Friday, April 13, 2012

Does Print Still Have a Role to Play in the Online World?

With the constant drumbeat of articles and posts discussing how the Internet has affected so many aspects of businesses large and small, it's been hard to argue any other points of view and make a real dent in the conversation. However, it's important to look objectively at all sides in order to come to the best conclusion of what works best for your particular business model.

There's no arguing that the Internet and social media have an important role to play for most businesses that rely on engaging with their customers to drive sales and revenue. The danger is believing that a purely online strategy is the only way forward for business success. That is simply not the case. Customers prefer to receive messages in ways that they enjoy and find most useful. Some prefer the physical piece in their hand while others consume messages on their computer screen or mobile device.

The wise business will not guess and force feed their audience in ways that might alienate them. The smartest businesses will use all available media in practical ways to educate their target audience. What is the best way to do this? You need to cross-promote.

Cross-promotion involves finding a balance between your online and print campaigns. For example, when you send out a postcard or other printed item, make sure to include information about your website and how it can help make a customer's life easier.

When running a marketing campaign, utilize both print and online media to get the most powerful effect. Don't neglect either if you want successful results. When you use consistent messages across all media, you will create a consistent front to deliver your audience to the exact place you want them to be, whether a physical storefront or your online portals.

There are many ways to marry the online world with the physical world. Here are two examples:

Mobile Barcodes or QR Codes â€" These funny-looking codes are becoming more mainstream and accepted in North America with each passing month. QR codes (or Quick Response codes) allow instant access to information via smart phones (iPhones, Droids, etc.). That information may include videos, contact information, product brochures...the possibilities are endless. The QR codes can be printed on postcards, brochures, business cards, signs, posters, vehicles, and even billboards.

PURLs â€" Another creative way to marry the two worlds is through PURLs. PURLs are personalized URLs that can deliver highly targeted messages to each recipient. The recipient receives a unique web address, typically with their name as part of the URL, delivered via a printed item like a postcard. The destination website can be used to collect information and deliver incentives for the recipient to further engage with your business on a much more direct level.

Breaking through all the clutter (whether in the online world or in the physical mailbox of your targeted recipient) requires the same strategy: creativity. Your marketing messages must be a little unique in order to stand out. Using print to drive your online and social media presence ensures that your messages will reach your customers and prospects in ways they want to be reached. It is said that only 50% of all advertising is effective; the problem is figuring out which 50%! When you cross-promote, you take some of this guesswork out of the equation.

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