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Postcard Readership II – Increasing Response

Postcards: Improving Readership Part II (of III)

by Jeffrey Dobkin

Initial Readership is the 2 seconds you get when someone first picks up your direct mail postcard and glances at the headline. In this time they decide to either read it — or throw your postcard out, along with your money.

In part one of this article on increasing the response of your direct marketing postcards, we discussed how to create a great headline to drive readers into reading the rest of the postcard text, or saving the card to read later along with the rest of the important mail.

Each objective was accomplished by creating an unusually G-R-E-A-T headline using the Jeff Dobkin 100-to-1 Rule: write 100 headlines, then going back and picking out your best one. Hey, I didn’t say you’d like it, I just said it was effective.

To continue: here’s how to drive readers further into the copy of your direct mail postcard to fulfill your postcard’s objective. You do know what your postcard’s objective is, don’t you? Or… do you?

So at first glance your reader instantly reads your headline. Bam. Kapow. Zzzip. Your reader was instantly dazed, dazzled and driven to continue reading. Yes, just like that. And all in under 2 seconds, and man, I just love that onomatopoeia. Yea, I bet you didn’t think I could spell it. What? Oh no you couldn’t spell it, either. OK, I looked it up. At least I’m honest.

Readership Survival and your direct mail: Sustaining Readership

OK, compelling headline, but don’t lose your reader now. To sustain readership, use bold sub-headlines. You know, the two or three mini-headlines scattered throughout the body text to break the copy up into smaller copy segments and digestible bits. Bold, large type that’s not quite as large as your headline.

Today’s fast-paced, short attention span skimming readers will pass over smaller type to read the bold subheads before going back to read the body text. So now you know: Man, those subheads also need to be G-R-E-A-T. The secondary success of your direct mail postcard depends on it.

Rule 8: Set the correct objective of your postcard’s subheadlines: to further increase readership

And, just like the subheadlines in all direct response advertising, your postcard subheadlines are NOT the place to sell your product, either. Your subheadlines are the place to further increase readership. That’s the only objective of tightly focused subhead copy: keep the reader interested, keep him reading. Man, direct response copywriting is tough. But if you do it correctly, it can also be responsive.

Your postcard’s subheadlines create a fascinating but short story line of brief bits, bullets and bites of boundless bulleted bullsh*t… er, information. Sorry, I got caught up in my own alliteration.

Subheads in any direct response marketing vehicle need to continue to fascinate your audience. These transitional lines make the push that compels readers to read the smaller-set text of the body copy. If your subheads are created correctly, readers will continue with the “tiny type of the body text” — you know, the type us older folks can’t really see without bifocals. So, you’re that old, too? And the body text is the meat and potatoes of your postcard, say hallelujah. We’ll talk about the body copy in a minute. OK, minute’s up:

Rule 9: Is the body copy the place to finally sell, sell, sell in your postcards? No, it isn’t.

The body copy is the last holdout, the final frontier for selling on your postcard. And… do you actually sell anything here? Nah. This is still NOT the place to sell your product.


“EXCUSE ME!” said the client, his breath smelling of a mixture somewhere between kerosene and the hoagie he had for lunch. I just love it when my clients eat well. “I paid good money for the creative, the printing and the mailing. What’s this guy talking about? When does the postcard sell my product? Isn’t that what direct response and direct mail is all about?” Sorry. I quietly restate Rule Number 9 to myself. And… I now invoke rule number 10.

Rule 10. The entire direct mail postcard is not the place to sell your product either.

I turn on my client (wow, that has a few variations of interpretation) and state: “That, my friend, is exactly and mistakenly correct!” I reply, broad smile on my face. Even though he wasn’t correct, I always like to make paying clients feel good, here in a bold statement that has no meaning. “The postcard does not sell your product. YOU sell your product. The postcard is not the place to sell your product at all. It’s too short. There’s not enough space to close a sale. So its a lousy place to try. But… it’s a great place to ask for a phone call.

Rule 11. Your postcard is the place to ask for someone to call you.

And that, my friend, is the objective of your postcard campaign: to generate phone calls. Many phone calls.

If I send you a postcard and you call me, damn – that post card worked really really well, didn’t it? It did its job, 1000% successful. Couldn’t ask for anything more. Well, I could but my wife would get mad. And now that your direct mail postcard worked by generating a phone call, it’s time for you to do your job: go on, sell me your product.

How to get someone to call you in direct mail.

While you can get high response rates by making great sales offers to your own hand-carved, hand-tailored mailing list, I’ll state a direct marketing generality here: To get the maximum number of readers to call, offer something for FREE.

Face it – when you wrote your postcard, you kept bitching “Oh, there isn’t any room to sell anything to anyone!” And, “How can I sell anything I only have room for a tiny 250 words of copy.” Frankly, I’ve heard less complaining from a baby with a heat rash.

It’s a good thing I was listening, though – because you were right. First time this year, isn’t it? The limited space of your direct mail postcard really isn’t enough space to sell anything. And frankly, it isn’t the right place to sell anything, either.

Rule 12. Set your Direct Marketing Objective correctly.

Remember, all direct response writing is drafted to fulfill a specific objective. What? Yes, I said this earlier – you probably slept through that class. Just like in college. Ahh college. Best 9 years of my life. So, what is the objective of your post card? If your card works perfectly, what happens next?

There is only one objective of your postcard and it’s this: to make the reader pick up the phone and call you. That’s all. If the reader makes the call, the postcard succeeds. If he doesn’t, the postcard fails. If the reader calls, YOU sell your product—that’s your job. It’s right there in the rule book.

Rule 13. Offer something for FREE

The final thought on the best way to make the reader call: offer something FREE. And here’s the last piece of the direct response puzzle, what to offer: a FREE Booklet. Fulfillment cost is well under a dollar – and it can work better than anything else in its price range.

Would you like to see how it works?

Call us right now and get our FREE Booklet “The 10 BEST offers to increase response from your postcards!” Call 610-642-1000 for your FREE Booklet!

Kind of makes you want to pick up the phone, doesn’t it? That’s how it works. Do you know how many people called us to get this booklet? Lots. But you don’t have to call – because in the third and final article in this postcard series, I’ll tell you exactly how to create the best offer to maximize response and get more phone calls from your direct mail postcards. And get more response from any of your other direct marketing offers, too. Any questions?

Jeff Dobkin will now take your questions.

This is the second part of “Instant Readership,” A 3-article series written by Jeffrey Dobkin.

Continue to Postcards III: Increasing Response

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Jeffrey Dobkin at rest

Jeffrey Dobkin at rest

Dobkin is a speaker (blah blah blah, yip yip yip) and a marketing consultant (marketing plans, pr, market strategy, plan analysis: audits and review, media review) who happens to be an amazing writer (corporate literature, articles, brochures, ads, collateral, annual reports, technical material), specializing in direct-selling print and web (DR Ads, catalogs, TV scripts, web copy) and direct marketing material (letters, direct mail, mailing packages brochures, catalogs, web copy and did I mention post cards?) He’s also pretty darn good at analyzing catalogs, ads and campaigns and direct mail packages. He has written over 250 articles and 5 books on direct marketing. Call Jeffrey Dobkin at 610-642-1000 – this phone rings on his desk.