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Print marketing vs. online: Where should you spend your marketing budget?

digital marketing vs print marketingIf you represent an SME – whether you’re a sole trader working alone or in a team – and need to raise its profile, you’re probably keen to explore which marketing methods would give you the best return on your investment (ROI).

Should you be building your online presence? Focusing on social media? Or should you run a direct mailing print campaign? Would your budget be best spent on a slick website or a glossy brochure?

No two businesses are the same

Before you decide where to spend your marketing budget, it’s important to get a good handle on who you want your marketing to reach and what you want it to achieve. Do you need to attract local people to a local event? Do you run a bricks and mortar business, so want to encourage local footfall, or can people use your products or services regardless of their location?

Are your customers comfortable with the internet or are they more likely to read a leaflet? Will they use a QR code to get more information or will it feel like a technology too far?

Knowing who your marketing is aimed at and how you want people to act will help you narrow down your marketing possibilities. Do you want them to sign up to your mailing list? If so, an online campaign will give them an immediate way to leave their details in return for a free download or similar. Or do you want people to pick up the phone and make an appointment? In that case, a leaflet featuring an exclusive offer may be more effective.

Whatever you decide, it’s absolutely imperative that you monitor the outcomes of your marketing. This will stop you from having to make a best guess about where to place your attention and arm you with information to make future marketing decisions. Useful numbers include your conversion rate (the percentage of people who complete the goal you’ve set for your marketing), cost per new customer, and ROI.

The benefits of online marketing

There’s lots to recommend online marketing. It enables you to potentially reach a wider audience and build a community of loyal fans. Changes to campaigns can often be made quickly, and easily accessible data lets you monitor the success of your activities. Online marketing reaches across devices, geographical borders, social background, and increasingly across generations.

But that doesn’t mean you should dismiss print marketing.

Is print marketing dead?

Although it’s always been fairly high up on the list of effective marketing avenues, I’ve heard a few claims recently that print marketing is dead, especially for small businesses who don’t have a great deal of funds. I disagree; I don’t think it’s dead, just different.

Print marketing used to be where new businesses automatically turned their attention. It was almost that an SME wasn’t official until it had a brochure or leaflets to be delivered door to door, or headed stationery and compliments slips. Then email and the internet came along and suddenly snail mail was old news. The tide is changing again as people’s inboxes become noisier and overwhelming, the pendulum is beginning to swing back to print marketing as a way to stand out from the crowd.

Despite the ease of online and email marketing, print marketing campaigns still tend to attract higher conversion rates than online campaigns. This is possibly because a leaflet or flyer through the door is harder to ignore than one of several hundred emails a day.

The best of both worlds

Personally, I like balance and being able to draw on the advantages of both print and online marketing, which, in my opinion, can and should work hand in hand to give potential customers a consistent brand experience.

Print marketing can add a three-dimensional, tactile element to the customer experience or act as a gateway into the online world. For example, you can add a QR code to your print marketing to link your brochure to your website, or incorporate augmented reality into your print design. This is a great way of blurring the line between print and online (if you don’t like how QR codes look, you could try SnapTag® instead). You can even just add URLs on each page to refer people back to your website if they want to read more.

Print marketing is potentially more flexible than online marketing as a way to make an impression. You can opt for a classic format such as an A4 brochure or gatefold leaflet, or produce a door hanger, welcome pack, billboard, or go for something fun and interactive. We found some great examples of innovative direct mail campaigns over on the Design Shack blog.

By giving the customer something to physically handle and interact with, you place yourself directly in their consciousness. The task then is to create an impactful message that stops your leaflet being thrown straight in the bin. Again, this comes down to understanding who your customers are and what motivates them. What keeps them awake at night? How can your products or services solve their problem or make their life look better? What emotions are driving their decision?

Expert advice

Even with a limited budget, it’s a good idea to speak to an experienced marketing company or professional about your marketing spend. Because they will have worked with lots of different companies, they will have a bigger picture understanding of how you can use print and/or online marketing to attract new and repeat business. They will also have links with other suppliers to help you drill down to the right message or reduce your print costs.

If you would like some advice about whether print marketing would work for your business, or to discuss your online marketing campaign, give us a call at Grafixbiz on 01733 308198.

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