Christian and church communications professionals have relied upon postcards for geo-targeted outreach for decades. Has the time come to abandon their use in favor of online banner ads, or are they still a useful communication tool?
Postcards Versus Online Banner Ads
Online advertising is a mandatory tool in any modern communications plan, but where do postcards fit in?
In this article we’ll compare and contrast postcards and online banner ads. We’ll compare costs, reach, frequency, response rates, cost per response, and the managerial burden of each tool. Our goal is to figure out where each of these tools fit into a modern communications plan.
Pros and Cons of Postcards and Online Banner Advertising
First, let’s summarize the pros and cons of postcards. Then we’ll summarize the pros and cons of online banner ads. Then we’ll elaborate on the pros and cons after that.
Share of Mind
On the plus side, postcards are a more personal medium than online ads. When a viewer holds a postcard they can see it, feel it, and smell it, so it can leave deeper impression than online advertising. On the other hand their spouse or receptionist might just throw the postcard away with other junk mail. By contrast, online banner ads are transient impressions that impact only the sense of sight but at a much lower cost.
It is also possible that viewers of postcards are less busy when they view the card than they are when they are online working, surfing, emailing, or viewing their social media accounts. So one could conjecture that they slow down and absorb the message more deeply. However, they need to take more steps to get more information such as search for a webpage that is promoted in the postcard, whereas online ads are just one click away from more information.
Another attractive aspect of postcards is the viewer can set them aside to follow-up at a later time. By contrast, a person who views your online ad needs to bookmark the landing page in order to get back to it. However online respondents can also be retargeted in order to remind them that they have visited your website and this is a more sure way of reminding them about the thing they meant to follow up on.
Postcards are hard on the environment and that is offensive to many millennials. In addition snail mail is almost obsolete for the younger folks who have all of their banking and billing set up on the internet.
Postcards can be geo-targeted to ZIP codes and carrier routes and mailing lists can be filtered with demographic information such as age, marital status, home ownership, etc. Online banner ads can also be geo-targeted by ZIP code and filtered with demographic information, so both mediums are essentially equal in this respect.
Postcards can be targeted to an existing in-house mailing list so they can be used effectively for internal communications. Online advertising can be retargeted to those who have visited your organization’s website and therefore can also be very helpful for internal communications.
Postcards are not dependent on a web connection so they are especially useful for reaching an older audience. This older audience is very difficult, if not impossible, to reach with online advertising.
Postcards can produce a higher response rate per impression, but this is hard to measure as these impressions are way more expensive than online impressions.
With online banner ads, there is no doubt what the click-through-rate is and therefore it is easy to calculate the cost per response.
It takes more time to launch a postcard campaign than it does to launch an online campaign. This is because the artwork must include a call-to-action and the cost of making a mistake is high, so it requires more scrutiny and more eyes on the proofs. It also requires printing time, delivery to the post office time, and delivery to the mailbox time.
On the other hand, an online advertising campaign can be launched within a few days. Mistakes can be fixed on the fly. Therefore online can be very useful in the situation where you are worried about an event being under-attended.
Postcards require more time to manage than online advertising. There are more steps in reviewing proofs and working with vendors. There are also several more steps in setting up systems to measure response rates.
The cost per impression for postcards is many times higher than the cost per impression for online advertising.
The table below shows the cost per impression by media with the costs for postcards and online advertising in red. The cost per thousand for post cards range from $200 to $350 per thousand while the cost per thousand for online banner ads range from $10 to $30 per thousand and Facebook ranges from $10 to $40 per thousand.
When to Use
Here are some guidelines on when to use postcards, when to use online advertising, and when to use both.
When planning postcard and online banner ads, it is very handy to use this zip code map tool.
For those of you without a Google AdWords account who need to estimate keyword traffic for online banner ads, WordStream offers this free tool.
Postcards and Online banner ads are both valuable communications tools for today’s church communications.
To Get Started
Missional Marketing is a dedicated Christian communications firm working with Christian Churches and Organizations across the country, and we are also a Top 5% Certified Google Partner. So get in touch today, and we can get you started.