A letter is the best marketing tool. In a letter, you have time and space to sell, sell, sell. You can explain benefits and features. You can show facts and figures.

A longer consultative sell? No problem in a letter: You can explain what you're selling, why you're selling it and why your customers absolutely need it — just initial here and here and send back, and we'll take care of the rest.

But a letter is a lot of work and expense: printing, folding, including a brochure to add a harder sell and credibility, envelope, mail shop services for inserting, postage, affixing postage, imaging name and address. Lots of handling.

Postcards, on the other hand, can be effective and are certainly less work. Postcards enjoy high readership because once the recipient picks it up and is ready to toss it out hey, she's read it!

But, postcards are no good for lengthy consultive selling propositions. In fact, most postcards aren't much good for selling. But they can be useful marketing tools. Fortunately, you don't have to sell anything from a postcard.

The objective of a postcard is generally not to sell something. The objective is to generate a phone call.

I write a lot of postcards for clients, and I seldom ask for an order; but I always ask for a phone call several times.

If the reader calls, the postcard is a complete success. It has done everything we've asked it to do. Now it's up to the client to close the sale, set an appointment, send more information or whatever the call objective is — to turn the prospect into a customer.

Getting people to call

The best way to get people to call you from a postcard is by giving readers what I term a "nonthreatening reason to call." Offer something for free they can ask for. It's really difficult to get people to call you to ask general questions much easier when they can ask for some specific offer you make, especially when it's "FREE."

Offer anything but a brochure. You can get free brochures at your local drugstore or dry cleaner. Free brochures have no value. But offering a free booklet works well — a FREE "informational" booklet! Notice how setting the word "FREE" in all capital letters it jumps out at you? You should do this, too.

Need a booklet? While a single 8-1/2-by-11 sheet of paper folded in thirds is a worthless brochure; the same sheet of paper folded in half is a booklet. Two sheets folded in half and nested together is an even better booklet.

What drives people to call

The title of the booklet is what drives people to pick up the phone and call now. The better the title, the more phone calls you'll get. Get it?

How do you create the best title?

I call this the 100-to-1 rule: On a blank sheet of paper, write 100 possible titles, then go back and pick out your best one. Hey, I didn't say you'd like it, I just said here's how to create the best title.

On the billboard side of the postcard yell, "Call and get a FREE Booklet: 25 Ways to ..." or "15 Things to Look Out for When ..." or "Learn 9 Proven Ways how to ..." and give a big phone number. Or "Free Booklet tells you how to ..." You get the idea: postcard + FREE offer + FREE booklet = phone calls.

While I like attractive booklets that have sizzling copy and crisp graphics, the truth is when the reader calls to get your booklet, the objective of the postcard has already been fulfilled, the reader called. The actual booklet is secondary to generating the phone call.

Marketing plan:

  • Reader gets postcard.
  • Reader sees "must-have" booklet title and calls for free booklet.
  • You get to talk to an interested reader when he/she calls.
  • End of first part of campaign. When this happened, your postcard was completely successful.

So what's the next part of the campaign? The reader who called has raised his hand as an interested party and is now a real prospect. He receives your booklet, literature and a longer, harder-selling direct mail package.