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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: Print Marketing Drives Buyers to the Web

I found an interesting article recently in the May/June 2013 issue of GD USA magazine (Graphic Design): “Bridging the Gap Between the Tangible and Digital Worlds,” by Gerry Bonetto.

I hear a lot of talk of the death of print, and I also hear a lot of talk about the rise of print in other cultures (such as Saudi Arabia), but I always find it comforting to read articles about the usefulness of commercial printing right here and right now.

Bonetto’s article focuses on the synergistic effect of combining print marketing and online marketing, noting that without the former, the latter falls short. As a custom printing broker I find this heartening.

Facts, Figures, and Surveys: The Importance of Print

“Bridging the Gap Between the Tangible and Digital Worlds” cites a number of studies and provocative facts and figures in its defense of print media.

    1. comScore Case Study: The U.S. Postal Service (USPS), 2009: According to GD USA, “a United States Postal Service study found a $21 million boost in sales, per million of online shoppers, between those who received a catalog and those who didn’t.”


    1. Exact Target, Channel Preference Study, 2009: To quote from the GD USA article, “Exact Target found that 76% of Internet users surveyed were directly influenced to purchase a product or service thanks to a direct mail piece.”


  1. Google “sends millions of direct mail pieces throughout the year to communicate with business decision makers about the value of the Adwords program.”

The Gist of the Surveys

Let’s break this down. The first and second items demonstrate that the effect of print marketing on buyer’s decisions is not only quantifiable but also dramatic: Catalogs drove sales up $21 per person over Internet-only shopping; and 76% of Internet users (the most technically literate among us) were influenced in product or service selection via direct mail. These are significant facts and figures.

Furthermore, Google is a pure-play Internet venture. It has no off-line products or services. Yet it markets its services via print advertising. Again, this is significant as well as surprising, and heartening. After all, Google would only pay for commercial printing of promotional material if the initiative resulted in online customers.

But Why Is This Happening?

“Bridging the Gap Between the Tangible and Digital Worlds” references Google’s “zero moment of truth,” its description of the moment a buyer decides on an in-store or online purchase. Apparently, although a buyer usually researches a product or service on the Internet before deciding to buy, he or she is first prompted to do the online research via a “stimulus.” That stimulus is usually word of mouth, a print promotion (a print catalog or direct mail package), or a television spot–not an Internet ad or email blast.

In fact, the GD USA article notes that “”Of the eleven media that are the key stimuli to online research, seven are print related–and five (magazine ads and articles, newspaper ads and articles, and manufacturer direct mail) are ranked higher than online ads and email and just lower than television ads, the strongest stimulus” (quoted from Google, “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth”).

What This Means to You

What this really means is that most initial contacts with a new product or service happen offline, through print catalogs and direct mail packages, word of mouth, and radio and television advertising. After this initial exposure, an interested buyer will then go online to research the products, check peer reviews, or compare pricing.

If you design for print, this is especially useful information. However, it is also interesting to note that direct mail marketing is much more effective when intelligently combined with the newer interactive technologies. For instance, pointing a prospect to a PURL listed in your direct mail package, or providing QR codes in your print catalog that will lead the reader to your website, most likely will dramatically expand the effectiveness of your print marketing efforts.

Think in terms of “cross channel marketing,” of integrating print and Internet venues in the most effective mix, rather than choosing one over the other.

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