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Direct Mail Marketing With Postcards: Got Stopping Power?
by Brandon Cornett

Picture this...

Tom arrives home from work, parks his car in his driveway, and walks to his mailbox. It’s cold out, so he hustles. He reaches inside, pulls out the day’s deliveries, and then hurries inside the house.

After greeting his family, he begins to sort through the mail. Tom’s a busy guy and doesn’t like clutter, so he doesn’t need much of a reason to throw mail in the trash. In fact, without realizing it, Tom has developed an effective system for doing just that:

1. Sort through the mail once.

2. Throw away anything that’s not immediately important or worth keeping.

3. Sort through the mail again.

4. Begin opening whatever is left, in order of importance.

Like many working Americans, Tom is “time-starved.” He can never find enough hours in the day to do the things he wants to do. So why waste time on something like the mail?

The Need for Stopping Power

In direct mail marketing, this scenario represents one of your greatest challenges – stopping power. Your postcards have to overcome great odds to stop people long enough that they (A) read your message, (B) understand your message, and if all goes well, (C) respond to your message.

But it all starts with getting them to stop.

Without stopping power, your message will be ignored, your offer will be missed, and your postcard will earn a one-way ticket to the nearest trashcan. So in order to maximize the return on your direct mail marketing investment, you need to crank up the stopping power of your postcards.

Here are three ways to do just that.

Stopping Power Ingredient #1 – Relevance

 Relevance means your offer should match your audience. This is a two-part concept. First, you must know exactly who your audience is and what they want or need. Then you must communicate with them in a way that capitalizes on that knowledge.

Direct mail marketing gives you the ability to segment your list and tailor your message, more so than with most marketing channels. Today’s database technology makes it easy to create a highly targeted mailing list for your postcard marketing campaigns. With such specificity at your fingertips, there’s no reason not to crank up the relevance of your message.

Stopping Power Ingredient #2 -- Singularity

One idea per postcard – that should be your messaging goal. One product, one service, one event, one idea, one objective. The further you go beyond that, the more you dilute your message.

The best marketing postcards are the ones that readers “get” right away. This comes from having a singular focus, a singular idea, and a singular objective. (It also helps when the postcard is well written, but that’s another article.) 

There’s not much room on a marketing postcard, so you can’t fill it with multiple topics. That’s the job of a website, brochure or booklet – not a postcard. Put too much information into such a confined space, it will seem intimidating and unapproachable to many readers.

Remember Tom and his ruthless screening process? Give him too much to think about at one time, and out you go!

Stopping Power Ingredient #3 -- Simplicity

Here’s a good formula for keeping postcards simple and clean, while at the same time delivering a strong enough message to evoke a response:

Create a billboard side and a message side. The billboard side is the purest form of stopping power. It’s light on copy but heavy on message. It includes a killer headline; relevant, eye-popping graphics; and something that gives the postcard immediate value.

The message side picks up where the billboard side leaves off. It delivers on the promise and tells the reader what to do next. It also offers some kind of reward for the reader to take that action.


Tom has finished screening his mail. In the trashcan, you’ll find a handful of marketing pieces that lacked relevance, singularity and simplicity. Held onto the refrigerator with magnets, you’ll find the marketing pieces that had all of these ingredients -- and these are the champions of stopping power.


Brandon Cornett is the editor of, the Internet’s largest website dedicated entirely to direct mail marketing with postcards. For more expert articles on postcard marketing, visit

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