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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Postcard Printing: The Workhorse of Direct Mail

Here are some things to think about when designing and printing postcards. A print brokering client of mine just ordered some, and as I reviewed the specifications, I thought you might find this list useful as well.

Why Send a Postcard?

Postcards may just be the most efficient, cost-effective workhorses of the ink-on-paper marketing set. Here’s why?

  1. Postcards are cheaper to mail than letters. The US Post Office website lists a postage rate of $.32 for a postcard up to 6” wide by 4.25” high. A one ounce letter starts at $.45. The difference in price between a postcard and a letter can add up quickly for a large mailing.
  2. Even large postcards are inexpensive. An 11.5” x 6.125” postcard, according to the same USPS website, costs $.45 to mail (the same as a letter).
  3. Unlike a letter, a postcard is already open when your prospect receives it. This can give you immediate access to his or her attention. Think of the postcard as a small billboard.
  4. If you want to collect information from your prospects, a fold-over postcard may be an efficient way to do so. When your prospect receives a fold-over postcard (which, depending on the weight, might cost a little more to mail), he or she can tear off one of the panels, fill in the requested information, and mail it back to you.
  5. Given the myriad ways you can design your postcard, you can take advantage of its size and your use of color to make the direct mail piece stand out from the other mail your prospect receives. Think “big” and “bright.” Inspire a sense of urgency, and include a call to action. This is your opportunity to present a professional image and reinforce the credibility of your company. To do this, choose readable and dynamic typefaces. Use bold headlines and simple bullet points to maintain a good flow in the text and design.
  6. You can also tie your postcard into an online marketing effort. Print the personalized URL (PURL) you want your prospect to access right on the postcard. Or use a QR code and have your prospect access your website (perhaps a video of your product or service) using a smartphone and QR app.

Some Things to Consider When Printing Postcards

Here are the US Post Office regulations for a postcard:

  1. To qualify for mailing at the First-Class Mail postcard price, your piece must be:
  2. Rectangular
    At least 3.5” high by 5” long by 0.007” thick
    Not more than 4.25” high by 6” long by 0.016” thick
    Otherwise, it will be priced at the “letter rate.”

  3. If you mail the postcards via Standard Rate Postage, there’s no discount for postcards vs. letters. You only get this discount with First Class Mail.
  4. Make sure your postcard does not exceed 6.125” high by 11.5” wide by 1/4” thick. Otherwise, you’ll pay the “flat” rate (the rate for larger letters).
  5. Make sure your postcard is not too thin (note the thicknesses above). Too thin a postcard will get caught in the postage equipment and will be torn up. Your message will never reach your prospect.

Here are some postcard printing considerations:

  1. If your postcard printing run is short (let’s say up to 500 copies), you may consider a digital printing run. Choose a good piece of digital printing equipment, though, to make sure you get a stellar printed product. I’d suggest a HP Indigo or Kodak NexPress. The NexPress can even print a textured coating on the front of the postcard.
  2. Remember that on a digital press, you may not be able to coat the postcard (depending on the technology used). You needn’t worry, though. Most digital printing can withstand the abuses of going through the mail unprotected. In contrast, if your press run is longer and you opt for offset custom printing, you will probably need to pay extra for a UV coating or aqueous coating on the front of the postcard to keep the ink from scuffing in transit. In either case, discuss this with your commercial printing supplier.
  3. Remember to talk with both your printer and the US Postal Service “mailpiece design analyst” to make sure the paper stock you have chosen is thick enough to travel through the mail machines.
  4. If you will be producing a variable data marketing initiative, discuss with your custom printing vendor the format in which your database should be provided (i.e., Excel, comma or tab delimited, etc.).

2 Responses to “Postcard Printing: The Workhorse of Direct Mail”

  1. Tonerman123 says:

    I agree with the postcard idea. it is already open and even if I just throw it out I am looking at it on the way to the trash can. that is more then can be said for a closed envelope. since I have an HP laserjet it might just be cheaper to print them myself.

    thanks for the tips

    • admin says:

      Thanks for commenting on the PIE Blog. I completely agree. Postcards are priceless. You will always convey some message, even if your prospect just throws the postcard out.

      The cost-effectiveness of printing the job yourself or jobbing it out will depend on how many postcards you print.

      Keep checking back and reading the blog.

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