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The battle cry of the online marketer is “Print is Dead!” and those who focus all their efforts online do so because they believe that the advantages of digital advertising vastly outweigh those of print media. And in some respects they’re right: there are lots of great things about digital marketing, and there are lots of ways in which online advertising outshines what you can achieve in print. But does that automatically mean print is useless? Absolutely not; print marketing is far from a dead industry, and the truth is, for the innovative marketer, print is still an extremely effective way of reaching people.

The key to making print marketing work is to play to its strengths. Instead of thinking of print as an outdated and inferior cousin to online advertising, get back in touch with what makes print so effective, and use it to your advantage.

Target Consumers Effectively with Direct Mail

Despite the insistence of those vocal online-only marketers, print is very much alive, and you don’t have to look far to see the proof of this: overall, retailers spend a total of 43% of their advertising budgets on direct mail. Why? Because it works, particularly in terms of its ability to target people in discrete geographical areas.

In comparison to email marketing, direct mail does seem like it’s a somewhat out-dated strategy, but there’s no denying that it’s effective when it’s deployed in the right way. And while critics of direct mail point to its expense and lack of customisation options, the situation isn’t anywhere near as dire as they say. Print marketing is certainly more expensive than email marketing, but the long-term benefits of a good, sharp burst of print advertising can make it very worthwhile. And it is possible to customise printed advertising material using a process called variable data printing, in which text and even graphics can be altered for individual printed pieces, without slowing the printing process.

There are some easy ways to make direct mail simple and more cost-effective:

  • Focus on design as much as content, and eliminate clutter. Keep text clean and minimal, including only essentials such as the call to action.
  • Include a coupon, money-back offer, or similar strategy to add value to the mailing and provide an inducement to act.
  • Improve ROI: find out if your printer offers deals for mailing. Some offer reduced rates for bulk mailing, which can reduce your associated costs.

Customise Your Printed Media

Most people remember more of what they see and feel than of what they hear. That in itself gives printed media a leg-up, because you’re distributing printed objects that people can both see and feel. You can make your printed media even more powerful by adding visual interest with unusual shapes and textures.

For example, business cards are still in heavy use, but for some reason the development of the business card never gone much further than the standard white card with plain text. The occasional card that’s different from the gold standard really does stand out, so this can be a good route to choose for creating unique printed media. Business cards that are shaped slightly differently (but not too different, since they still have to fit in all the usual places business cards get stored), or which have an eye-catching design, or are printed on textured cardstock, can really stand out.

Applying the same principles to direct mail and other forms of print media can be similarly effective. With this approach, you also have plenty of scope for developing designs that work well with your brand identity, and are aesthetically pleasing and interesting, as well as functional.

Add Real Value with Print Newsletters

Most organisations that are working to develop an online presence opt for a weekly or monthly newsletter, but few provide any meaningful content or make a real effort to add value. They’re throw-aways, and customers perceive them as such.

There’s nothing special about receiving email any more; the pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction and these days, getting print newsletters is a much more unusual occurrence. That means there’s plenty of opportunity there to make an impact by publishing a print newsletter, especially one that adds real value. For offline purposes, a quarterly or monthly newsletter is fit-for-purpose; any less and it’s too difficult to keep customers engaged, any more and the frequency makes the occurrence less special.

The key with print newsletters is to avoid time-sensitive content. Online it’s all about viral this-and-that, being among the first to share popular content, but print publications don’t work this way. Instead focus on providing valuable content that’s relevant, but doesn’t try to keep up with the web. Add value with special offers, coupons, and the like, along with a call to action.

Integrate Online and Print Marketing

Social media and print are both powerful forms of advertising, and of course they’re both more powerful when used in conjunction with one another, rather than separately. Any advertising campaign in which both online and print marketing are deployed should be designed carefully to ensure that each of these two approaches complement and strengthen one another. This kind of approach is already apparent in many situations; for example, when TV shows encourage viewers to tweet about the show by displaying hashtags onscreen, and radio advertising encourages listeners to follow brands on Facebook or Twitter.

The same approach can work equally well when combining print and social media: these days, a business card isn’t complete without an address for a URL profile, and direct mail and other forms of printed advertising typically include company website addresses and Facebook pages. QR codes can be another highly useful addition to printed media: all the consumer has to do is use their smartphone to scan the code, and their browser is instantly pointed to whatever web page the code is customised for. Used correctly it’s a powerful way to integrate direct mail and online shopping, and many brands have used this strategy as an effective tool for raising awareness.

Print Marketing is Alive and Thriving

Far from being dead, print is alive and kicking, but it’s a form of advertising that many companies of all sizes are largely ignoring. That, of course, means that people who do get into print marketing can take advantage of the fact that it’s currently underused, and while huge numbers of companies are competing for attention online, the door is open to effectively reach people with print.