Enhancing the value of print

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Today's marketing strategists are confronting a dizzying array of channels and communication vehicles as they work to disseminate their company's message, heighten brand awareness and foster lead generation. More and more, they are turning to the Internet and to Web analytics to target their customer base and generate data about consumer preferences. But does the increased popularity of online marketing tools portend the end of the print era?

It's a black-and-white matter, and the answer is decidedly "no." In fact, incorporating print into the marketing mix these days is proving to add greater value than it ever has.

Print is here to stay
For starters, direct mail still hasn't relinquished its colorful hold on our mailboxes and forms an essential part of the communications mix. A recent Universal McCann forecast shows that direct mail budgets in 2007 will grow by 7.5 percent to top $64.4 billion. Indelible, palpable, three-dimensional and mobile, print has a proven track record for branding effectiveness and CRM. In fact, a recent Pitney Bowes/International Communications Research study found that 73 percent of consumers prefer to receive product announcements and offers via US mail from companies they do business with.

But these factors do not negate the heated competition that today's printers face from other marketing media. To achieve competitive differentiation, print shops worldwide are forging strategic relationships and investing in dynamic processes and products that offer a high-quality, easy-to-use and cost-effective way to print so that they can continue to offer results-driven marketing programs.

The importance of integrated marketing
Printers at the helm of their customers' direct mail campaigns are also recognizing that increased competition from the Internet and other channels does not imply increased antagonism. According to "Mail and the Internet," a 2006 USPS study, consumers who interact with brands over multiple channels spend 30 percent more than those who shop using a single media channel. Thus, the "if you can't beat æem, join æem" mentality is starting to prevail, with print and other channels aligning to form integrated marketing campaigns.

By leveraging the benefits inherent to each medium in a cooperative and holistic strategy, marketers can generate maximum results. For example, bombarded by offers to consolidate their debt and make them heirs to a Nigerian fortune, consumers often trash e-mails from sources they don't recognize. However, the opportunity exists to employ direct mail as a best practice to initiate an e-mail dialog - which subsequently becomes faster, cheaper and more interactive.

To secure a vital role in mixed media marketing campaigns, print shops still face unique challenges. Namely, how do they balance their own budgetary constraints with consumer desire for high-quality, on-demand printing? Printers who incorporate digital offset technology to deliver jobs at lightning-speed turnaround times find they are able to deliver the desired quality and quantity and generate maximum impact in their multichannel campaigns.

At Presstek, we've seen firsthand the benefits of a multimedia approach - something we utilize extensively when we hold regional open houses. To promote the events and highlight the benefits of our product line, we combine direct mail and print advertising with Web and e-mail marketing to form a targeted campaign aimed at potential customers in each localized region. Since implementing this multifaceted approach, we have noted a significant bump in attendance, which results in additional sales leads.

Other marketers are achieving channel integration through a variety of creative strategies - incorporating "Click here for our print catalog" buttons on Web campaigns, including Internet-enabled DVDs with direct mail materials, and capitalizing on the power of personalized messages.

Consumers are less apt to toss mail in a physical or electronic recycle bin when it's actually directed to them - which accounts for the success of variable data printing and electronic mail merge. Personalized URLs (PURLs) take these tools to the next generation, with a unique Web address printed on each piece of direct mail, directing consumers to a personalized site. Not only do PURLs have the wow factor but they also facilitate tracking of lead generation.

Cross-channel communication provides a 360-degree view of the customer. For example, PURL hits, calls received, mail replies. By logging in both online and offline results, marketers can assemble a more complete picture of their customer base and receive greater insight into consumer preferences.

Marketers also see improved response rates with this tactic. With marketing strategies tailored to consumer preferences - and employed across a variety of channels - organizations report increased response rates and further success.

Multichannel efforts improve brand consistency. Including a company's URL and phone number on postcards, using its Web site to facilitate requests for hard-copy info, and allowing automated phone messages to direct queries to the Web all afford companies greater control over the dissemination of their brand name and messaging.

One-to-one customer relationships flourish in this environment. Using data accrued from mixed-media marketing campaigns, organizations can respond to customers via their medium of choice to foster a more personalized relationship.

Just as two heads are better than one, so also do marketing campaigns mounted on multiple fronts trump single-medium efforts. In the years to come, print shops and direct mail will - through cooperation and integration - further "ink" in their role as a vital part of the overall communications mix

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