project breakdown: postcard mailings

creative seeds postcard earthlink postcards

depending on your business focus, postcard mailings can really work for you as part of a support mechanism in a marketing plan. while i don’t recommend them as the only means of promotion, they can be a way to keep in touch with existing and potential clients, reminding them of who you are and what you do, and serving as a portion of those 6-12 touchpoints you make before you get hired. in a slowing economy, they can also be one of the most cost-effective ways to get a print piece into the hands of your target market, so here is a run-down of things to consider when planning a postcard campaign with helpful hints on how to stretch your dollars where they count most to you.

plan out the year: one of the first considerations should be how many postcards should be in the campaign and when should they drop throughout the year? i like to do an alternate of focused promotions with generic identity awareness and match them to seasons, but if your industry has its own annual calendar, you may be better off synching with that. whether you are pushing up to an event with a drop every couple weeks or spreading them out monthly or quarterly for regular visibility, you will want to decide how many mailings you want to do and how many different versions should be included in the campaign for an overall print quantity.

choose a mailing list: whether you use your own or buy a list from a mailing house, you will want to review who you’re sending to and decide now if you want to add to it. a good mailing house will have a well-maintained list of current addresses sorted by major marketing demographics, so you can literally pick an area or sector or business focus and add them to your campaign. mailing houses usually charge per address and per use [a lower fee for 1-time mailings where you don’t get a copy of the addresses, and a larger fee to re-use for 1-year where you do get the records], so consider how many times you’ll use the list and choose the best deal.

choose a print process: now that you know the quantities you’ll need you can plan out what print process is for you. always over-shoot your print run to the maximum quantity you think you might need. implicit in printing are set-up costs, so the higher the quantity, the more the set-up is defrayed by the per-piece cost. for runs under 500, you’ll want a gang printer or digital printer who specializes in postcard printing. for runs between 500-1000 you can choose between gang, digital and offset, though the true value of offset may not become apparent until quantities above 1000. for gang & digital runs, you will be limited to process inks [cmyk], whereas offset can give you spot colors [pms or pantone] and coatings [uv, gloss, dull, aqueous, etc.]. any time you can print all your cards at once, do it. a printer can work with you on a shorter run if you can gang it all up at once, and they will reward you for planning ahead and being efficient if it saves them time and money as well.

environmental considerations: getting honest for a minute here, many postcards will be glanced at and likely end up in the recycling bin. more print shops are taking recycling and environmental concerns to heart, so you can choose a printer that makes this process relatively green-friendly. choose recycled paper, and avoid metallic inks or uv coatings [they don’t de-ink well in the recycling process]. and show off your good choices by printing the info in the small print of your card, throw a recycling logo on when applicable, thank your recipients for reading your material and remind them to recycle it appropriately.

postcard sizes
sizing and pricing: the last thing to consider is the size of your card and how it affects the mailing price. postcards of 6″ wide by 4.25″ tall and below fall into the 27¢ first class mailing rate, while any cards above that size will be given the standard letter rate. bulk rates start at mailing quantities of 500 and have many specifications and categories, so you will want to get a price based on your specific project, but overall, you can get your per-piece mailing price down to about 20¢ if you follow certain specifications. however, there is also a set-up charge for bulk mailings, so you will want to plan for a quantity well above 500 to make it worthwhile.

now you’re ready for design! of course, any good designer will make you aware of all these considerations, and help you plan them out in the course of developing a postcard campaign. use this guide as a check-list of all the points to hit when planning a budget. i’m happy to answer any questions you may have about postcard campaigns, please feel free to ask away!

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