Is print marketing really dead?

Chris Holloway
Managing Director | Manor Printing
3rd November 2015

In the space of just a decade or so, the internet has become the marketing medium of choice for many businesses, from sole traders to FTSE 100 companies. Its rapid evolution has undoubtedly seen traditional print media turned on its head and has helped redefine the nature of journalism, marketing and the way we communicate with each other. Studies show this trend is far from slowing down.

But is print marketing really dead? 

As someone who has worked in the printing industry for nearly thirty years, I can certainly say that the answer to that question is a resounding no.

As humans, we instinctively crave things that are tangible, that we can touch and turn over in our hands and that’s something that a PC monitor or smartphone screen can ever really replicate. If you doubt this then ask yourself why you still carry around other people’s business cards, let alone why you spend so much time making sure that your own business card is perfect.

In this article, I want to explore the continuing importance of print as a marketing tool and explain how it can be used in conjunction with digital marketing to maximise your brand’s visibility and drive sales.

The Power of Print Marketing

In September 2014, market research company Nielson published a report looking into how consumers source information to make purchasing decisions, stating quite categorically that print is far from dead. Whilst acknowledging the huge growth of digital, the report found that shoppers were more likely to use something that has been printed to gain product information.

More than half of shoppers surveyed still used direct mail or newspaper advertising to make a decision to purchase. By comparison email marketing was at 37% and store websites just 27%.

The research also found that websites, social media and money-saving apps were more effective at informing customers where to shop as opposed to what to buy. Understanding how customers leverage print and digital media for different task is crucial in putting together a joined up marketing strategy.

From an advertising point of view then, direct mail is still an incredibly powerful form of inbound marketing, with lower cost per lead and higher conversion rates when compared to digital advertising strategies like email marketing. In 2012, for example, Direct Mail News reported that response rates for direct mail was 4.4% compared to just 0.12% for email marketing.

But it’s not just in B2C marketing that print can prove effective. Research conducted last year by the Association of Business Information & Media Companies, surveyed 6,700 B2B decision makers to find out what formats they were using to source information and make business related purchasing decisions on a weekly basis. Unsurprisingly digital scored highly with 73% of respondents said websites, 67% e-newsletters, but an impressive 45% said they still used print magazines.

When asked to rate the importance of various media in learning about new services, suppliers or products, this score went up to 69%, just 11% behind websites. It seems clear that despite the widely reported downturn in newspaper and magazine circulation, the printed trade press is still a powerful means of gaining exposure and new business.

Making the Connection between Print and Digital

There’s no doubt that for most businesses, ignoring digital altogether is going to limit your marketing reach but the same clearly goes for ignoring print.

As the two studies above have shown, both in B2C and B2B, customers often use a combination of digital and print and often for different purposes. The key to maximising the efficiency of both approaches together comes down to getting the two to reinforce each other. Below are some strategies for doing this.

Establish effective analytics

Learning how to collect data and interpret that data to determine success rates is crucial as it will allow you to measure the effectiveness of each approach. Remember to set your goals for each approach though; if you’re trying to build brand presence then measuring enquiries alone will not give you an accurate picture.

Offer Exclusivity

Offer offline customers the chance to access exclusive information or get special discounts if they use your website. Include a special promotional code with your direct mail or print advertising to enable this. This is an old trick that still works wonders and its effectiveness can be easily measured.

Cross pollinate

Use your print media to direct people to your social media pages or website and vice versa. Host your printed media on your site in the form of a downloadable pdf.

Track crossover between media

Personalised URLs and QR Codes on printed marketing is one way of tracking your success rates between print and digital mediums but there are a host of other ways.

Coordinate strategies

Coordinating strategies and building effective communication channels between your sales team and your marketing team is also crucial to map success rates.

Constantly seek feedback

Whether in-store, on the phone or online, ask people how they found out about you, your products or a specific promotion. Create competitions online in order to harvest more data about how people got to your website or social media page.

Ultimately, the more you know about how people engage with your business, the more you can fine-tune your print and digital strategies to work together in achieving the same goals.

Does your company still use printed media in its marketing mix or are you all about digital these days? We’d be keen to get feedback so feel free to leave a comment below.

About the Author 

Chris Holloway is Managing Director of Manor Printing and has a wealth of experience in print and design, having seen the industry change beyond all recognition in twenty seven years since joining the company.

Based in Gloucestershire, Manor has been providing printing services to national and international businesses for forty two years and is a market leader in eco friendly printing practices. You can connect with them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or call them on 01453 843891.

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