Recently, a client asked me to look at their array of marketing postcards, those 5.5 x 8.5-inch promo pieces you frequently find at events, commonly at tradeshow booths or on display tables. They’re referred to as either “takeaways” or “leave-behinds”, which do not sound like the same thing and furthermore serves as an indication of their perceived value.
If you accept the premise that these printed materials can be useful, there are common pitfalls you can avoid. Based on my feedback to my client, here are 4 mistakes I’ve seen on numerous editions.
Overall inconsistency of format and content. If you decide to do these ad hoc, is the printing high quality enough? Is the color scheme and format the same each time? Does the word count vary widely from piece to piece (ex: 55 words on one, 120 on another)? This is a Branding 101. Part of what you’re communicating in one card is its membership in a family of multiple cards. That relationship has to be clear from piece to piece.
Content is more promotional, less informational. If the cards mostly talk about how great your company is, you’re missing an opportunity to tell your story. Instead, you’re straight-out old-school marketing and that is incredibly boring in today’s hyper-media environment. A more effective message might be what was accomplished, from the perspective of the client. Testimonials are always going to have greater impact than bragging. Even better would be information that can be repeatedly helpful – tips, how to’s, etc. The postcard is merely a format. Concentrate on the message.
Nothing about the content is particularly compelling as a “takeaway”. Ask yourself this: why would someone read this piece a second time? Why would anyone take this with them? It’s essentially a large business card with no emphasis on client benefit. If they could be re-imagined as full page-sized handouts, or small poster sized pieces, they could double as “pinnable” guides either physically for office spaces or digitally for such sites as Pinterest and Tumblr. Otherwise, this is how a takeaway becomes a “leave-behind.”
No tie-in to further content or offers. In a recent public speaking workshop, I included a quote from Tom Peters: “You shouldn’t give a public speech unless you want to make something happen”. You marketing materials are no different. Obviously, what you want to make happen is a sale, either of a product or service. But is anything on your marketing piece moving folks to action? What’s the next step? Is there a limited time offer? A promo code tied to a giveaway or trial period? These are very easy to do by simply printing up stickers to assign to each card, avoiding custom printing costs.
Of course, if this sounds painfully obvious, well that’s the world we live in. What may escape one’s viewpoint will seem inescapable to another.