Postcard vs. Digital Marketing: What's Best for Private Schools?

Postcard vs. Digital Marketing: What's Best for Private Schools?

November 20, 2023
(Reading time: 5 - 9 minutes)

Attracting and enrolling new students is critical for private schools in today’s competitive education landscape. Schools have a few primary options for reaching prospective students and parents, two of those being traditional postcard marketing campaigns or modern SEO and content marketing approaches. But which should private schools focus their limited marketing resources on for the best results?

Private School Education Postcard Example for Greenfield Academy: The Benefits of Postcards for Private School Marketing

The Benefits of Postcards for Private School Marketing

Used strategically, postcard marketing campaigns have a number of advantages that make them a smart choice for private schools:


  • Well-designed postcards act as attention-grabbing reminders about your school that spark interest and inquiries. According to a 2021 report by MarketReach, the average engagement rate of direct mail at somewhere around 95% and is interacted with at least 4 times. 


  • Cost-effective compared to other direct mail options, such as glossy mailers, with costs as low as $0.20 per piece for printing. 


  • Tangible and attention-grabbing medium when designed well. The best postcard designs stand out in the mailbox and can possibly generate more engagement than digital ads.


  • Flexible targeting options from purchased mailing lists to Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) for blanket neighborhood saturation.


  • Durable full-color printing on glossy stock grabs interest. Pictures and graphics on postcards convey messages quickly.
  • Postcards are designed to catch the eyes giving them stopping power in the mailbox.


  • Postcards have longevity - recipients tend to keep them on refrigerators or walls for weeks as reminders.


  • Simple way to promote school events, highlight offerings, and drive traffic to websites or phone numbers.

Private School Education Postcard Example for Greenfield Academy: Cons of Relying Solely on Postcards

Cons of Relying Solely on Postcards 

Limited space

  • Designing compelling postcards within the small space available can be challenging. 
  • The small size of a postcard restricts how much you can communicate. 
  • Poor designs won’t engage readers. Postcards work best when focused on a single compelling message and call to action.

Design challenges

  • Creating eye-catching designs within the limitations of a postcard takes skill. Poor or boring designs will limit their effectiveness.
  • Marketing agencies can help with strategy, design, targeting, printing, and mailing. They charge fees but simplify execution.
  • Good design counts, so invest in custom creative and quality printing/stocks. Expect to pay a designer $75-150 per hour.

Risk of being overlooked

  • Difficult to target specific demographics without highly segmented mailing lists.
  • There is a risk of postcards being tossed out unopened as junk mail. Strategic targeting and messaging can help mitigate this.

Difficulty tracking ROI

  • No way to track ROI or results. Postcards provide no analytics on what works.
  • Compared to Pay-per-click (PPC) ads and other digital marketing, measuring conversions driven specifically by postcards is more challenging. Codes and landing pages help, but attributing causality can be tough.

Requires multiple touches

  • Low average response rates, around 2-5%. Much of the spending is wasted on disinterested households.
  • A single postcard will not make a huge impact. You need to sustain the campaign with multiple mailings to nurture prospects steadily.

Cost Breakdown for Postcards:

Using Greenfield Academy as our fictional example decided they wanted to do a postcard mail campaign to boost enrollment for the upcoming school year. The following is a breakdown of their costs:


Unit Cost


Sub-Total Cost

Design Fee




Custom Photos












Handling Fees







Best Practices in Postcard Marketing Execution 

Postcards work best as part of an integrated marketing mix, including digital ads, social media, and other tools. Used strategically and consistently, they can become a cornerstone of your private school’s marketing program.

Follow these tips and strategies to ensure your postcard marketing achieves results:

Focus your message: Be selective. Use limited postcard space for one compelling headline, emotional hook, and call to action. Don’t overwhelm with too many messages. 

Speak visually: Great visuals attract eyes, spark emotion, and convey messages quickly. Invest in custom photos/illustrations that establish your school’s personality and values.

Highlight differentiators: What makes your school truly special? Focus copy on conveying your unique culture, values, community, and student experience. This is what matters to parents and students.

Provide value: Consider including a special offer, coupon, contest, or valuable informational resource. This incentivizes taking action. Just don’t appear salesy.

Make it personal: Whenever possible, address postcards individually rather than generically. This greatly improves open and response rates. Variable printing helps.

Use space thoughtfully: Follow best practices for easy-to-scan hierarchy. Use white space strategically and keep text brief. Make call-to-action buttons bold. 

Mail strategically: Target households and zip codes with high densities of school-aged children. Update lists between campaigns to keep accuracy and deliverability high.

