For the last few years, the marketing world has been abuzz with talk of content, content, content. Whether you call the trend inbound marketing or content marketing, the idea is the same. Provide interesting content online and prospects will be drawn to your website like moths around a candle. Content marketing is a natural strategy for the new information economy, but it’s not as simple as the marketing sages make it out to be.
As with many trends, benefits accrued to the early adopters. It was easy to get noticed online when there wasn’t much there. Things have changed. Even marketing trends follow a product life cycle, and trying to get into the game after the bell curve has peaked is challenging.
Mark Schaefer has produced a new book, The Content Code, that acknowledges the difficulties. He calls the current situation “content shock,” and describes the paradoxical difficulty of producing ever-increasing quantities of content that can somehow push through the information clutter that multiplies each day. Schaeffer strongly suggests that more content is not better, and suggests some worthwhile strategies to “ignite” content marketing efforts.
Print: Another Box
Scheafer offers some good “out of the box” possibilities for content marketers, but he overlooks an obvious conclusion. Stated simply, it may be time to find a different box. In a well-shared article in early 2014, Vladimir Gendelman of Marketing Profs makes this observation:
“Many companies are competing online for their audience’s attention, which can make it hard to stand out in the crowd. However, since online marketing tends to be the focus of most businesses, a void is left in print marketing that is begging to be filled.”
Without going into any of the other valid arguments for print as a communications (and yes, even a content) channel, this point stands out: There’s less competition for attention with print.
Everything Old is New Again?
On the surface this sounds like the age old argument of falling back to the tried and true methods of the not-so-distant past, but that’s really not it. Today’s print goes way beyond the generic (and sometimes strange) product advertising of the 1900s. The same advances in technology that brought us the internet also did a lot for print. In fact, some of the print technology inventions of the early 2000s were ahead of their time. They are just now coming into mainstream use.
Digital printing made short runs possible and economically feasible. This was an immediate benefit for both printers and their customers in the early 2000s. Variable data printing technology (VDP) came along in the same period, enabling one-off versioning that goes further than simple personalization. The technology was ahead of the market – most businesses didn’t have the data needed to make VDP effective. This is now changing rapidly as marketers develop the ability to collect and segment data and gain the capability to produce messages that are individually targeted. At the same time, they’re also learning to coordinate these messages between print and online content .
If your content marketing efforts are struggling, it’s time to take another look at print.
As the original content marketing channel, print has really never failed. The digital channels that partially supplanted conventional print are overcrowded, and the resurgence of a “new print” that is integrated with data and online channels is just beginning. Marketers are learning once again that print is a powerful and intelligent tool, one with potential to cut through the digital content clutter.
Richard Dannenberg is owner of a small marketing consultancy, DP Marketing Services, that provides planning and implementation assistance to printing companies and small businesses. A lifelong marketer, he spent 14 years in the printing industry and writes on a variety of print and marketing topics in his blogs.