Three tips for effective postcard marketing campaigns

Three tips for effective postcard marketing campaigns

It’s the digital era for restaurants, but at least one old-fashioned marketing tool never goes out of style. • See more Marketing articles

There are a lot of “marketing experts” out there who will tell you, “marketing is simple.” It isn’t, and postcard marketing is no exception. However, it CAN be simplified to the point where even the busiest restaurateurs can manage an effective and profitable marketing program.

Of course, you cannot just snap your fingers and produce an effective design and targeted mailing list. But there are a few proven tricks of the trade that will help you build a winning campaign right from the beginning.

Photo: PostcardMania

Are there many nuances that really go into creating a fully optimized postcard marketing campaign? Yes. But honestly, even if you never master them, or don’t find time to do so, you can still build a successful campaign that will increase your business and make you more money. All you need are what I call the Big Three. Once you know the Big Three, you can expect excellent results from your postcards even if you haven’t gotten to the more nuanced strategies that can wring every last cent out of your marketing investment.

If you get the Big Three right, you will see big-time results for your restaurant, and you can focus on fine-tuning later. The Big Three are: Size, Design, and List.


 “What size postcard do I need?”

“Can I get away with a smaller card?”

“What is the benefit of a bigger card anyway?”

The size of your postcard may sound like an arbitrary choice, but it is so much more important than that. The size of your card has a direct impact on the response to your mailing. There are always variables involved, but you would have trouble finding someone who disagreed with the following statement: “A larger postcard is easier to see.” More people notice larger postcards, more people read larger postcards, and that increases your chances of turning card recipients into paying customers at your restaurant.  

Most direct mail postcard companies have options when it comes to the size of your card. If they don’t have options, you should perhaps choose another company. Usually, your options will look like this: small (4”x6”), medium (5”x8”), and large (6”x11”), though the specific names will vary (i.e. tall, grande, and venti!). The size you ought to choose can be found by answering these questions:

1. How much do other restaurants in your area market themselves?
a. Not at all/I’m the only one (you can lean towards a smaller card)
b. Light to moderate amount (lean toward a larger card)
c. Moderate to heavy amount (you need a large card)

2. Do your competitors also mail postcards?
a. No (you can lean towards a smaller card
b. Yes (you need a large card)

3. How much explanation does your offer require?
a. Not that much/easy to grasp  (smaller card is fine)
b. A little background info (medium should do the trick)
c. A lot/details are important (Go big or go home)

4. What kind of restaurant do you have?
a. Fine dining (go big)
b. Family/casual/pub (medium is fine)
c. Pizza, fast food (small will be fine)

My guess is that for most restaurants, the answers are: C, B, A, B. Based on these results, my suggestion is a large or medium sized card. There is no use putting the effort into a card just to have it ignored because you wanted to save a little bit on printing. I’ve seen larger cards work over and over for restaurants. It’s proven, so don’t buck the science!

Determine design, mailing list


You need a card that cuts through the noise and communicates your message to prospective diners immediately and clearly. There are ten elements that make up a fully effective direct mail postcards design. They are:

1. Clear headline
2. Supporting graphic
3. Color that pops
4. Intriguing sub-headings on the back that lead into benefits
5. Benefits!
6. Enticing offer
7. Restaurant name and logo
8. Call to action and/or expiration date for the offer
9. Contact information – website, map, phone number
10. Return address

Elements 1, 2, and 3 are how you get attention and translate that attention into a decision to read more of the card. If these elements fail to grab attention and generate interest, your card is a lost cause.

Elements 4, 5, and 6 are where you convince the reader to take action. The sub-headings pull the reader into the body copy (which needs to be chock-full of customer-related benefits). Then you seal the deal with an offer they can’t refuse.

Elements 7-10 give your future customer the information he/she needs to respond. Note that number 8, the call to action, is vitally important. Believe it or not, most people won’t think to take action if you don’t ask them to. They simply have too much going on to take the initiative.


The final, crucial aspect of the Big Three is your mailing list. A good mailing list will turn a mediocre card into a superstar customer creation deice. A bad list will take the perfect postcard design and turn it into a trashcan liner. The reason is that the list defines the type of person who receives your ad. Putting an ad in front of the right sets of eyes is even more important than the ad itself.

In order to get the perfect mailing list, you need to understand who your “ideal prospect” is. Do you cater to an elderly crowd? Or maybe families with young children? Are you an edgy hangout for teenaged rockers? Whatever your ideal target market is, those are the people whose names should be on your list. The specificity of the lists you can obtain is astonishing, too. Families with two children under 10 that live within 20 miles of your location? No problem. Twenty-somethings that have signed up for alternative music mailing lists? No sweat. But you need to know who you are looking for.

Specifically for restaurants, I have seen huge success with lists that are compiled monthly based on those in your area who have a birthday that month. They are called birthday lists. (Original, huh?). The restaurateurs I have worked with have seen amazing success by mailing out special birthday offers to these lists. The cards get redeemed at very high rates, and nobody eats alone on their birthday!

As you know, once you get a new visitor into your restaurant, the rest of the experience will decide whether they come back or not! You want them back, so giving them an incredible birthday experience is crucial. One time, I responded to a birthday promotion and took my husband along to celebrate. The restaurant was really on top of the promotion. When we arrived and checked in, we were each brought a complimentary glass of champagne. What a GREAT first impression! Needless to say, the money they “lost” giving a free dinner to the birthday girl, they made up in spades every time we came back!

So if you want to give your marketing a boost, just nail the Big Three. Postcards are proven to work. I have seen it over and over again for 55,000+ businesses. They work, and this is how to make them work for you. Now, go make 2013 your most profitable year yet!

Joy Gendusa is the founder and CEO of direct mail marketing firm PostcardMania. Contact her at [email protected] [3] or 800-628-1804.