How can print adapt to the digital age?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

The green movement, rising paper production costs and the migration to online marketing pose major challenges for print and production. Our experts offer strategies and predictions.

Pamela Girardin
President, Q2 Marketing
Twenty years of corporate marketing experience

It's too soon to write off the print industry, which has many advantages — including the touch and feel factor. When virtual trade shows became the rage in the late '90s, many said that trade shows were on their way out. However, trade shows survived because they offer tangible value. People like to demo products, meet company repre­sentatives and get a feel for the culture.

Still, the industry faces hurdles. The costs are rising and, while there are inexpensive options — such as digital printing — the quality is not the same. I think we will see a trend toward smaller, higher-quality runs. I envision printers morphing into boutique-like shops offering specialized services such as color, die cutting or high-output work such as six- to eight-color jobs.

Fulfillment houses have different issues. They need to look toward the future. The Web is the clear choice for dissemination of information. But com­panies, especially large ones, still need a way to reply to requests for more information.

Fulfillment houses should embrace technology and look for ways to move their business to the Web. They could migrate the customer base from a paper-based system to a white-labeled portal, which integrates seamlessly within a corporate site, can automati­cally route the requested e-mail as well as input the data into the sales data­base. Given the public's enthusiasm for the Internet, this should be considered.

Jeremy Knauff
CEO of Wildfire Marketing Group
More than nine years of experience in marketing

Since the days of the Gutenberg press, printing has evolved, which makes me optimistic about the sector's ability to survive modern challenges.

Technology has reduced the need for print jobs. Web sites and e-mail do what used to be accomplished by brochures and direct mail. Further­more, online advertising offers equal exposure to print advertising with the added benefit of being highly trackable. Nevertheless, there are tremendous opportunities for printing.

I see marketers using print in differ­ent ways. Take advantage of short-run digital and variable data printing to personalize their message. Print market­ing materials tailored for specific clients — people love tangible products geared specifically to their business.

Don't just track your e-mail market­ing campaign. Use direct mail to follow up with those that clicked through to your Web site. Thank them for visiting and offer them a special promotion.

Print your catalogs in bulk, but per­sonalize the cover with a few items that particular customers may be interested in based on their buying history. When they purchase a product, send them a postcard recommending a related product. These strategies will produce greater ROI and less waste.

The printing industry is not dying — it is simply adapting to the new world of marketing. It's up to innovative companies, designers and vendors to lead the revolution.


Adapting is the key to both responses: Girardin suggests that printers and fulfillment houses use digital to streamline order process and avail­ability; while Knauff takes a broader approach and tackles the issue of print's role in integrated marketing. His suggestions to tie print marketing and digital together embrace the innovative nature of the industry.

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