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May 21, 2007
Blog Post

Print vs Online -- Should Your Marketing Have the Same Content Online and Off?

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Content Director

Back in 2001, when "multichannel marketing" became a buzzword, most marketers' initial reactions were, "I'll put the exact same content offline and on."

However, offline quickly had less content. For example, an ecommerce site with 50,000 SKUs won't put everything in their print catalog or brick-and-mortar stores. Or a technology firm with vastly detailed specs and user community Q&A features might not reprint everything in a binder.

So, the Web ended up being the center of marketing materials for many marketers. Printed materials became a spin-off. You'd take a slice of the mother ship website and print it up for real-world meetings and mailings.

Which, in turn, at least in my life, is leading to a lot of customer disgust.

That's right -- disgust.

Three times in the past week, I've heard different people around me exclaim with pure annoyance at printed materials they received in the mail from a site they had visited. "There's nothing new here. It's the same stuff that I saw on the site!" my stepdaughter scoffed as she tossed aside a glossy tourism brochure from a city in California.

"Well, this is disappointing. I was hoping for more details than they had on the site. I want to search for information online and read details in print," said my father about a brochure for a consumer electronics device he was considering purchasing.

"Where's the beef? This is fluff," said my next-door neighbor holding up a sunroom contractor's booklet that she had requested online.

So, I'm wondering if we all need to re-examine our notions of what content belongs online and what is more suited for print materials. You don't want consumers to get all excited by your site and then fall flat on follow-through.

Print materials used to be the first outreach step for many companies. You would do a mailer to raise interest. Nowadays, especially with the new US postage hike, print is sometimes too expensive for pure prospecting.

The Web has become more of a prospecting tool, and print is what you send to those candidates who have leapt through the first qualification hoop. If you view your print campaigns that way, what does it mean to the type of voice and materials included?

Example: If you're sending a print catalog to online requestors, how fat should that catalog be?

My favorite example of a company that handles the new online-vs-offline content mix really well is from this year's MarketingSherpa Email Awards. What's cool is that it's a campaign from a traditional offline company called Basement Systems.

They used to send prospects nothing more than a big fat package in the mail. Now they have transitioned to use the Web for what works best on the Web -- especially demonstration videos -- and to use postal mail for what works best in print -- in this case, a book about basements.

In fact, I think a printed book plus Web content may well be the killer combo of the 21st century. Anyway, here’s the link to their awards entry if you hadn't seen it already:

Has your organization tested any interesting takes on Web-plus-print campaigns? Let me know, and maybe we'll write about you. Just post a comment below and we'll be in touch.


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Comments about this Blog Entry

May 21, 2007 - Cody of LogicMaze says:
I would love to hear a valid argument or a specific instance where all of the info shouldn't just be available online, and the Marketeer shouldn't be gravitating towards eliminating the practice of following up with costly print materials. (Please note I said gravitating and not immediately eliminating)

Mar 01, 2012 - Jess Szymko of JR Shooter says:
Its amazing that so many people can have the same dispute over and over again. Print vs. on-line and social media, what is better and what is the difference? I am a print broker and I have been looking for what should be on my website that would grab peoples attention, what to tweet about to drive them to my website and what to send out in the mail. I am unsure of how many people still do this, but in order to make cold calls I send packages in the mail and I follow up with phone calls. It is amazing just how many people tell me that I am wasting my time and doing it the archaic way, but who can argue with results. I may send out 200 packages a month, which I can not argue with you, is most definitely costly, however if I get 1-2 jobs out of it, my cost of sending the package is usually covered and I have the potential for repeat business. I know there will always be people like me, and I am young, who still like to hold the paper in their hands. There is just something about having a brochure handed to you as opposed to being told to go on-line and having to print the information off myself. As for different information. I think it would be hard to take certain information off the internet and only have them in brochures. But maybe putting incentives in the brochure, or different images or just something to entice the customer could help. I think it is all a mystery at this point and all businesses have to figure this out together.

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