s some great insight, pal!”
Look, I realize that this sounds like a ridiculous first step to mention here. Still, it’s more important than you may realize, and it’s exactly how I begin every design. And here’s why.
When you run a Google search for the images associated with your primary product offering, you’ll find an endless array of images that look very similar to each other. Whatever you do, don’t use one of these images. I repeat. Do not select an image from your initial Google search.
Instead, think of Google as a reverse compass. This step shows you the direction you need to avoid. Because if you’re going to stand out from the crowd, you need to be different, right? So take a look at what everyone else is doing (i.e., your competitors) and do the opposite.
In this example for Ecovolt, my first search for “solar panels” brought up tons of pictures of two things: panels and suns. Duh. So, this showed me that my image could not contain those two things.
At this point, the creative juices begin to flow. Solar panels are good for the environment, right? What else is environmentally friendly? Trees, of course! So I began searching for trees, and immediately, I knew I was on to something.
Once I’ve gotten to this step and decided on the general type of image I want to use, I ditch Google and head over to Unsplash. If you’re unfamiliar, Unsplash is a fantastic resource with loads of high-resolution and royalty-free photos. It’s critical that you ensure your image is free to use.
Or, if you’re willing to pay for it, that’s fine too. But you need to make sure that you go through the proper channels. If an image requires payment and permission, pay the money and get the consent in writing. If you skip this step and attempt to use an unlicensed image, you could easily wind up with a huge (and expensive) headache.
As usual, Unsplash provided me with the perfect picture that I needed. I love this image.
Kind of trippy, right?
So what makes this picture so great? The explanation is pretty simple, really.
There’s plenty of dark space in the image. This provides a high-contrast background that helps to give the text that extra “pop” it needs to stand out adequately. You’ve got to make sure the recipient can easily find and read the words that are on the card. And contrast is the way you’ll make it happen. If your background is dark, you’ll need light text. And conversely, you’ll need dark text on a light background. It’s common sense stuff, but it’s worth mentioning.
Beyond that, I love this picture because it offers direction and hope. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s true. Take another look. Notice that the photograph was taken on a walking path, and the trees all seem to “point” upward. These provide the reader with a sense of forward and upward movement – both very positive feelings. And this is important because, as I’m sure you know, happy people are more likely to spend money.
So make sure the image you select provides your readers with a similar emotional response.
Now that you’ve found your perfect picture, it’s time to switch gears and focus on your words. This is where you’ll connect with your readers and earn your conversions.
Allow me to use a cooking metaphor:
The picture you choose is like oil in a frying pan. It’s necessary to prepare your dinner, but it’s worthless without heat. Writing motivating words that engage the reader will provide the temperature you need to get things cooking.
As an example, let’s take a look at the text on the postcard below. There are way too many words on this postcard. And when we consider the fact that it takes a person less than 2 seconds to decide if they’re interested enough to read further, this card is entirely ineffective. It takes more time than that even to find the offer, much less consider it.
“Grandpa, is that you?”
Superior postcard design is not about closing deals (although it is sometimes possible). Instead, a great design will nudge people to the next step. It’s all about motivating them to take action and show their interest. Think of it this way, if someone is willing to reach for their phone to call your office, they’re probably likely to reach for their wallet as well. Make sense?
By now, you’re probably thinking, “Okay, I get it. Writing too many words is a bad thing. So, what should I write?”
I’m so glad you asked.
Extra! Extra! It’s all about the headline!
If your goal is to write copy that converts and attracts prospects like a magnet (and I hope it is), then there’s one rule you must follow: Keep it short and simple.
Crafting a brief but power-packed headline with three to seven words is the cornerstone of excellent postcard design. Yes, you read that correctly. You have to somehow condense every aspect of your product offering into just a few words.
But that’s not possible, right? Well, it is, but it will require some critical thinking on your part.
Instead of trying to cram in all of your product’s features and successes, only focus on the benefits that are provided to the consumers. Because let’s be honest here, people don’t care about every advertisement they see. They only concern themselves with offers that will positively impact their lives. So, now it’s your job to express the value that you’re offering within your headline.
If it sounds tough, that’s because it is. But if your direct mail campaign is going to be successful, you have to get this right. So take your time and make it perfect.
For instance, let’s take another look at the example from Ecovolt Solar.
“A tree saved, is a tree earned.” – Benjamin Franklin
First of all, we’ve got a stunning picture that is eye-catching and on-topic (Go me!). Next, the headline is about as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen. It provides information, but it’s still ambiguous enough to entice people to read further.
Let me explain what I mean.
In the first part of the sentence, “What we save…,” who is the ‘we’ that it’s talking about? Is it the company? Or is it the reader and the rest of the general population?
The same goes for the next part of the headline, “…saves us.” Who is ‘us’? The company or the population? And what are we saving, lives or money or trees?
These are the questions that make this headline so powerful. Because the only way to find the answer is to read the supporting text. People see the headline and become curious enough to read further, and therefore hold onto the card for a brief moment longer than they otherwise would have. That split-second difference is where conversions occur.
