How to Design a Direct Mail Postcard (With Templates)


So you're ready to try a direct mail postcard campaign, but you're unsure how to get started. Follow this guide for designing your first postcard:

Creative Choices

A postcard is great for attracting attention in the mailbox since there is no outer envelope to hide your message. During the "mail moment" when people decide to keep or toss their mail your creative must stand out among the mailbox competition to gain the recipient's attention to read your offer.

Bright colors and attractive images draw the eye. The human mind is always attracted to other human faces, so use a face in your marketing if you can.

Limit the amount of text on your postcard, it should be more like a billboard than a book. If the product you are selling requires a lot of explanation, a postcard may not be the best fit for you, perhaps consider a letter or self-mailer format instead.

The mailing side of your postcard should get as much attention as the broadside of the postcard. In fact, it's the mailing side of the card that will get scanned by post office cameras and sent by email to Informed Delivery subscribers.

Choose a thick paper cover stock and have a coating applied to the postcard to help it stand up to the rough treatment it will endure on the way to your recipient. This way your message will remain intact.

Your Offer

Be sure not to confuse your recipient with multiple conflicting offers. You should choose a single offer and direct your recipient to take advantage of it. Here are four questions you can ask yourself to make sure you have the best offer possible:

  1. Is it Compelling – would your recipient consider this a "good deal"?
  2. Is it Urgent – does the recipient have to act now or risk missing out?
  3. Is it Clear – is your offer easy to understand?
  4. Is it Personalized – is the offer based on recipient demographics or past purchases?

Some of the best performing offers are those tried and true staples you see in use every day around you:

  • % off / $ off
  • Free Trial
  • Free Gift With Purchase
  • Free Shipping

Call To Action

Don't forget your call to action! How will the recipient take advantage of your offer?

  • Phone Call
  • In-Person Visit
  • Email
  • Website form

Make it prominent and easy. A QR code can help direct users to a website without having to type a URL into their browser. If you do use a URL, make it short!

Have a perf-off coupon if an offer needs to be redeemed with an in-person visit. The offer should also have a promo code that can be entered into the store's point-of-sale system so you can track how many direct mail coupons have been redeemed.

Make sure your call to action does not require heavy lifting. "Fill out this 2-page application and fax it back to us." is something that a lot of recipients are not able or willing to do. Make it easy for recipients to opt-in and say "Yes, I'm interested!"


Follow USPS Rules

There are many mailpiece design standards that you must follow from the United States Postal Service (USPS). The bottom of the postcard must have a clear zone for the printing of barcodes. The mailing address must be on the right side of the postcard and there can't be any other addresses listed in the bottom half of the postcard art that could confuse the mail scanning equipment. Postage gets printed or stamps are placed in the upper right corner, and your postcard must have a return address.

Here are some postcard design templates to help you get started:

Need more help? Suttle-Straus has graphic designers with years of experience designing direct mail or USPS Certified Mailpiece Design Experts who can review your design before printing. Reach out today and contact us.

About the author

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Karen M. Wenning

Karen M. Wenning

Karen aspired to be a cowgirl or a farmer, but after graduating from UW Madison she found herself crafting prose for luxury brands at an advertising agency. There, she developed a passion for working with graphic designers and marketing professionals, creating brand-right marketing across their networks. As a former client of Suttle-Straus, Karen joined the team in 2008 serving in marketing and sales. She considers herself an accidental salesperson, on a mission to increase her clients’ traffic and sales. At home, Karen can be found challenging her husband and three children to a downhill ski or swim race, growing organic produce while fending off garter snakes, or herding her small flock of chickens.
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Topics: Franchise Marketing, Direct Mail