Polishing postcard turds. Here's a postcard that will PULL. Use this formula for your own success.

15 replies
Hi guys.

A couple hours ago I read this thread, where another warrior who owns a house cleaning business wanted their postcard critiqued.

I wouldn't normally do this but I really know how much this can help some of you. I know how difficult it is to actually find an example of a what a good direct response postcard looks like these days. You'd think it's like finding the Yeti.

Sure, you can pry your eyes open with paperclips and read all sorts of copywriting manuals (boring!), seeing highly outdated examples of the guru's past campaigns that got huge response. Nevermind the fact these were often relics from decades ago; when people were less jaded and significantly more gullible. I bet that postcard you did before with the FREE week of this NEW fangled thing called "milk delivery service" really rocked 'em hard back then!

You can also see others half-assed attempts spread around the web of their postcards that tend to have a viciously over-bearing load of 'shocking' copy so over the top and ridiculous that the recipient probably laughs as they throw the thing out.

I read a marketing book once (can't remember which one) that mentioned a guy who actually put an Ad in the paper for "$200 FREE" or something to that effect, only to find that no one actually called even though he was literally giving away the money free to see how many people would respond.

When I say, a really good postcard, I'm not talking about something made by a web graphic designer on fiverr and written by a discount copywriter who's expertise consists of multiple $5,000 weekend retreats in the 90's with dan kennedy and "the gang."

I'm talking about what the hell works NOW. What works in this day and age when people have seen so much advertising that they wanna puke in their mouth a 'lil everytime someone tries to sell them something.

Don't think I'm against guru marketers or tried-and-proven copywriters, because I'm not. They've probably made more money than I'll ever see in my lifetime. I'm simply someone who takes some sound principles and uses to literally print money. If you want to print money just use them too.

In today's day and age, your marketing has to be absolutely phenomenal if you want your message to cut through.

I want to show you what good design, good copy, and good psychology can do to transform a weak attempt at postcard marketing--to a monster that shakes the recipients body when they first lay eyes on it.

Hey, I know it's tough to find a good example of what a postcard looks like by someone who actually knows what the heck they're doing. That's why I want to show you how I would polish a complete turd of a postcard. And I know what I'm doing.

In the post I saw earlier today (awesome story by the way), they uploaded their postcard for critique:





When I look at this at first glance, I see a lot of things that can be improved. For example:
  • The offer is pretty good but it's not presented strong enough. There's no real punch to it
  • The offer isn't present on the back of the card, which is the most important side because it's viewed first
  • The background is a modern 'grunge' texture while the foreground has classic vintage elements. This clashes way too hard.
  • The font choices aren't very good.
  • There are no benefits & no words to stir up a 'need' or 'desire'
  • The logo is taking up way too much prominence.
  • There is virtually no call to action
  • The vintage lady looks like she's trying to tell us something but we don't know what it is. Kinda looks like she just pissed herself and you happened to walk in.
  • The 'cleaning you can trust' statement is an instant "YEAH WHATEVER!" from the recipient. They've heard this BS a million times.
  • There is no expiration date or reason to act fast on yhour offer. Maybe I'll keep this card around for ten years, would you like that?

All-in-all there is basically nothing that will really motivate someone to grab the phone and call Pixie Dust Services up, unless the recipient SERIOUSLY needs someone to clean their sh** up at that very moment. Good thing is, if you send enough postcards out you'll actually run into these people. Props to Pixie dust though for getting into direct mail.

The real money is in the people who could use your service but never really thought of actually hiring someone, let alone doing it right away. That's where direct response marketing shines. You want to get them all fired up to do it.

Creating that motivation (enhancing the response):

Direct response marketing--where you have only a blip of a second to get someone to actually read your offer, and say "wow I really could use this and I better act now to take advantage of this" takes some work.

It takes some effort, some strategy, and some forward-thinking.

I'm not going to bother with the front of the postcard because I don't have the time and it's not nearly as important as the back--which is what the mail carriers leave facing up.

Here's the process I took to polish this turd of a postcard:

1.) Get rid of the lousy grunge background and bring some cohesiveness to the vintage-tinged elements and the rest of the card. I sampled some colors off the broad's (eek is that too sexist!?) face and found a nice color to use as the background.

2.) Create a bold headline up in the top left that gets them to want to read further. I prefer to use ones that ask the reader a question. No one likes a question that goes unanswered. It's gotta say "wait--don't throw this out yet!".

3.) Put together a little subhead under it that further gets the person to want to figure out what this is all about. Create some inquisitiveness. You can hit 'em hard right here and take them to an emotional state that projects them as if they've already benefited from this product or service.

4.) Make a big prominent coupon with dashes, an all-caps "FREE" and a heavy bolded typeface. It's gotta say "damn boy this is some value right here!". And it's gotta have a very strict expiration so that people feel they'll lose out if they don't take action NOW.

