I’ve got a show coming up soon (a two-person show, I’ll be showing a new set of dune abstracts), so for the last week or so I’ve been spending a fair amount of time on marketing the show. I’ve sent out an email to my on-line mailing list, updated my web site and my Facebook fan page, and so on. It would be just so easy to stick with electronic marketing, but I think in this case that would be a mistake. Even in this modern age, there’s a place for the postcard.
Designing a simple postcard isn’t that difficult if you have moderate graphic design and Photoshop skills. For announcements of photographic exhibitions, the front of the card should contain one or two eye-catching images and your name, it should also suggest that the card is about an exhibition and not waste ink on a whole lot more. Save most of the time/place details for the back, the more “real estate” on a small card you give to your own work, the more it will attract the notice of your customers. What goes on the back of your card– which is heavily constrained by US postal regulations– all of the major postcard vendors provide templates so you know what areas you need to leave blank, and so on.
There are dozens of vendors. Two I’ve used to good effect are Modern Postcard and PsPrint, particularly for large mailings. What I like about these vendors in particular is that they offer mailing services as well. If you have (as I do) a physical mailing list with (say) a thousand names on it, you can get them to print *and* mail the cards for you, which can save an enormous amount of time affixing labels and stamps, but does cost some money. Through either vendor having 1000 cards printed and mailed will cost you in the $500-$600 range, half or more of which will be the bare cost of postage at 28 cents each.
For smaller mailings, like this current show (I’m only sending out about 200 cards), you may want to just take delivery and mail the cards yourself. For that purpose, I print labels from my mailing list using Microsoft Word.
It’s a fair bit of money to send out a postcard like this, but I’ve found postcard marketing has a lot of benefits for exhibition announcements. I get better attendance for shows when I send out postcards, my customers take the announcements more seriously, and that’s certainly a factor, but here’s the big thing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into someone’s house on my mailing list and seen one or more of my exhibition announcements on their refrigerator, even cards for old shows. People enjoy getting the little “sample” of my work, and are willing to leave what’s essentially an advertisement for my work in plain sight in their home often for months. The value of that in terms of staying on people’s minds is subtle but significant. It’s every bit as important as getting more folks to the exhibitions themselves.
While the digital age provides a lot of opportuntiies for staying in touch with your customers, the venerable postcard has a place in your marketing palette, too.