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Successful Holiday Postcards

By Fred Showker

It doesnt take a lot of time, money or effort to create, print and mail a postcard. But when done right, a postcard can be enormously effective. So, it's the perfect vehicle to use in place of a holiday greeting card for your business. Around the holiday season, everyone is busy, and many times your postcard will be seen and enjoyed before the envelopes with traditional cards get opened... if they get opened at all. While you could apply these rules to any postcard promo, we'll assume this will apply to commercial greetings rather than personal.

1. Make your list, and check it twice

Select those people from your client list who bought from you most recently, most often, and who spent the most money. In trade lingo, this is called RFM: Recency, Frequency and Monetary Value. Don't overlook those who may have been out of touch for a while. Everyone likes a greeting.

2. Make it bright

When you look at a well-designed card, there is usually one dominant feature to catch your eye. It could be the headline or the picture, but not both. Something has to dominate. And while it might be tempting to throw in a little starburst that says "look", be careful how you use it. When you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing. Your image should have a holiday image, but that's not imperative. Just make it fun and eye-catching.

3. Invite them in

You should want to give the recipient a reason to think about you and possibly visit you. That means some incentive. Discounts and sales are among the most common offers because they steer business your way that might otherwise go to competitors. But anyone can have a sale. Make it a private sale only for people on your mailing list and you gain loyalty and sales. If your business thrives on repeat customers, a well-timed reminder is as much customer service as it is a traffic builder. If you want to stay away from commercialism, just decide on a day, and have an open house. Time it for a couple of hours spanning across the end of the business day and invite folks to drop by after work. Have a bowl of holiday punch, and an assortment of cookies, candies, fruits cheeses and breads. It doesn't have to be lavish -- it's the offer that counts.

4. Highlight the Season and the Event

To professional mailers this is the oldest trick in the book: a discount, free gift, rebate, or your holiday open house. So powerful is a good offer that very often it appears in the headline of the letter. Make sure the the date, time and address is included. Time and again, its been proven that more people respond to an offer when there is a specific time involved.

5. Give'em a Push, and a Way Out

You got the readers attention and guided them through enough information. You aroused their interest and desire. Now you have to let your readers know the important details. Make it easy on the eye, but hard to ignore. Tell people what you want them to do. If they can't make it, be sure to offer a counter-invitation. "If you can't make it, feel free to call or stop by any time, we'd love to see you. Make sure your contact information is clear.

6. Follow the Trail, Follow Up

A postcard can also be a method of response. It can take the form of a coupon, a gift certificate, or a ticket to an event. Ask people to present the coupon to take advantage of an offer or "special gift". Counting coupons helps you measure the effectiveness of your promotions. That way you can better understand what worked, and who came. Don't forget their address will be on the card, making it easy to follow up after the holidays with a "thanks for coming" reply. A nice way to extend the promotion over into January.

7. Give Guests and Printers Time

The old saying, speed-quality-price, pick any two, is equally true in the printing business. If youre working with a printing company, give the finished piece to your printer well before you plan to mail it. This will give the printer time to do the job right and may save you money on rush charges. You want the post card to be in the recipients hands at least two weeks from your event. So start with that target date and work backwards with your printer for a press date.

8. Change the size and shape to stand out

If you've always sent the same 4" x 6" postcard and its always gotten respectable results -- why not try something different? Test a 6" x 9," and see if it catches people off guard and sticks out from the bunch. You can also try custom shapes. A real estate agent might try a postcard in the shape of a house. A moving company could try a postcard in the shape of a truck. The USPS is now allowing this new form of postcard marketing.

9. Make it Picture Perfect

Proof and Proofread before printing -- when everything is together and are ready to print, proofread it again. Then ask someone else to go over it. Dont forget to proofread those things you see all the time, like your name, address and phone number. After all, you dont want to go to the expense of printing something that you cant use because of a mistake.

10. Make it Memorable

Scour your stock photography archives, or other clip services you may subscribe to. It may even be worth purchasing a stock photo CD to find just the right picture to go with your message. If you've got the knack, make a digital photo of something your target audience will be familiar with. Or, photograph you and your staff, then modify the image in Photoshop... put your staff's faces on 8 tiny reign deer; put your face on the Grinch; put everyone's faces on a row of snow men! There are lots of great ideas that will be wonderful attention getters, and perhaps even a card the customer will want to keep.

Above all, make it fun

... inviting, and cordial. Your client will think kindly of it, and you'll have the opportunity to make that all-important client contact once again.

And by all means have a great holiday season
      Thanks for reading
fred showker

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