Promote Yourself for Pennies With Postcards

Believe it or not, the lowly postcard can be a powerful self-marketing tool. Just ask Mary Guinane Smith, who landed her first (and subsequent) clients using postcards.

The secret to the success of postcards is their simplicity. They don't have to be opened or unfolded for your prospects to see your message. It's right in front of them, impossible to miss. They will glance at your postcard for at least a second to see if it looks important. If it does, they'll be much more likely to read it.

What do you say in a postcard to keep it from being tossed? As with all promotions, keep your prospect – in this case, the company's marketing manager – in clear focus. What problems does her company face? What problems does she face? What are her immediate and long-term needs?

Make your potential client real in your mind so you can talk to her as a real person. Study her company's business thoroughly and decide what will motivate her emotionally to buy your services.

There are two sets of problems, needs, and emotional motivators here: the company's and the marketing manager's. You want to promise that you can do great things for the company – like increase profits, make efficient use of advertising resources, and help them become a leader in their field). But you also want to promise that, by making her look good, you can do great things for the marketing manager – like getting her recognition for making wise decisions, improving her job security, and helping her achieve more successful in her life.

Don't expect to get a contract as a direct result of sending out your postcard. There's simply not enough room to sell yourself effectively. Instead, use the postcard to persuade your prospect to contact you or go to your website for more information. So … when writing your postcard:

  • Grab attention with a powerful headline incorporating the 4 U's.
  • Stimulate interest with strong copy based on Promise-Picture-Proof.
  • Offer a compelling incentive for contacting you – like a discounted rate or free consultation
  • Make your message brief and to-the-point.

The right formatting will help grab your prospect's attention. You might choose an appropriate image for one side and put your text on the other. Or, maybe use one side for a powerful headline and put your message on the reverse. Postcards are inexpensive, so you can easily test response on several different designs.

If you decide to use graphic elements on your postcard, you can do them yourself with layout programs such as Publisher, PageMaker, or InDesign. Or you can take advantage of the graphic capabilities of MS Word.

We recommend the exceptional Visual Quickstart Guide series of books from Peachpit Press for excellent, easy-to-understand instructions on how to get the most from these programs. (This series is easier to understand than the "Dummies" books, because it has clear illustrations and a minimum of words.)

Printshops require a minimum print run of 500 to 5,000 copies – and when you're first starting out, you're not going to need that many. Instead, , print your own postcards with a high-quality color inkjet or laser printer, or let a company like Kinko's do it for you. While the per-card cost is higher if you do it this way, your cash outlay will be lower than it would be with a printshop. And you won't be stuck with 2,000 postcards you can't use when you need to make revisions.

As a new writer, you will almost certainly feel more comfortable starting with postcard mailings rather than a full-blown self-promo package. They are not only inexpensive and easy to do … they work.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: May 10, 2004

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