Outside the Echo Chamber; What They’re Really Saying About Print

In any industry, we tend to spend a lot of time in our own world – big or little as it may be. We read a lot of opinions from industry experts, published in industry journals, full of industry-based studies. All good things, to be sure. But every once in a while it’s refreshing to see something noteworthy break through the industry barrier and hit the mainstream press.

This week’s breakout article is from Shaun Buck, a member of Inc.’s Entrepreneur Organization. And he writes in Inc. about the powerful advantage of tactile marketing in the digital age.

“When the Sears catalog was first mailed out in 1888, people thought it would be the end of retail shopping, too. But as we know, that’s not how it went,” he writes, drawing a parallel to the breathless way the media tends to look at e-tail figures.

Buck points out a somewhat surprising figure:  “Cumulative online purchases in 2016 only accounted for approximately 8% of all sales made in the U.S. While that’s not an insignificant percentage, retail stores aren’t going the way of the dinosaur in the next 24 months, either.”

If retailers are getting 8% of their sales from digital, it sure seems like a good idea to re-establish the direct marketing methods that have been proven to drive traffic to brick and mortar businesses – like direct mail.

“The more time someone spends with your marketing tools or salesperson, the more likely they are to buy from you or refer business to you,” Buck writes. “When done correctly, a print newsletter gives you non-threatening media that you own and control–media that allows both prospects and customers to spend an extended period of time with you, your brand, and your products or services. In today’s world, getting someone’s attention is the most valuable commodity there is.”

There it is again, the idea of the importance of the attention-based economy. As a whole, our online attention spans are dwindling. And consumers are turning back to traditional media for the longer read and the deeper engagement.

“We’re seeing in publishing that people are going back to books rather than reading Kindles because you retain the information much better in print,” The Times editor John Witherow is quoted as saying last year. “The Times print sales are actually up year on year. The organisation is in profit for virtually the first time in 230 years. And it’s a very positive message – people are really interested in reading.”

The truth of the matter is that people pay more attention to print ads now than they did 10 years ago. Not only that but, as Buck notes, print is the place to build relationships based on trust. He feels the “print vs. digital” approach is basically wrong-headed, and a construct of media outlets looking for eyeballs – attention.

“If you want to know the truth–and if you really want to grow your company–your marketing strategy should include a mix of both print and digital marketing,” he notes. “The truth is, smart marketers play in both online and offline worlds to grow their business and their bottom line.”

It’s a multi-channel world, full of omnichannel customers, and the brand that understands print’s unique place in the mix will capture attention in a deeply meaningful way.