Integrating New Technologies, Capabilities Brings Printers to The Marketing Table

Part 2 of a two-part series on how technology can help printers capture more print buyer business.

With greater customer insight, marketers are now able to bridge the Web and offline worlds and make printed materials more meaningful and actionable to an individual. Despite printing smaller volumes, organizations can achieve greater impact with printed pieces and ensure they’re optimizing every channel to reach customers.

State Farm reduced its number of external-facing publications from 12 to two, but these publications are now personalized to resonate with the recipient. Similarly, through a long-standing relationship with Rand McNally, State Farm agents offer road atlases to customers as a promotional tool to draw attention to its automobile insurance offering.

While many customers rely on GPS technology to guide their road trips, the company found its promotional maps are still appreciated by a segment of customers who enjoy viewing topographical information that is unavailable on a GPS device.

The Convergence of Print and Digital Worlds

While social and mobile technologies deliver new modes of connecting with customers, discounting the role of print is shortsighted – and organizations are finding strength in a blended approach to their communication mediums.

“We’re going through a major project at State Farm and looking at how people want us to communicate with them,” said Jeffery Dickerson, print buyer at State Farm Insurance Company. “Now we can meet an individual’s needs and get our information to customers in the most effective manner possible. Through a combination of digital and print technologies, we’re able to deliver more personalized, customized messages and add greater value to our customer relationships.”

“Now we can meet an individual’s needs and get our information to customers in the most effective manner possible,” Jeffery Dickerson, State Farm print buyer.

One of the biggest boons to marketing communication is the ability to have one-to-one conversations in both the online and print world that is iterative and cumulative. For example, Draftcb Chicago works with clients to create direct mail pieces that contain personalized URLs to bring print customers online and add tracking and transparency to its marketing campaigns.

With a unique URL, the communication is targeted to the individual and helps inform marketers on customer preferences and activity.

Printed business cards, stationery, brochures and other specialty items also traverse the online and offline worlds, often pointing to online resources or social media that enable customers to connect digitally. This makes it easy to find business contacts on social networks while having the benefit of a tangible document.

Many businesses are also including QR codes to bridge the gap between print and digital. At State Farm, they’re used to enabling customers to download information to their smartphone or connect customers with a local agent’s microsite. But effective use of QR technology requires delivery of a meaningful experience. Whether incorporating QR codes on business cards, vehicle wraps or billboards, the focus should be on adding value. Including a short video or mobile offer can drive engagement and increases the effectiveness of mobile barcode technology.

“The ability to communicate relevantly has opened up in a great way,” said Melissa Clemente, vice president and print production director, at Draftfcb Chicago. “Incorporating new technologies with print materials enables organizations to gather data that informs the next type of communication and build meaningful relationships with customers.”

Emerging Print Technologies

Marketers today have access to a range of different commercial print technologies to meet a variety of needs. And while inkjet technology has been used in consumer technologies for more than 30 years, the last five years have shown breakthroughs for commercial use.

“There are so many kinds of presses and processes to meet varying printing needs,” Clemente added. “You may have massive web runs, but you can also have very small digital runs.”

For example, wide-format printing has increased possibilities for printers, enabling them to diversify offerings, control costs and provide eye-catching ways for marketers to connect with customers. Combined with variable-data printing, marketers how have a more exciting, personalized way to connect with consumers.

Wide-format printing is also changing the visual landscape, creating new possibilities for print. High-end machines make it easier to produce affordable vehicle wraps that can be tailored to a specific vehicle type with minimal effort. If marketers want a different look or logo or a progression of imagery that can easily be done because of new technologies.

Outdoor printing is also now more affordable. It used to be you’d have to do a large run to make it economical. Now, the technology and equipment has opened up opportunities for smaller users of print as well as large entities that do a lot of printed pieces.

Taking A Holistic View

Even as new technologies emerge, print continues – and will continue – to play a critical role in reaching customers and inspiring them to action. Savvy marketers and print buyers – and their printing partners – that understand how to connect the online and print worlds can deliver more relevant and personalized communication to customers.

“Print buyers that want to succeed need to stay up to date with the latest trends in digital and how to effectively incorporate paper into the mix,” Clemente said. “It’s no longer logical to have a print program and a digital program. For the most effective strategy, it’s about taking a holistic view and understanding how it all works together to be the most effective.”

Print is real, intimate and extends a legitimacy that no other medium offers. Inkjet technology has provided the print industry with a cost-effective method for producing high-quality, short-run display POP, signage, brochures, direct mail and other printed materials.

With new print technologies, it’s now possible to print directly onto products that weren’t previously possible. Combined with greater access to customer insight and more relevant communications, printers and print buyers, working together, can help marketing create more personalized marketing messages, visually bring products to life and get greater return from its investment in printed materials.