Does Postcard Marketing Work?

This is a question I frequently get from interior designers—”Does postcard marketing work?”

Here is my email response to an Edge member who asked this question:

Postcards have a checkered history to say the least. I would say 90% of designers come away disappointed, but to them I say that a one-off anything is unlikely to work. If you commit to a campaign of 6-8 postcard mailings over the same number of months, to the same list, your chances of a hit increase…and it often takes only one good client to pay for the entire campaign several times over.

As with any marketing investment, the first thing I would have you ask is, “What else can you do with that budget?” Before you invest in any marketing activity, make it a rule to come up with three other possible ways to spend that money, no matter what. (Gift, dinner, event, nicer brochure to fewer people, et.) Then see how the postcard compares.

Most first-time mailers don’t have realistic expectations. For example, did you know that in any industry, a .005 response (one half of one percent) would be considered a “successful” postcard campaign? If, for example, you’re thinking of targeting 1,000 homes, that’s a goal response rate of only five…though it also could be zero which is known as “crickets,” something I’ve personally experienced many times. (Comedians use the term “crickets” to describe the absolute silence following a joke that bombed.)

As I say in the 1-Day Marketing Plan (an online course available to members of The Edge in The Business School) you’re hoping to just find that small handful who happen to be thinking about a project at that moment. Exactly what are they thinking about? The goal of any direct marketing is “…to enter the conversation in their mind.” You’re not trying to interrupt; you’re trying to join in! Picture them standing over the trash can with the day’s mail in their hands and then imagine what they might say, “Yes” to. Such as, “Thinking about a kitchen renovation?” “Tired of an old house in modern times?” “Just moved in?”

Then, you make an offer. Postcards for pure branding just won’t cut it. You have to give clear instructions on how to respond and a deadline for doing so. Don’t try to be too “elegant…” let them know you’re making an offer. Offers are tricky because “complimentary consultation” doesn’t impress. They think they can get that anyway (and they can from lots of designers) and free visits to their house may be viewed as the Trojan horse strategy that it often is.

Those with retail fronts can just offer “$100 off on any item over $200,” thus recapturing their cost. (Assuming about a 100% markup on retail goods.) For pure design time it’s trickier. Consider creating a “package” to which you can assign a retail value, such as a sketch, rendering, redesign, etc. of a single room…“Normally $1,750…$200 off before DEADLINE!

I’m just throwing out early-morning ideas, and I do so only because every now and then…postcards do work. One of my longest-standing clients sent one out a decade ago and promptly caught a whale who had just moved to her town. He turned into a 7-figure client and since he was also a celebrity, referred other whales to her. It changed the entire trajectory of her business up to and including today. She has gone from four to twelve employees and is very profitable.

But that is the exception.

Hope that helps and let me know what you decide.

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