5.) No testimonial needed, instead we'll use the vintage chick and add those missing words she was trying to say in the old postcard. She looks credible enough, right? She's in there scrubbing the hell out of that floor and it's very obvious she should have just called pixie dust or she wouldn't be scrubbing that floor all day. It's undeniably logical.

Also, next to her is the perfect place to pop that logo in for some brand-recognition. Just big enough to be there but not distract.

6.) Next to the coupon, you have a few lines to put some copy in that can explain what's included, what's available, why it's available, and stuff like that. This is where you have the chance to give them that final push over the edge. Validate your offer. Tell them why it makes sense to use your service. You'd have to be an idiot not to take advantage of it.

This is where you need some BULLET POINTS with strong benefits (not too many though, don't overload!).

I'm hitting them here with all sorts of ninja strategy. Some cutesy rhyming going on, some ugliness that makes them feel bad about their current conditions, some health issues, some easy avenues to get away from tedious tasks, etc.

7.) Big ol' call-to-action. What good is all of this if they can't reach you immediately? Like RIGHT NOW!


Ok you want to see what this turd looks like now?


Before (the original design)



After (what I would do)

.... TA-DA!



See the difference? Hey, I'm not here to prance around and show off. This is what a direct response message looks like. We're not trying to win a creative award or stun them with our artistic genius; the goal of the card is to look professional, credible, and most importantly--interesting and compelling.

Don't blame poor direct mail results on the medium. I don't care if you sent thousands of postcards out and didn't get any response. You either didn't target well enough, or more likely, your ad sucked.
#direct mail #direct response advice #postcard #postcard marketing
  • Profile picture of the author kenmichaels
    I dealt with a major publishing house about 10 or so years ago.

    They always ... and I MEAN always pushed the yellow.

    At the time i did not "get" it, I just went with there advice. I had NO bases to
    believe or disbelieve.

    a year or so after I started working with them I bought my woman a brand new car.
    Every other week we got a frigging recall notice in the mail.

    It was the same yellow.

    BAMMM ... I got it.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    Wow!

    Bob Ross is the freakin MAN!

    Way to contribute true value!
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    • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
      And to help the home cleaning guy even more,
      listen in to the reasons why these people got a home cleaner in
      because that's the reason buyers buy!

      Then use them in the headline and bullet points.

      You'll notice the careers they are in
      which helps in targeting the locations better.

      Home cleaners, Houskeeping, Residential cleaning services, Auckland

      Best,
      Ewen
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      • Profile picture of the author bob ross
        Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

        And to help the home cleaning guy even more,
        listen in to the reasons why these people got a home cleaner in
        because that's the reason buyers buy!

        Then use them in the headline and bullet points.

        You'll notice the careers they are in
        which helps in targeting the locations better.

        Home cleaners, Houskeeping, Residential cleaning services, Auckland

        Best,
        Ewen
        You always come up with such good stuff.
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        • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
          Originally Posted by bob ross View Post

          You always come up with such good stuff.
          Thanks.

          Notice their clients biggest reason to get a cleaner in wasn't for the obvious,
          it was time. Frees up time to be with family, to be working on higher paying tasks.

          Obviously there is the solid basics in terms of thorough clean, safe cleaners and consistency. Those are the minimum.

          Reminds me of the drill story...
          The guy doesn't buy a drill because of it's titanium tip.
          He doesn't buy it to hang up the photo on the wall
          He doesn't buy it to stop his wife nagging to hang up the picture

          He buys it so he can go fishing and drinking with his buddies sooner!

          That story is always a good reminder to keep the ultimate benefit
          in mind.

          Best,
          Ewen
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  • Profile picture of the author Arzak
    Originally Posted by bob ross View Post

    I sampled some colors off the broad's (eek is that too sexist!?) face
    Sorry, had to laugh at this

    Yellow is a good color since it's spring (spring cleaning) and summer is coming up soon. It evokes a happy/bright feeling. A light blue or green would also be good (perhaps with white) for a cleaning service but without the vintage girl of course.
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    • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
      Oh the good o'l days when pictures of postcards and ads were shown,
      always was popular...well done Bob!

      Best,
      Ewen
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  • Profile picture of the author rugman
    Amazing re-do of the card! I might ad one thing (I have been in the cleaning biz for over 20 years). I would squeeze in something to do with "safe for your kids and pets". Seems like peeps are always asking about how safe the cleaning solutions are(don't ever say chemicals (unless you are talking about a competitor!)).
    Some of the best carpet cleaning cards had the baby crawling on the rug pic - a little overused now but still pretty good.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Wow! I thought of giving this a shot earlier, but you did a better job than I would have.