Drive traffic: Provide URLs, QR codes, or phone numbers that make taking the next step frictionless. Monitor campaign landing pages to quantify interest. 

The Rising Potential of SEO and Content Marketing

The Rising Potential of SEO and Content Marketing

In today’s digital-first world, SEO and content marketing have become essential enrollment marketing strategies:

Valuable Content Builds Trust

Creating content like blogs, videos, and podcasts that provides value to parents helps build awareness and trust when optimized for search engines. Tailoring content topics to parents' interests and search intent enables your school to connect with prospective families through valuable information that addresses their needs. This content marketing and SEO strategy is about building relationships through helpful content vs self-promotion.

Enables Targeted Demographic Reach 

A benefit of content marketing is the ability to precisely target specific parent demographics based on analysis of their search behavior and intent. You can create content tuned to the search queries of your ideal prospect profiles. This level of targeting is much more difficult with broad printed mailings. An SEO strategy allows you to focus content to the specific needs of your target audiences.

Drives Qualified Traffic Over Time

Creating a consistent drumbeat of valuable new content over an extended period leads to improved search rankings and authority. This, in turn, increases the qualified organic traffic to your school's website over the long term. For schools focused on continually engaging new prospective families, SEO content provides recurring enrollment inquiries from relevant searches.  

Provides Actionable Performance Data

With content marketing and SEO, campaign analytics allow you to monitor performance in detail. You can see which content and keywords drive traffic and conversions. This enables data-driven optimization and refinement of content topics and SEO to maximize results. Unlike postcards, you have clear visibility into what works.

Relationship-Focused Content

SEO content built around informational topics provides value and builds relationships with parents. In contrast with postcards, it does not rely on repeated promotional messaging. The focus is on building trust and authority through expertise rather than selling. This nurtures parents through the decision process.

Cost-Effective Strategy

After some initial investment in research and strategy, costs are limited to staff time. Content can be created internally rather than relying on paid advertising and printing. Promotion is primarily organic through search rankings and social channels. This is a more cost-efficient approach over time than direct mail.

Provides Long-Term Value

Unlike postcard campaigns which provide a one-time boost, SEO content continues providing value for months or years after publishing. Evergreen, optimized content will keep driving relevant organic traffic from search engines. The compounding effects over time are significant.

Requires Commitment  

Doing SEO and content marketing well involves considerable upfront research into ideal topics and keywords. Ongoing effort is required for optimization, promotion, distribution, and continually creating new content that builds on previous assets. This strategy requires commitment, but sustaining it delivers exponential dividends.

The Clear Winner for Private Schools: SEO and Content Marketing

Based on the pros, cons, and costs of both postcards and SEO content marketing, the more effective strategy for boosting enrollment is clear:

  • Digital content allows precise targeting of specific parent-demographics based on their search behavior, which is difficult with broad postcard mailings.
  • SEO and content marketing build long-term organic traffic and relationships by establishing the school as an authority through valuable content over time.
  • Digital marketing provides actionable performance data to optimize efforts, unlike postcards, where results are hard to quantify.
  • The costs of digital content creation and promotion have a better ROI long-term compared to repeated postcard campaign costs.
  • SEO content continues providing value for months/years after publishing, while postcards provide a one-time temporary boost.
  • Research shows most prospective students now research schools online, emphasizing the need for strong SEO and digital presence.
  • SEO is superior for enrollment generation through precise targeting, measurable results, and relationship-building.
  • Postcards work best integrated into a multi-channel approach with digital marketing.
  • Optimized SEO and content have longevity, continually driving conversions for years.

Private schools can strengthen their authority, build trust, and boost engagement with prospective students through measurable tactics by prioritizing investment in an effective SEO and content marketing enrollment strategy. While postcards can play a complementary role, schools should focus their marketing efforts on digital strategies to drive both immediate and long-term results in connecting with potential students in today's digital landscape. Focusing enrollment marketing efforts on high-quality SEO content will yield dividends for private schools seeking to attract more families.

Are you ready to boost enrollment at your private school through results-driven digital marketing strategies? I offer a free consultation to help schools assess their current marketing efforts and map out a customized plan to attract more students. Click here to schedule a free session and take the first step toward higher enrollment.

Adam Bennett

Written by:  |  November 20, 2023

Adam is the president and founder of Cube Creative Design and specializes in private school marketing. Since starting the business in 2005, he has created individual relationships with clients in Western North Carolina and across the United States. He places great value on the needs, expectations, and goals of the client.

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