Print_Marketing_body.jpgby Erin O’Donnell.

The appeal of online marketing is undeniable: it’s a great way to target your small business’s message to a specific market, or track responses with sophisticated metrics. But marketing experts say there is still a great deal of value in running a print campaign.

Digital marketing is just one piece of an integrated marketing strategy, says marketing consultant Linda Prophal, owner of Strategic Communications in Chippewa Falls, Wis., and author of Direct Mail in the Digital Age.

“I think it’s important for business owners to understand their market from an accurate point of view versus assumptions,” Prophal says. “That’s what I see happening a lot. They think everybody’s all about the Internet, but that isn’t necessarily true. Think carefully about who you’re trying to reach.” Studies such as the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update can provide real insight on who is using social media, and how.

Who prefers print?

If you’re trying to reach adults age 35 and up, print ads and direct mail are an essential part of any campaign, Prophal says. They’re the ones most likely to respond to a message they see in print, as are people who are active in their communities and civic life. Trade journals are also an effective way for business-to-business firms to reach niche markets, Prophal says.

Less competition in the mailbox

Prophal says although direct mail is effective, there is less of it circulating. That’s an opportunity for your business to stand out. Surprisingly, it’s also an effective way to reach teens and young adults. Research by the U.S. Postal Service and the Direct Marketing Association found that people age 24 and younger respond well to direct mail because they simply don’t get much mail at all.

Print_Marketing_PQ.jpgBenefits of being hyperlocal

Local merchants and service providers can generate good results by marketing down to the neighborhood level with print ads and mail, says Liam Brown of Sidestep Coaching, based in Las Vegas. Consider a restaurant having a grand opening. Would a social media campaign be more effective, Brown asks, or a postcard invitation to all homes within a 10-block radius? Direct mail is still ideal for events and sales.

Print is trackable

Tracking response rates is not unique to digital marketing, Prophal says. Direct marketers love coupons for that very reason—send one out, and see how many come back. Today, she says, it’s important to integrate print messages with a call to action that drives customers online. Include a unique email address, a website landing page, or even a trackable phone number.

Finally, Prophal says, take the long view when it comes to dividing up your marketing dollars. “It’s not the initial cost of that placement that you should focus on,” she says, “but the cost per result.”

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