MailChimp, one of the most popular email service providers, launched a direct mail postcard feature earlier this summer. Several questions immediately came to mind when I heard of this:
- Is personalized direct mail supported?
- Do the postcards integrate into MailChimp’s email marketing automation campaigns?
- Should printing and direct mail service providers be worried?
The benefits of integrating direct mail and email marketing have been known for years. Each has strengths and weaknesses, together they can improve lead generation, prospect nurturing, and customer retention.
Let’s see what MailChimp’s postcards are capable of.
The first thing I noticed is that the price, particularly at low volumes. I spent a grand total of $2.80 to create and mail five postcards in a test run. No minimum order, no setup charges.
At this point maybe you’re getting nervous?
I quickly designed and ordered the postcard online. Once you have the front side design done, copy written, and list prepared it takes about five minutes to input the data and place your order.
Here’s the test postcard I received in the mail. By the way, I’m not a designer.
It is fine for what it is, but it is quite limited. The specs:
- Size: 6” x 4.25”
- “Everyday” digital gloss paper
- Full-color image on the front side
- Limited design options on the address side
- No coating
Where MailChimp Postcards Work
There are a few use cases where these postcards are useful for a small business or non-profit:
- A save the date mailing for an event
- An appointment reminder
- A change-of-address announcement
I actually received a change-of-address announcement from our accountant the same day my test postcards arrived.
MailChimp Postcards would have been a better solution for several reasons:
- Less time. No printing labels, buying stamps, and manually labeling and stamping each postcard.
- Instead of a 35-cent postcard stamp the mailing cost would be $0.27 each.
- The postmark and barcode would not have covered copy.
- The finished product would look more professional.
So MailChimp postcards are inexpensive and can be ordered in just a few minutes. Are they for everybody?
MailChimp Postcard Limitations
There are shortcomings that limit the usefulness of MailChimp Postcards for most companies, at least for now.
A single small size.
I really, really like oversized postcards.
No list cleansing abilities.
NCOA anyone? The list is used as-is, with no indication you’ll be informed of returns.
No coating to protect the ink.
The USPS equipment can, and did, wreak havoc on unprotected printing.
No personalization capabilities.
I couldn’t even add “Hi Tod…” to the message. It does look like you can connect to a supported eCommerce platform to provide a coupon code.
Limited design control.
The front of the postcard was limited to a single image. No text overlay. On the back side, you can type in a headline, body copy, and an optional logo. There are no typography options.
No marketing automation integration.
I checked to see if a postcard could be added to a MailChimp marketing automation workflow. Nope.
You can read more about these limitations or Postcard features in my MailChimp Direct Mail Postcards First Look blog post.
The limited capabilities make the current version of MailChimp Postcards useless for serious direct mail marketers and brands that are concerned with their graphic identity. You can’t follow a brand style guide.
The beta functionality is limited, it’s difficult to tell MailChimp’s vision and how quickly features will be added.
The postcards work well for a few small business use cases, but the low volume cost advantage might disappear at higher volumes. Print pricing drops a penny to $0.28 per piece for qty: 51 – 5,000. $0.23 for qty: 5,001 – 10,000. Run it through your estimating program to see how it compares. Remember, these are small, uncoated postcards.
MailChimp Postcards will be a good thing for thing for the print industry, though. MailChimp is partnering with print and mail providers worldwide. If this fits your business model reach out to them.
The real benefit is getting direct mail and email together into the same conversation. MailChimp recently published When Email and Print Work Together in their blog. They’ll be making a lot more noise. Each of MailChimp’s 14 million+ customers sees the option to create a postcard every time they start a new email. Once they try it they’ll want more.
It’s time to reach out to your email marketing savvy clients and start the conversation on how direct mail can improve their marketing effectiveness.