A rock star headline like this can help you earn a killer ROI, but it’s only one side of the coin. Your supportive text must be on-point, as well.
Supportive Text Must Be Supportive
Once again, short and sweet is the name of the game. With that said, however, you’ve got a little more wiggle room here, and it’s crucial that you capitalize on it.
If your headline is a real showstopper (and it better be), then your supportive text must follow suit. Stick with the same ideas and expound on them. In as few words as possible, explain the customer benefits in greater detail. Give them the information they’re looking for, but you still need to leave them wanting more. That’s how you’ll get folks to take action like visiting your website or using a coupon.
Take another look at that postcard from Ecovolt and read the supporting text.
Sometimes I manage to impress myself. This looks goooood!
In just 16 words (and numbers), this card communicates the following benefits:
- Your current source of electricity is toxic.
- Ecovolt solar panels are good for the environment.
- You need this product.
- Not only is it affordable, but you’ll get cash back to boot!
That’s some impressive copywriting. And trust me, you can do it too. All it takes is effort. And why not get the whole staff involved? Maybe one of your employees has a hidden writing talent that you didn’t know about.
At the very least, try this quick test to see if your design cuts the mustard. Once a rough draft is complete, show it to a stranger who knows nothing about your product or offer. Let them look at each side for no more than 2 or 3 seconds apiece. Once they’ve seen both sides, asked them what they’ve learned.
Do they know what your product is and the benefits it offers? If so, great! You’ve got a keeper on your hands. If not, ask them where they got stuck and use their input to tweak your design. The tiniest detail from an unbiased perspective could be the catalyst you need to make the perfect postcard.
Don’t Neglect the Backside
We’ll continue with our Ecovolt example here as well. Take a look at the reverse side of this postcard and make a note of what you see.
“Dump” + “PG&E” = Brilliant word placement!
First is the name, “Peter.” This is a personalized aspect of card design, and it’s a surefire way to grab someone’s attention. I won’t spend too much on this topic, but you can find tons of info in another article I wrote on personalized postcard design.
Up next, this card doubles down on the eco-friendly idea. This company knows that its ideal customer is concerned about climate change, and this design is intentionally seeking to target those people. But what if a person is not concerned with the environment and they receive this card? They will probably throw it straight in the trash – or hopefully the recycling bin. But that’s okay. It doesn’t matter. Because chances are, that person would not have purchased solar panels anyway. But by explicitly targeting their ideal prospects, Ecovolt has drastically increased the odds that this card will drive conversions.
Lastly, the numbered points are a brilliant idea. Remember that people’s attention spans are minuscule, and they’re busy with 20 other things while skimming through their mail. You must keep this in mind for all aspects of your design, and bullet points are a great way to go.
It’s simple, clear, and to the point. In other words, it’s effective.
Study everything you can about this postcard design. Memorize it. Learn from it. And then implement the same ideas for your next postcard.
Let’s have a quick recap. Great postcard marketing design must have the following:
- A stellar image
- A short but supercharged headline
- Concise descriptions of the value offering
Once you’re armed with these pillars of great design, it’s time to put it all together and create your template.
Test, Test, and Then Test Some More
You’ll never know what works if you don’t incorporate A/B testing as a regular part of your ongoing design process. Here’s how it works:
- Send your favorite design to half of your mailing list.
- Make one small change to the design and mail that to the remaining addresses.
- Measure which design produced the best results.
Repeat this process over and over again until you are reaching or even exceeding your campaign goals. When you get to that point, you’ll know that you’ve got a winning postcard design that you can use again and again.
In other words, you now have your template. All you need to do for future campaigns is update the various aspects.
You’ll need a new picture, obviously. Just make sure to choose an image that has a similar look and feel. Remember, you’re trying to convey a consistent emotive reaction. If you keep that idea in the forefront of your mind, you’ll be amazed at the multitude of images you’ll find to suit your needs.
Likewise, once you’ve found the perfect headline, brainstorm with your team to find ways that it can be re-purposed. Let me say that a different way. Use this headline as the template for multiple postcard designs.
Because like the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And if you’ve got a rock-solid, conversion-driving headline that’s drumming up bucket loads of hot new leads, you’d better hold on tight and drain every ounce of value from it before moving on to the next one.
Or, depending on your situation, perhaps it might be better to set it off to the side for a little while and then put it back into play for a future campaign. The order in which you proceed isn’t important. What matters most is that you get the maximum value from your creative, hard work.
And yes, you guessed it. The same idea applies to your supportive text, as well. But be careful. Making changes here is a slippery slope to an overhaul that will only lead to disappointment. If you’ve got excellent copy that converts, maybe all you’ll need to do is move a few words around. When in doubt, less is more.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I’m here to help, and I’d love to offer advice on how you can get the most out of your postcard design. It’s a win-win for both of us. You’ll get a better design, and I’ll rid the world of one more ugly, ineffective postcard that disappoints the recipient and the sender.
So, shoot me a message, and let’s get cracking!