Why Print is Not Dead For Entrepreneurs

When television was invented, people called it the death of movies. Why would anyone go to a theater when moving, talking pictures were available in the home?  Electronic books were called the death of print books.

Likewise, in a world of e-mail newsletters, podcasts, tweets, and white-board videos, print is forgotten.  People either find it old-fashioned, an indication of lack of technical prowess, or they just brush it under the rug.  But television didn’t put a dent in movies, and publishers are still paying top dollar advances for novels and other books and there are still million-sellers in print.  In short, various technologies have always lived side-by-side.

So let’s look at how print is still alive and an important part of your business.

To define terms, the print modes I’m referring to include stand-alone inserts, mailings in envelopes, business cards, flyers and brochures.

Here are some good points about them:

Stand Alone and Stand Apart

How many times have you rocketed through your e-mail inbox deleting and deleting?  You just became the negative component of conversion statistics for all the businesses sending you e-mails, and you didn’t give it a thought.

Now, think of physical mail.  It used to be called “junk mail,” but notice you don’t hear that phrase as often now.  That’s due to the fact that there just isn’t as much of it anymore.  I know I personally am a bit intrigued by actual shiny paper and old-fashioned text on a page when it comes to me in the mail.  Even if someone rifles through their mail looking for what to chuck, they physically look at it.  That’s like opening your e-mail rather than deleting it unopened.

There’s just a lot of clutter online.  It used to be that people were irritated by going to their physical mail boxes and dragging in too much in the way of circulars, etc.  Now people are either irritated with too many links across their social media or aren’t irritated but just can’t keep up.  It’s easy to keep up with print.

A 2014 study found that 80 percent of folks read all print newsletters and magazines from companies with whom they were already familiar.  Now these are just newsletters, not coupons, flyers, etc., but it’s a dramatic stat.

Print Happens to Work

There’s theory and there are ideas as to what may or may not be good about print, and then there’s the bottom line.  Here’s something you can’t ignore.  Writing for Entrepreneur.com, Kim Walsh-Phillips, founder and CEO of Elite Digital Group, gives us an example of one marketer she knows.  With inserts placed into a community newspaper, this businessperson increased his ROI to 11:3.  Walsh-Phillips says, “He can’t match that ROI from any online or social media, despite being smart about it.”

Don’t Forget Business Cards

Print doesn’t have to be traditional marketing materials or newsletters.  There’s also the tried-and-true business card.  Not only should you not forget about this quaint but key form of communication, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking of them as being just for meeting new people in person.

Business cards can be great passengers on mailed material like flyers or newsletters.  That’s a matter of putting your contact information in your potential customers’ hands rather than relying on people navigating to your web site.  These days, you can easily design and make business cards that include QR codes.  So if 80% of recipients on your list look at your material, if they can use their smart phone to get to your site or to wherever or whatever your code leads to, you should be in good shape.

Rather than sticking the card in there somewhere, staple in to the front of the mailing.  And if the bones in your hand are afraid of repetitive stapling, invest just a bit in a heavy duty stapler.   The whole idea is to use professional services when necessary, as in paying a printer to produce things that are hard to print yourself, but to do things yourself as much as possible as a way of remaining frugal and keeping your “I” low enough that the “RO” won’t have to be high be effective.

Making Good Print Materials

What makes print materials effective?  How are you most likely to get readership?  Let’s look at a few good tips.

Plenty of Color

One of the things people love about print materials is nice vibrant color.  Now, you can of course incorporate jpegs into e-mail newsletters.  But that’s pixels on a screen, something to scroll to, something that often doesn’t fit in someone’s e-mail window, etc.


Print images are different.  They have a realness to them that is only intensifies by the fact that we all spend too much time peering at screens.  What color (and it can be colorful text or designs and not images per se) does is make print what it is—remind people of the specialness of the print medium.

Don’t Oversell

So, we all got exposed to a lot of admonitions concerning content marketing: advertising is dead, no one likes traditional advertising, give people useful info they want.  If that is the way you’re going online, do the same in print.  It’s a mistake to think that if you’re sending out a mailer it has to be just the big sale coming up or a straight-ahead advertisement.

Even if you’re doing standalone circulars, 5×8 flyers, etc., you can give useful info that will make your users appreciate what you do.  Why not design a little how-to on something related to your business, print it out on colored card stock (maybe with a QR code), staple that business card to it, and get it out.  The other side can be for specials, product plugs, etc.

Don’t Forget Anything

Sometimes we get into the rut of thinking that any info our users want will always be available to them—“they can just google it.”  So when making online material, we don’t worry too much about including all relevant information about our product lines, etc., since it must be floating around out there somewhere.  That isn’t going to fly in the mailing environment.

I’ve seen circulars that left off phone numbers and addresses of businesses.  Business hours are pretty important too.  Not all of that info is on the attached business card, right?  Even if you plan to QR someone into your web page, include all the vital stats, since some people won’t notice the QR code, and yes, some people don’t have their smart phone handy.  Proofread carefully before going to the final edit.

Frugality Through Brevity

One of the anxieties some entrepreneurs may have about print marketing is the cost.  Isn’t it expensive to go through printers and pay for glossy paper?  How much does a five-page newsletter cost?  One of the best ways to cut on costs for this sort of marketing is to keep things short.  Now, I’d argue this is important for the sake of the reader (and her or his attention span), but it’s a money issue too.  Don’t do a five-page newsletter.  Go front and back and that’s it.  Look at your full page mailing and rid of it blank space, 28-point font, etc., and get it down to half a page.  If you’re printing these yourself (very frugal!) you’ll really love the savings on ink jet cartridges.

Yeah, you have to get your vital info in, and you want useful info, but don’t be afraid to use a reasonable, small font, and never send anything out with lots of blank space, whether it’s colorful or not (unless it’s part of a brilliant guerilla marketing scheme.
Just as in the online environment, keep your words to a minimum, packing a punch.

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