Better Brainstorming with the Postcard Technique

April 16, 2015

Nearly every business requires some sort of marketing, and digital ads (such as videos) have clear advantages over traditional marketing materials (such as mailers and postcards). For example, a $50 AdWords buy will put a YouTube video in front of several thousand people, but that same $50 will only cover the printing and mailing costs of a few dozen postcards. But video ads still cost money, and an ineffective video campaign can quickly drain a marketing budget.

One of the biggest challenges to making a strong video is figuring out how to convey your message before your audience loses interest. No matter how pretty your video looks, if you waste people’s time, they will get bored and tune out or click away.

So we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to convey a message in a fast, engaging way.

Writing a script for your project helps a lot, but you may find that you’ll set out to write a tight, clever, one-page script, but that quickly balloons up to seven pages full of minutia, meandering descriptions, and unnecessary explanations. This sort of video costs more to make, and is less likely to hold people’s attention.

Is there a better way?

While trying to figure out how to promote our own company, we’ve developed a brainstorming routine that helps us to hone our message, and it’s a technique that could help you.

The Postcard Technique

We promote our own company through a variety of methods, including Youtube ads, Facebook ads, and Google ads. But we fleshed out the ideas for our latest ad using little, handwritten postcards.

It turns out postcards are a great way to flesh out an idea, because they constrain you to a tight space, and since you’re actually going to send them to a real person, you have to really think about their reaction.

This is the story of how we learned to use postcards as a brainstorming tool.

The First Attempt: Short but Boring

One of our goals over the past two years has been to test all the possible ways to market our company, to see what worked and what didn’t. I still get postcards in the mail, so I thought they might be working for somebody. So, we made some. The first time we bought postcards, we wanted to be as efficient as possible. So, we pre-printed the back of the cards with a little message.

Our videos can help grow your business!

It was a clean, simple message, but when we sent it out. We got zero responses. The message was short and focused, but the card was still kind of boring and generic, so it wouldn’t have made a great video.

Those cards also weren’t very versatile, because our videos have multiple benefits beyond growing a business (they can help train employees, or convey complex ideas, etc.).  So, we decided to make a postcard that was a little more flexible.

The Second Attempt: Room for Improvement

We made some cards with our company’s logo on the front, like this:

front

And contact info on the back, like this:

backBlank

We kept the “heart” of the card blank, so we could write whatever we wanted.

Keeping the card blank turned out to be the key to our new technique.

Now, we could play with different options!

At first, I tried making some that showed that we were popular. We sent out a bunch of cards with the following message:

Hi!
Our videos can help grow your business!

Our clients include:

Phoenix Children’s Hospital
ASU
Coca Cola

Thanks!

-Dave, Ariana, and Jen

Those cards did a little teeny bit better. But not great. Probably because they were still kind of boring. And who wants to hire a boring video production company?

To be honest, at this point, I was feeling like all these stupid postcards were a waste of time. But, we still had a bunch on our shelf, and we had spent a lot of time designing them, so I didn’t want to just throw them away.

The Third Attempt: A System in Place

So Jen, Ariana, and I gave ourselves a little mission. We were going to send out ALL the postcards in our office. And we would do our best to make them NOT be boring!

How? After every five cards, we would change them up, with the following plan:

After a few cards, I thought “Wait! We’re an animation company! We should try to convey each idea visually!”

This really helped.

We started drawing one little picture on each card. Each with a different idea. About a dozen cards in, we made this card, which had the same, simple idea as our first card – we can help grow your business:

 

It’s a little guy in a hammock, and the words

This is you, relaxing in Hawaii, after our ad grows your business and makes you super rich!

Tell your phone to call us today!

But this version felt about 1,000 times better than our previous cards. It was clearly different from most of the stuff I get in the mail. It had the (hand-drawn) picture to get people’s attention, it clearly stated how we could help a business, and it had a clear call to action “Call now!”

But we didn’t stop there.

I told Ariana to start drawing whatever she could imagine “super rich” people buying or wanting. She started drawing different options, including:

“This is you, with your new jet pack.”

“This is you, with your pet baby giraffe.”

“This is you, with your pet pterodactyl.” 

That one felt like something that would grab people’s attention. And I thought, to really personalize it, we should name the pets.

I suggested “Tara the pterodactyl.” But Jen thought it was too predictable.

I said “Okay, but it should start with a ‘t’.”

Ariana said “No. It should start with a silent ‘p’.”

I laughed. Now we were getting somewhere. We tossed names around, and Jen suggested “Ptiffany.”

I laughed again. “At the bottom, write ‘Call us ptoday!’”

So we made this:

PtiffanyBackSmall

This is you, riding your pet pterodactyl, Ptiffany, after our ad GROWS your business and makes you SUPER RICH!

Call us ptoday!

We sent fifty of those cards out last week, and guess what?

We received responses within three days! And the first person who called us was laughing and asking about the pterodactyl.

Now we really had an idea worth turning into a video. Something short, silly, and showed exactly how we can help our customers. We decided to clean it up (but still keep the same style) for our new Facebook ad.

web ad facebook taller-01

We are currently animating this to make a video out of it, and it’s looking great.

I don’t think we would have come up with it without the postcards.

So, if you are trying to come up with an idea for a video – especially a commercial or an ad – buy some postcards and try this technique! Send out a bunch of cards, and change them up every five cards. Draw something on each card. And really send them to people! The tight space of the postcards will make you think about conveying a message quickly, and actually sending them out to potential customers will put you in the mindset of thinking about what will actually get someone’s attention.

This takes very little time or money, and you’ll be amazed at how much it helps you hone your message.

-Dave

 

*Legal disclaimer – Subconscious Prime Productions, LLC cannot guarantee that our videos will make you rich enough to afford a pterodactyl, nor can we guarantee the legality of owning a pterodactyl in your state or province. Furthermore, by hiring us to make a video for your company, you release Subconscious Prime Productions, LLC and it’s employees from any and all liability connected with your decision to purchase, rent, or ride any prehistoric creature. You understand that the risk of injury and property destruction from such activities is significant, including the potential for permanent dismemberment and death. YOU KNOWINGLY AND FREELY ASSUME ALL SUCH RISKS.

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