Anne Holland

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

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:

http://www.marketingsherpa.com/emaw2007/26.html

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.

Thanks.

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