Brand Insights

For Health Science Executives

Why Print Marketing Still Matters

Why Print Marketing Still Matters

By Karan Cushman, March 5, 2018

Print marketing is far from dead, but its role is changing for life science organizations. Today you can reach any audience more effectively with the right mix of print and digital.

The growth of the digital world is creating intense pressure to stay relevant. If you’re like most teams, you’ve probably been feeling that urgency for a while. With so much change in the air, many are asking if print marketing is still an effective way to communicate.

The simple answer is yes, but not if you use it in the traditional way.

Digital is fast, but fleeting

We constantly hear about how the Internet and mobile devices are changing marketing. Even so, digital messages are easy to delete or forget, while well-executed print still has a “stopping power” that gets results.

In fact, many life science organizations continue to generate substantial investment and support using print marketing. For example, in 2016, the MDI Biological Laboratory received 73 percent of its funding by mail, but just 17 percent online.

So the question isn’t really about whether printed communications are relevant or not. It’s why, when, and how life science institutions should use them.

That said, the pace of digital is increasing so rapidly that it can’t be ignored. According to The Radicati Group, a market research firm focused on the computer and telecommunications industry, there are more than 6.32 billion email accounts worldwide. That figure is predicted to reach 7.71 billion by 2021 — an increase of more than 22%. Research by eMarketer suggests more than half of the world’s mobile phone users will have a smartphone by the end of this year. In the United States alone, smartphone use is expected to hit 237.6 million this year — more than 72 percent of the population. Today, two-thirds of all email opens are on mobile devices, and the number is growing in all age groups, not just tech-savvy youngsters.

Print bridges generation gaps

Balancing your marketing mix to appeal to audiences of every age level is increasingly critical. It’s tempting to think that baby boomers prefer paper, while younger generations live in a digital world. The reality is much more nuanced and complicated.

While it’s true that many baby boomers are more comfortable with paper, 82.3 percent of them belong to at least one social media site, if for no other reason than to keep up with their grandchildren on Facebook. About a third are also active on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter as well. These “silver surfers” are more active than many people realize, spending an average of 27 hours per week online — more than the average for 16- to 34-year-olds. More than half will take action when they see content that interests them, either by visiting a company website or using a search engine.

At the other end of the spectrum are millennials, the so-called “digital generation”. The United States Postal Service recently compiled a variety of surprising insights about their relationship to print marketing. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Millennials suffer from “digital fatigue.”
  • 95% of millennials enjoy the tactile experience of receiving paper mail, use it to link to video content or promotional offers, even share it with friends.
  • Millennials make up 31% of U.S. magazine readers and 20% of newspaper readers.
  • Nearly half of millennials ignore digital ads.
  • 88% of millennials see print on paper as more official than digital, and 82% consider it more trustworthy.

As these findings show, common assumptions about age preferences tell only part of the story. Print and digital marketing have both evolved to the point where they are most powerful when they work together.

Finding the right mix

While the ideal combination of digital and print marketing varies from one organization to the next, there’s a place for print marketing as an anchor in the majority of campaigns and communications. Consider these points:

The key is to meet your customer, donor, or investor wherever they are in the “buying journey,” whether that’s online or in a channel better served by traditional print media. The better you know that decision-making process, the more effective your balance between print and digital will be. Mapping out that process — and validating it with your users — is critical to your success. This ensures your tactics are based on quantifiable data, not uninformed assumptions (or the latest marketing trend).

Even high-tech companies can achieve results with “low-tech” print strategies. For example, one biotech firm we work with is slipping postcard-sized print pieces into shipments. This simple approach is helping them to upsell other services they offer to busy researchers. The cards build awareness of services their customers can directly benefit from, while supporting other tactics like email campaign, social posts, and online webinars.

Print says you mean business

Merely investing in print marketing sets you apart from organizations that rely exclusively on less-expensive digital channels. In this way, it implies the seriousness of your science while lending weight and credibility to your message.

As noted above, print readers are more likely to have a longer attention span, giving you the opportunity to encourage action with more detailed information or richer storytelling experiences. This is particularly important if you’re selling an expensive product or service, or seeking support from supporters at the mid-level and up.

Furthermore, the value of “leave-behind” collateral and other print pieces that keep you top-of-mind can’t be overstated.

Connect digital and print for a winning combination

Anchoring digital communications with print makes your entire marketing machine more efficient. Here are just a few best practices for creating synergy between the two:

  • Publish regularly and host stories on your website where they are easily discoverable
  • Use rich media to amplify print stories and rank higher with Google
  • Optimize for mobile
  • Simplify messaging for a seamless experience across all tactics
  • Use easily tappable buttons for every call to action
  • Make support easy with social icons and by placing your newsletter above the fold on every page
  • Use email for online advertising and fundraising
  • Make the most of social media — critical for showing you are an active brand that listens and interacts
  • Use marketing automation for personalization and data insight
  • Look to others in your space to see how they are soliciting support and investment online

Stay focused on what matters most

No matter how you’re trying to reach an audience, your core message will always be the most important thing. Creating compelling stories and expressing them consistently through every campaign and tactic — print or digital — is increasingly important as the marketing mix becomes ever more diverse.

Having a hard time finding the right mix between print and digital marketing? Contact me to talk about how you can make the most of both tools with the resources you have available.


Tagged: Digital, Marketing Strategy

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