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Successful Prospecting: It’s in the Mail

Direct mail is successful when prospects read it. Here’s one very effective way to make sure they do.

By Jeffrey Dobkin

Hi. Jeff Dobkin here. You remember me—your gracefully aging Boomer prospect?… OK, old guy who gets up cranky and then goes downhill for the rest of the day. Trigger finger, heel pain, bald spot and can’t eat sugars. What? You too? Don’t complain—it’s better than the alternative.

The fact of the matter is—I’m still your Boomer prospect, and direct mail is still one of the best ways to reach me and others like me. But before you sic your teenagers on stuffing envelopes and run them all through the postal meter to send us those highly personalized marketing letters we’ll might, maybe, open, here’s a little secret I’ll let you in on: Use postcards.

The postcard is an anomaly in the postal system. You can actually mail a postcard first class more cheaply than you can mail it bulk rate. In addition, you can get postcards addressed and imprinted with an address and a bar code and save more in postage costs than you pay for this addressing service. Delivery is in one to three days.

What I like best about a postcard is that by the time the reader decides to toss it out, he’s already read it. No getting around it, readership can be extremely high.

For postcards to be effective, some rules apply.

1. AIDA. When you write your copy for the postcard, this is one of the few places this old advertising acronym still works:

  • Attract attention.
  • Interest your prospects.
  • Show something they desire.
  • Ask for action.

2. Don’t sell anything. A postcard is too short for a sales pitch.
The objective is simple: Generate a phone call.

All right—that’s easy enough, right? You have tons of ideas now!

OK, so maybe you don’t. So here’s the process in a little more detail.

Attract attention
Start with a bold headline that will interest the reader. Want to learn one of the most effective ways I know to tease out a winning headline? Write 50 headlines, then go back and pick out your best one. Hey, I didn’t say you’d like it; I just said it would be effective. Go on: write 50—even if it takes you a couple of days. I’ll wait.

My favorite strategy is always to offer something free of charge—an informational booklet, a phone consultation, whatever. Free offers get readers to call, and ... HEY! That’s the objective of the card.

Interest your prospects
Now that you’ve caught their attention, don’t lose it. Keep copy tight and crisp. Make it look easy to read, even if it isn’t. Edit it. Then edit it again. Then go back and take out a third of what you have written. What? You can’t? Send it to me (hard copy, please)—I have a big red pen and I’m not afraid to use it. Let someone else check it for typos, misspellings and dreaded word choice errors. (They’re getting their free offer in there. Yikes!)

I’m still your Boomer prospect, and direct mail is still one of the best ways to reach me and others like me.

Show something they desire
Every postcard has two sides: there’s the copy side with the address, and the billboard side. The billboard side requires some investment of time or money—or both. Inviting prospects to a free dinner seminar at a nice restaurant? Show successful people having dinner at a nice restaurant. Trying to help them understand what they need for the retirement they want? Show a successful Boomer retiree (not too silver-haired, now; we’re not that kind of retiree) enjoying life on his terms. You have two seconds of your reader’s undivided attention before your card gets thrown out—best use it wisely.

When you start to think about how to design your card, you’ll definitely want to include your logo. It is a visual hook that will help prospects remember your first card when you send the second one. Don’t make it too big, though. Start looking around for a good graphic designer—not just an illustrator. Graphic designers can help you “design with type” and make the copy side of your postcard look as good as—if not better than—your billboard side. And a good graphic designer will do both sides.

Consider something other than four-color printing—that’s the photo- quality cards we get all the time. See, there are too many four-color cards out there and they may not stand out in a handful of things. Other printing options include using one or two colors—we call that a “spot color.” Use upscale stock—not glossy, as postal equipment leaves black marks during mail handling.

Ask for action
Write your phone number in big letters. We should be able to read it when the card is at arm’s length or when it is on a desk.

Direct mail works
I know that I panned letters earlier. But a personalized letter is still the most effective piece of mail for generating a phone call. A postcard works best if you have a short selling proposition and offer something free of charge. (FREE! All caps! Big letters!)

Post-card campaigns are most effective for staying in “Top of Mind” awareness campaigns when they are mailed every four to six weeks. Intersperse them with letters every so often and you’ll have the best campaign ever.

Jeff Dobkin has additional tips on marketing through postcards that you can get, um, FREE! by emailing him at or calling him at 610-642-1000. He is the author of two books on direct marketing and one on humor. His website is



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