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Small businesses are always looking for ways to bring in new customers, but when you consider the plethora of marketing tools available it can be overwhelming for many business owners to use the power of all available channels for optimal growth. Keeping up with the demands of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram is a Herculean task these days, especially given the need to simultaneously maintain websites, blogs, and traditional marketing channels.

So much online discussion centers around social media marketing that it’s easy for small businesses to lose sight of tried-and-true marketing strategies – print, for example, continues to be one of the most effective marketing strategies on the planet. It’s good to be involved in social media, certainly; but don’t forget print, your best marketing ally.

There are a number of reasons to take advantage of print marketing for your small business, the most important being that it simply works. Consider the following print marketing statistics:

Many owners already know print marketing works. In fact, a Deluxe study found that small business owners rank business cards as the second most-effective customer engagement tool. The most effective tool was word-of-mouth advertising – something you can neither purchase nor directly control. That means print marketing is regarded as the most effective marketing method you can control and employ for your small business.

Consider how many of your competitors are throwing tons of marketing dollars into social media, search marketing, and mobile marketing. These are all good marketing channels, but none matches the power of print. While your competitors invest in these newer strategies, you can deliver tangible print marketing materials right to your customers without interference. Customers can touch, feel, and hold print marketing, while digital marketing oftentimes is confined to a screen that limits its ability to get creative and command customer attention.

Print marketing is more personal, and studies have shown how quality printing influences purchase decisions. When customers see a product on a screen, they have no way to gauge its quality. The same might hold true for a postcard; however, in the absence of the actual product customers tend to equate the quality of postcard printing to the quality of your brand, products, and services. In general, a heavy postcard printed on thick, glossy stock will outperform lesser-quality postcards and screen-based marketing. The sense of touch plays a powerful role in customer perception.

Print marketing is so powerful because customers read it, trust it, are influenced by it, and respond to it. Print allows you to reach customers in several different arenas, many of which your competitors are missing: at home, at work, in traffic, outdoors, and more.

Types of Print Marketing

As stated, print marketing allows you to reach customers just about anywhere. The following suggestions show several different print marketing materials and how you can leverage them to grow your business.

  • Business cards can be handed to everyone you meet, plus they can be strategically placed in areas your customers are known to frequent
  • Postcards, catalogs, brochures, and sales letters can promote targeted offers to mailing list segments for maximum response
  • Door hangers, posters, flyers, and banners can be distributed door-to-door and in customer hotspots as well as high traffic areas where you brand will receive maximum exposure – busy intersections, community bulletin boards, and sporting events, for example
  • Booklets, magnets, and calendars can serve as value-added takeaways or mailers your customers will keep around as handy references
  • Stickers can be placed in unique, creative areas other marketing materials can’t go: vehicles, public spaces, even restrooms and ceilings
  • Greeting cards can help build customer relationships and invite customers to take advantage of VIP-only offers
  • Sales sheets clarify product benefits and showcase your unique selling points for B2B companies

These are just a few examples of the ways you can harness the power of print marketing for your business. The bottom line is print marketing gives you options. You can choose the right medium on which to deliver your message, distribute that message to the right customers, and control what they see, when they see it, and what they should do next. Thus, you can tailor a print marketing campaign specific to your customer base: a mechanic’s marketing needs differ from those of a B2B software company, for example. Print allows your small business to explore a vast array of marketing opportunities, then fine-tune your marketing campaigns to perfectly match your business and customer base.

Another aspect of print marketing that can’t be ignored: the ability to track return on investment. You don’t have to rely on automatic tracking processes to analyze how well your campaign is performing, and you don’t have to learn complicated analytics systems to figure out whether or not you’re earning money from your print marketing. All you have to do is incorporate a coupon or coupon code, specific website URL, or custom phone number to track response. You also know exactly how much you’re investing before you go to print, so you can directly measure your ROI based on how much your print marketing campaigns gross less your initial investment.

What makes a good print marketing campaign

Knowing that print marketing can be your greatest ally is one thing; pulling off a successful print marketing campaign is another. The following offers tips for running a profitable direct-mail postcard marketing campaign.

  1. Start by determining the goal of your campaign: what, exactly, do you want to achieve and how will you measure campaign success? Set campaign milestones. For example, you might want to generate a five percent response rate and a 180 percent return on investment
  2. Next, identify your target customer by demographic data: age, income, gender, hobbies, purchasing habits, geographic location, etc. Buy or rent a mailing list comprised of customers who meet your demographic criteria (or use your own in-house list). Your entire campaign will be based on getting these people to help you achieve your goal
  3. Develop a special time-limited offer to promote to your customers; your offer should represent a great deal on something your recipients really want
  4. Write your sales copy and include a bold headline, list of benefits, and a compelling call to action. Incorporate a tracking mechanism, such as a coupon or coupon code
  5. Draft an attention-getting design that gets your copy noticed and helps persuade customers to take immediate action
  6. Print your postcard on premium paper stock and send it to your mailing list
  7. Track all responses and sales to determine your ultimate return on investment
  8. Compare your actual ROI versus your goals

If your campaign meets or exceeds your goals, you know you have a successful campaign that in all likelihood would yield similar results when sent to a similar mailing list. You also have a “control,” a postcard you know works, which lets you make minor tweaks and test different variations against it to see if you can improve your campaign performance. Keep in mind this is a simple, though effective, direct-mail postcard marketing strategy. A longer-term strategy might include several direct mailers, since repetition sells.

Direct-mail isn’t the only way to leverage the power of print marketing, of course; but it’s a good example of how print marketing can help you grow your business. In any case, it’s all about getting the right message to the right customers at the right time. Print marketing can help you do that more effectively than any other marketing channel.

One final tip: be sure to stay on the lookout for print marketing discounts. You can often print premium-quality postcards, business cards, flyers, and more at a fraction of the standard price just by checking for print marketing deals. Saving up to 50 percent off or more can have an enormous impact on your return, so it’s a good idea to plan your print marketing campaigns well in advance in order to take advantage of printing deals when they arise.

The next time you find your head spinning trying to determine whether you should invest in Facebook, Twitter, search marketing, and other digital marketing, first ask yourself whether you’ve fully taken advantage of print marketing opportunities. If the answer is “no,” then you’re missing out on potentially-lucrative strategies that will help you reach customers more efficiently without all the clutter of  competition. After all, what are the chances both you and a competitor are going to send a postcard to the exact same mailing list on the exact same day? Slim, to say the least.

Don’t turn your back on digital marketing – it can still be a viable tool – however, don’t forget about the power of print marketing, either. Learn how to harness it, and before long you’ll find print to be your best marketing ally.

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