With all the emphasis placed on digital marketing these days, many small businesses have reduced or even suspended their reliance on printed marketing collateral altogether. But, as a senior-level marketing professional, consultant and brand evangelist for over 20 years, and having worked on agency projects for Procter & Gamble, Nestlé Carnation and Kraft, in addition to serving many small business and nonprofit clients, I’ve discovered three reasons why you should consider using print materials to market your small business along with your digital efforts.
1. 20 percent of American adults do not use the Internet. According to a study conducted in April, 2012 by the Pew Internet Project, one in five American adults does not use the Internet. Many of the people in this group represent senior citizens (47 percent do not use the Internet or e-mail), adults living with a disability, adults with less than a high school education, and those living in households earning less than $30,000 per year.
If your business targets high net-worth, middle-aged consumers, then you may not have to be concerned. However, if your products or services are geared to markets that fall within this group, digital marketing alone may not be achieving the best results.
2. Young people find it harder to remember what they read onscreen. Even young people find it difficult to absorb what they read onscreen versus hard copy. According to preliminary research done by Professor Naomi Baron, professor of linguistics and executive director for the Center for Teaching, Research and Learning at American University, “Students complain that they can’t focus as well (and don’t remember as much) when they read onscreen as when they read in hard copy.”
In this same study, students also report they are overwhelmingly more likely to be multitasking when they read onscreen than when they read in hard copy. This finding is confirmed by a recent study from The Boston Consulting Group which states that U.S. Millennials (those between 16 and 34) “are much more likely to multitask while online, constantly moving across platforms—mobile, social, PC and gaming.”
If your business targets this age group, it may be challenging to attract their attention online long enough to get your message through.
3. Online scanning has replaced online reading. In his presentation entitled, “What's wrong with online reading,” Randy Connolly, associate professor of Computer Science and Information Systems at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, reports that 25 percent of all Web pages are displayed for less than four seconds and 52 percent of all visits are shorter than 10 seconds.
What’s even more telling is that for most Web pages with an average amount of text (600 words), users will only take the time to read at best about a quarter, or, more likely, a fifth of the text. In addition, In his presentation, Connolly states “we have fooled ourselves into thinking we are reading when consuming Web pages, in reality, we most often are not reading, and are often blithely unaware that we are not reading.”
Many small businesses have been using content marketing as a low-cost way to build their Web sites’ search engine optimization and increase inbound leads, as well as permission-based e-mail marketing. Yet, this data indicates that your readers may have a lower retention rate of the content you so painstakingly write to attract them.
The Value of Print?
Rather than abandon digital marketing tactics, you may want to consider reaching your target audience with a multichannel marketing strategy that includes print marketing collateral, especially in light of the behaviors of your particular target group. Using business cards, brochures, newsletters, direct mail, handwritten branded postcards and other creative attention-getters can give your small business a way to stand out.
After all, your prospects and customers’ snail mail boxes receive everything you send to them. There are no spam folders or filters to block your marketing messages. With a little creativity, print collateral can be cost efficient as well as attract attention as a complement to what your business is doing online.
OPEN Cardmember Elaine Fogel is a speaker, writer, marketing consultant, and brand evangelist whose agency, Solutions Marketing & Consulting works with small businesses and nonprofit organizations across North America.