      Just a couple of ideas. I always Capitalize The First Letter Of Every Word In The Headline. Most people don't notice it, but it makes the headline stand out.

      The other side could be made into a Gift Certificate for a free hour of cleaning.

      I like the sub head better as the headline. "Your Home Will Be Cleaner, Safer, Healthier...All Without Lifting A Finger!"

      It offers a benefit. But really, it's not like the sentence was hidden.

      Oh, I've tested headlines, and quotations make the headliner stronger. At least in my testing.

      Yeah, the original card needed work. And you showed a fantastic improvement. Your layout was a lot better than mine would have been, and you offered a deadline, which I frankly forgot.

      You said " Hey, I'm not here to prance around and show off.". Go ahead, prance a little. It was great work.

      And it sure is easier critiquing someone else's good work, than creating you own. And you had to pretty much create this whole thing anew.
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      • Profile picture of the author bob ross
        Originally Posted by rugman View Post

        Amazing re-do of the card! I might ad one thing (I have been in the cleaning biz for over 20 years). I would squeeze in something to do with "safe for your kids and pets". Seems like peeps are always asking about how safe the cleaning solutions are(don't ever say chemicals (unless you are talking about a competitor!)).
        Some of the best carpet cleaning cards had the baby crawling on the rug pic - a little overused now but still pretty good.
        Yeah that definitely would be important. I know you know your stuff for sure.

        I knew someone that worked for a big carpet cleaning company and he said he would drink some of the solution to prove how safe it is!


        Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

        Wow! I thought of giving this a shot earlier, but you did a better job than I would have.

        Just a couple of ideas. I always Capitalize The First Letter Of Every Word In The Headline. Most people don't notice it, but it makes the headline stand out.

        The other side could be made into a Gift Certificate for a free hour of cleaning.

        I like the sub head better as the headline. "Your Home Will Be Cleaner, Safer, Healthier...All Without Lifting A Finger!"

        It offers a benefit. But really, it's not like the sentence was hidden.

        Oh, I've tested headlines, and quotations make the headliner stronger. At least in my testing.

        Yeah, the original card needed work. And you showed a fantastic improvement. Your layout was a lot better than mine would have been, and you offered a deadline, which I frankly forgot.

        You said " Hey, I'm not here to prance around and show off.". Go ahead, prance a little. It was great work.

        And it sure is easier critiquing someone else's good work, than creating you own. And you had to pretty much create this whole thing anew.

        You're right about initial caps, I still don't use them all the time though, I'm not really sure why. Interesting that you like the subhead better for the headline, my goal with headlines has always been to grab the reader into reading what's next, so for me, the subhead should always be extremely strong.

        It's funny you say that too because I've always somewhat found myself spending more effort on subheads than headlines.
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  • Profile picture of the author Eddie Spangler
    That would probably make a good split test.
    One postcard similar to the one Bob made up vs
    one where the headline and message were more
    "What would you rather be doing today.
    cleaning house or" ..... and included lifestyle images.

    Good stuff overall, I know if I ever get a client in this area who is open to
    doing more than the standard "we have great cleaning services" approach
    we are going to mop the floor with the competition.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by rugman View Post

      Amazing re-do of the card! I might ad one thing (I have been in the cleaning biz for over 20 years). I would squeeze in something to do with "safe for your kids and pets". Seems like peeps are always asking about how safe the cleaning solutions are(don't ever say chemicals unless you are talking about a competitor!)).
      Some of the best carpet cleaning cards had the baby crawling on the rug pic - a little overused now but still pretty good.
      Great enough ideas to be repeated.


      Originally Posted by Eddie Spangler View Post

      That would probably make a good split test.
      One postcard similar to the one Bob made up vs
      one where the headline and message were more
      "What would you rather be doing today.
      cleaning house or" ..... and included lifestyle images.
      Another strong idea. There is no need to choose between one headline and another. You have a pre-headline...the headline...and a sub head.

      One of the best performing ads I've seen (that I knew the results) had three full headlines, each with a completely different appeal.

      Safe for pets and kids
      No allergic reactions (I found that pet owners are more concerned about their pet's allergies than their own)
      Get rid of odors you can't smell...but company can.
      While we clean you can.....(you may even test this appeal with local gardening groups, hobby niches, pet owners (walk your dog))

      A few brilliant ideas from Bob and others.
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  • Profile picture of the author ADukes81
    Excellent post, Bob!

    "Polishing postcard turds..." <<<=== I laughed out loud and green beer almost came out my nose. Thank you for that.
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    That was great Bob!
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  • Profile picture of the author xlfutur1
    I can see this being another 20 page thread started by the great Bob Ross. Killer post. The only thing I would add here is to test different headlines and subheadlines and track response just with a different headline. Then use Bob's M3 method to get all the free advertising you want.
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