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Is Print Marketing Obsolete?

So don't throw print marketing into the round file! I believe there are three very strong reasons to include brochures, postcards, newsletters, print ads and direct mail in your marketing plan.

There’s been a recent flurry of debate among marketers about the viability of print in an age when it’s just as easy to reach customers electronically. My clients have approached me with this question as well and my answer is consistent: just because one method is easier, doesn’t mean it should be the only method you use. Whether you’re a small businesses or an international corporation, your goal is to reach your target base in the most efficient and effective way possible. With numerous marketing venues available to you, I think it’s imperative that you consider all your options.

So don’t throw print marketing into the round file! I believe there are three very strong reasons to include brochures, postcards, newsletters, print ads and direct mail in your marketing plan.

At our most basic, humans are touchy-feely. That is to say, we like to experience the world through as many senses as possible. In the same way that clicking through interactive websites is satisfying on a visual level, so is holding and (forgive me) fondling a well-crafted, attractive piece of material. Sure there’s a ton of stuff we dump, but the newsletter or brochure or postcard that stands out – that looks good and subconsciously feels good in our hands – is the one that peaks our interest and sticks in our mind.

Print lasts longer. Speaking of the things that peak our interest, those are the items that are more likely to be held onto for future reference…maybe even tacked up on a workspace. Websites are out of sight as soon as you click elsewhere, even if you bookmark them. But a postcard or brochure with a catchy tagline and creative logo just might make it into the well-coveted ranks of a corkboard. And that position has the same effect as a magical elf constantly whispering your name in your customer’s ear. When it comes to your product, service or industry, you’ll be the first name that comes to mind.

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More ways to reach out and touch your customer. Appropriately, of course. You may have a brilliant website, an informative e-newsletter; you might blog and tweet and network online as vigorously as a teenager texts during class. But the fact is, reaching your customers in as many unique ways as possible can do nothing but make you more familiar to them. In an ironic way, print has become more unique than anything online. When’s the last time you got a letter in the mail from a friend or loved one? Wouldn’t it make an impact if you did? Same thing with print marketing. Print makes it personal; it quite literally puts your business in their hands. Your company can get lost in a churning sea of tweets and conversation streams, but print materials simply say, “Hey, remember me? This is how I can help you. Keep me in mind.”

And remember: then they tack that postcard or brochure or business card up next to their computer and see it every single day.

So my personal conclusion? The relationship between print and electronic marketing materials is expanding daily. What seems to be changing is the way in which we use print. Rather than mass mailings, businesses are creating more targeted and personalized materials with financially sound fees. There are affordable printers and materials out there. Do your research and you’ll probably even find plenty of green printing options.

Am I biased? Well…

As a writer and a creative person, I appreciate the unique experience of holding something in my hands, be it a beautifully crafted brochure, a pinecone or peanut M&Ms. I’m the voracious reader who will never get a kindle because I like the feel of the paper and the act of turning pages (and the vacation from the computer screen). I throw out as much junk mail as my neighbor without a second thought, but a newsletter, postcard or brochure with compelling graphics and copy will always give me pause – especially if I recognize the company. So maybe I am biased…

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On the other hand, my clients – small businesses and large corporations alike – request copy for a variety of print and electronic marketing materials, from websites and email campaigns to brochures and direct mail pieces. So it seems to me that electronic marketing is not replacing print marketing; rather, it’s just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.