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Postcards vs. Letters: Which Is the Better Direct Mail Marketing Strategy?

Kent Moon
Updated Jan 27, 2023

Postcards and letters are popular direct mail marketing methods with unique benefits that can help grow your business.

If you’re looking for a way to generate more sales leads and diversify your marketing strategy, direct mail marketing should be a serious consideration. Although digital marketing initiatives like pay-per-click strategies and social media marketing campaigns have stolen the spotlight, direct mail marketing isn’t a thing of the past. It’s still a versatile and powerful way to expand your business. 

Direct mail options include flyers, postcards, letters and even packages. Postcards and letters are two of the most popular options, but the type of mail you choose depends on your business and your marketing campaign’s goals. 

We’ll explain the differences between postcards and letters to help you decide on the right medium, create excellent direct mail marketing campaigns and measure and improve your marketing return on investment (ROI).   

Editor’s note: Looking for a direct mail marketing service? For help finding the right solution for your business, fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

What are the benefits of postcards in direct mail marketing?

Eye-catching, personalized and straightforward postcards are an effective direct mail marketing solution. They should include an emphatic call to action (CTA). A CTA is a direct prompt for the response you want from your audience in a mailing campaign ― the ultimate purpose behind your postcard marketing campaign. For instance, a CTA might ask the customer to sign up for a subscription at a discounted rate, visit your website to check out the latest sales, subscribe to your blog or call a number for a free quote.

Here are some of the top benefits of using postcards in direct mail marketing.

1. Postcards are concise direct-mail pieces. 

Brevity is a significant advantage of postcards. You can use a postcard to deliver a single, compelling message to a potential customer. Since the postcard has limited room, your copy can home in on a CTA.

If your direct mail campaign’s goal is drumming up interest or conveying a straightforward message ― like a store reopening, a new product or an important annual sale ― postcard marketing can be inexpensive and effective. 

TipTip: If you’re on a budget, you can print professional postcards at home for your direct mail campaign. Canva, Adobe Spark, word processing programs and more make the process seamless.

2. Postcards are eye-catching direct-mail pieces.

Unlike letters, recipients don’t have to open postcards, allowing you to catch the customer’s eye from the minute they open their mailbox. In other words, your postcard will have a 100 percent open rate. 

Along with their readability, postcards are relatively affordable to print in full color, and it’s easier to get noticed with color-saturated photos and graphics.

3. Postcards are customizable direct-mail pieces.

Postcards are incredibly customizable with techniques like variable data printing, a form of digital printing that can customize text, graphics and images for each direct mail piece. Through variable data printing, it’s easy to personalize your message and provide a straightforward lead into your website, restaurant or brick-and-mortar store. 

According to the The Future of Direct Mail report, personalization is incredibly important. More than half of Gen Zers (51 percent) and millennials (53 percent) who indicated positive feelings about direct mail marketing say personalization is a factor in their receptiveness.

4. Postcards are affordable direct-mail pieces.

Postcards are also notably cheaper than letters. Sending out 5,000 postcards costs 37 cents per piece, including postage (but not design) if you use the United States Postal Service’s USPS Marketing Mail along with its Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), which allows you to send to all residences in a particular area without purchasing a list. 

This bulk mailing service allows you to pay 20 cents for each postcard rather than the 48-cent postage due on a regular first-class postcard. 

Sending out 5,000 letters, on the other hand, costs about 57 cents per piece, including printing and postage, using the same USPS programs. That amounts to $1,000 in savings per campaign. According to the Direct Marketing Association, postcards have the cheapest cost per lead ($54.10) of any form of marketing. For comparison, the average cost per lead of traditional advertising ― print ads, TV and radio ― can range from a low of $38 to a high of $1,200.

Did you know?Did you know? You can integrate direct mail into digital marketing campaigns by following up with an email to your direct mail recipients or adding a quick response code to your direct mail ad.

What are the benefits of letters in direct mail marketing?

Like postcards, direct-mail letters can be an effective marketing medium. Here are some advantages of using letters in direct mail marketing. 

1. Letters provide more room for your direct-mail message.

A letter might be a way to go if your mailing requires a more official or personal touch or must explain in-depth information. Letters have more space. If your services require more explanation and details, such as for a financial planning firm, nonprofit seeking donations or an insurance company, a letter gives you room to explain yourself to potential or current customers.  

The larger page area gives you a chance to do several things:

TipTip: An effective marketing tactic is making your direct mail offers time-sensitive to create a sense of urgency, spurring recipients to act now.

2. Letters create a more trustworthy direct-mail piece.

More space also gives you a more official advertising platform. Are you running a fundraising campaign for a local nonprofit? Are you asking customers to sign a document or RSVP to a big event? 

In these cases, a letter is the way to go because it provides the bandwidth to explain why your fundraising campaign is so important or give all the details of the big event your company is throwing.  

3. A letter is a more formal direct-mail piece.

You can implement various direct mail strategies with a letter and envelope to better convey a sense of importance and capture the recipient’s attention. For example, you can hand-address a letter or use a pen-addressing machine. 

Additionally, snap-pack mailers are often used to convey important messages because of their unique design. You can even design your direct mail envelope and letter to look like an invitation, making the recipient feel important and increasing open rates.

4. Letters have the best ROI of any direct-mail option.

The Future of Direct Mail report states that letter-sized envelopes have the highest ROI (112 percent) across all direct mail channels. Additionally, according to the ANA Response Rate Report 2022, letters generated the highest ROI of any media in 2021.  

This result is probably because products and services that use direct mail letters are more complex and thus expensive, so any sales generated will create more revenue compared to the cost. 

As briefly discussed above, letters are slightly more expensive than postcards because of factors like envelope style and design, but that slightly higher price point can be worth it for advertisements that are more informative, personalized and professional.  

FYIFYI: Integrate your mailing list with your CRM software to personalize your postcards and letters even further.

The best direct mail marketing strategy for your business

Letters and postcards can be incredibly valuable tools for your direct mail marketing campaign and an easy, versatile way to expand your business. However, choosing the right direct-mail medium to spearhead your campaign to maximize your results is crucial.  

If you need help with your direct mail campaigns or want to explore more methods, consider using one of the best direct mail marketing services. They can help create more specialized designs and craft unique campaigns. 

While popular staples like postcards and letters are practically guaranteed to get results, direct mail remains one of the most versatile marketing methods out there, with myriad options to explore. 

Jennifer Dublino contributed to the reporting and writing of this article.

Image Credit: Kerkez / Getty Images
Kent Moon
business.comb.
I have 30+ years of experience in direct mail industry. For first 10 years, I worked for several national direct mail companies. Since 2002, I owned and operated, Addressers, a direct mail and fulfillment company located in Southern California. Even in declining direct industry, Addressers had been growing steadily since the beginning. Currently, Addressers have 50+ employee and mail about 50 millions pieces per year.