Friday, December 19, 2008

Postcard Power!

Several days ago, two boxes, weighing 78 lbs were delivered to my studio doorstep. They weren’t holiday gifts--next spring’s postcards had arrived!

The 2009 Postcard is a departure w/a white background and new tag line

I have produced a postcard for all but one of the past six years. 2008 was the only year I didn’t use one because I flirted (erroneously) with glossy magazine advertising instead. It was not as successful as my previous postcard campaigns. Expensive lesson learned.

There are marketing specialists out there who say that postcard mailings don't yield enough results. I think it depends on the postcard. If it looks like just another advertising gimmick filled with too much information on too small a space--I agree with the marketers. Whenever I visit someplace new, I buy a postcard. When I visit a museum, I buy a postcard. People collect postcards. I try and make a postcard that people will keep.

Every year the choice of photograph is the most wrenching task. That photo will become the ‘face’ of my studio and the one I use on all promo pieces for that year. The 2008 postcard’s layout and graphics have been changed to be in visual sync with that on the website. Some of you may have noticed that all of my on line avatars are similar to the photo of the garden you see above. That isn’t an accident or me being lazy. Image/brand recognition is the goal.

I use postcards in a variety of ways—as direct mail pieces, as promotional pieces at events, as informational pieces at other businesses, as client leave-behinds, and as alternative business cards. Each of those functions is described below along with a gallery of prior cards.

This year I printed 6000 cards and will mail out 5000 of them in early April—hopefully to arrive on the first warm Thursday. Why a Thursday? I want potential clients to look at the card right before they start to think about using their properties over the beautiful spring weekend. This is late in my design cycle for the season, but I found that mailing any earlier in my zone 6 climate just doesn't do the trick. I invest in a well vetted demographic mailing list in addition to my own that will yield 50 phone calls that in turn will yield 4-5 projects. These projects help to fill up my summer and fall design calendar.

The 2005 postcard--this one generated some great projects

Now before you say, “That’s all?” I will also get calls next spring from people who have received previous year’s postcards and had saved them. People toss business cards and mailers, as I said previously--they save pretty postcards. I actually walked into two new clients' kitchens last year and each had multiple cards tacked up over a workspace or posted on the fridge. Next thing I know they’ll be selling them on Ebay.

At the special events I participate in, from flower shows to show houses to charity auctions, the postcards become a promotional piece. They are the souvenir visitors pick up when they tour through a show house garden. When tied to a trowel, the postcards become a gift certificate for a charity to be auctioned or raffled. Every time I’ve donated my services for a cause the purchaser of the item has become a client.

2006 Postcard--not as successful because it did really show a 'garden'--just plants. Did get a good project though...

I’m very lucky to have a local upscale garden center that doesn't provide design services as a source of referrals. I give them postcards each year in February—they in turn give them out to clientele who ask them for design service recommendations. I have through the years received more referrals from this than any other single source other than my website.

2007 Postcard--My least favorite because I succumbed to a cliched image--shame on me!

Not every new client has received a postcard, so when I meet with someone new, I hand them a postcard instead of a standard business card. The image on the postcard helps to clarify what they can have on their own property and they usually turn it over and read the laundry list of services. This simple process often that adds to their mental list of what they’d like me to do but maybe hadn’t considered.

2004 Postcard--the first one

So here's to postcard power--another useful landscape design studio tool.


VectorJess said...

Wow, Susan. Your postcards are beautiful. And I think how you use them for multiple purposes is brilliant and well-suited to your profession, business size and, if I may, personality.

I'm a fan of mailing really pretty cards, too. Years back, when I had a consulting firm, I was shocked to find, as you have, my cards on clients' book shelves, desks, etc. They treasured them in a way I found surprising.

On another note, we JUST sent out yesterday our monthly company newsletter over here at Vectorworks. The CEO letter opens with a statement about how many of our Landmark customers use this time of year to do their marketing for the spring and summer. Hah! So I found your post here happily affirming.

Alex said...

Hi Susan, I really enjoyed reading this post. Very informative and interesting.

The white background, the choice of photograph and your new tagline are great. Looking at your previous postcards, I'd have not known you offer design services, but your unique selling proposition for 2009 is very clear:

"Artfully design outdoor spaces for gracious living"

I guess that if postcards do indeed bring business, the extra cost to produce them is justified.

I also looked at your website and I really liked it. Awesome pictures and the presentation is very professional.

The only thing that I don't agree with, is using a picture for brand recognition. Maybe a logo would be more effective. But that is just my opinion :)

Here's to your success in 2009!

Jim/ArtofGardening said...

Good deal. I'm an advertising art director/marketing consultant and I believe in the power of postcards for many instances - and all the ones you state. They're a great value, and can keep your company top-of-mind. They're a great tool for a small business.

I don't think you necessarily need a "logo" per se, but I'd have recommended you keep the same font and name, "Susan Cohen Gardens" on the front of this year's postcard, even with the tagline. If it's hanging somewhere, I'd have preferred it hang with your name front & center!

Jim/ArtofGardening said...

Oh, and, I'm learning much from your Web 2.0 posts - don't stop 'em! I feel I have to learn more so I can help my clients market themselves better. I like learning them from the perspective a business owner!

Dan Eskelson said...

Thanks Susan for your good ideas re: postcards and Web 2.0/Twitter. I just created my Twitter account and will soon be able to join in this social media revolution.

Chris Heiler said...


I love math so you have to tell me what your return on investment was.

Care to share?

You must get some return if you continue to do this.

Chris Heiler
Follow me on Twitter

Deviant Deziner said...

As always it is a joy to see your horticultural craftsmanship and business acumen come together to create a very useful tool.

Beautiful images, great graphics and strong strategic business planning.

Here's to good gardening in 2009.


徵信社 said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.