Okay…there, I said it.
You’ll find no greater supporter of online content marketing than me, but marketers and agencies are talking up print for 2011. Yes, in the era of iPads and Apps, there is still a role for print.
Jeff Jarvis recently wrote about how media companies need to ignore print.
"The physical costs of production and distribution are killing. The marketing cost of subscriber acquisition and churn are hellish."
He’s right. And if you are a media company that relies on most of your revenue for print, you need to post Jeff’s article on your forehead.
But if you are a corporate marketer, there is an opportunity here. Here’s why:
1. Getting Attention: Have you noticed how many fewer magazines and print newsletters you are getting in the mail these days? I don’t know about you, but I definitely pay more attention to my print mail. There’s just less mail, so more attention is paid to each piece. Opportunity? Less traditional publishers are printing magazines today, which leaves opportunities for content marketers.
2. The Focus on Customer Retention: In a soon-to-be-released research study conducted by Junta42 and MarketingProfs, customer retention was the most important goal for marketers when it came to content marketing outside of basic brand awareness. Historically, the reason why custom print magazines and newsletters were developed by brands was for customer retention purposes. We have a winner!
3. No Audience Development Costs: Publishers expend huge amounts of time and money qualifying subscribers to send out their magazines. Many times, publishers need to invest multiple dollars per subscriber per year for auditing purposes (They send direct mail, they call, they call again so that the magazine can say they that their subscribers have requested the magazine. This is true for controlled (free) trade magazines).
So, let’s say, a publisher’s cost per subscriber per year is $2 and their distribution is one hundred thousand. That’s $200,000 per year for audience development.
That’s a cost that marketers don’t have to worry about. If marketers want to distribute a magazine to their customers, they just use their customer mailing list. That’s a big advantage.
4. What’s Old Is New Again: Social media, online content and iPad applications are all part of the marketing mix today. Still, what excites marketers and media buyers is what IS NOT being done. They want to do something different…something new. It’s hard to believe, but I’ve heard many marketers talk about leveraging print as something new in their marketing mix. Unbelievable.
5. Customers Still Need to Ask Questions: We love the Internet because buyers can find answers to almost anything. But where do we go to think about what questions we should be asking? I talked to a publisher last week who said this:
"The web is where we go to get answers but print is where we go to ask questions."
The print vehicle is still the best medium on the planet for thinking outside the box and asking yourself tough questions based on what you read. It’s lean back versus lean forward. If you want to challenge your customers (like Harvard Business Review does), print is a viable option.
6. Print Still Excites People: I talked to a journalist recently who said it’s harder and harder to get people to agree to an interview for an online story. But mention that it will be a printed feature and executives rearrange their schedule. The printed word is still perceived as more credible to many people than anything on the web. It goes to the old adage, "If someone invested enough to print and mail it, it must be important."
Whether that’s true or not, that is still a widely-held perception.
7. Unplug: More and more people are actively choosing the unplug, or disconnect themselves from digital media. I’m doing this more myself. I’m finding myself turning off my phone and email more to engage with printed material. A year ago I didn’t see this coming. Today, I relish the opportunities when I can’t be reached for comment.
If I’m right, many of your customers (especially busy executives) are feeling the same. Your print communication may be just what they need.
Online content marketing is definitely here to stay. Yes to social media, apps and the rest of it. But don’t forget that print can still play an important role in your overall content marketing mix.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read more of Joe at his blog.]