Data Literacy and the Power of Print

“There is power in print that is closely aligned with digital.”

That was the message Tim Curtis, CEO of CohereOne, a direct-to-consumer digital brand agency, underscored during the opening session on day two of the Virtual Inkjet Summit. As he explored the relationship between print and digital marketing, one thing became clear: data literacy is crucial for printers to understand digital marketing and the ecosystem in which it operates.

“If we don’t develop a higher degree of data literacy and digital marketing literacy as a print community, then we’re not servicing those customers in the way that they need to be serviced,” he said.

So, what can printers do to provide value in the digital marketing landscape? Curtis explained that there have been massive shifts in overall revenue in the e-commerce space. Although much of the recent acceleration is due to the COVID-19 pandemic — e-commerce rose to 30% shortly after a state of emergency was declared by President Trump — it’s a trend Curtis has been watching for a long time. Because of the increase in this demand, companies are focusing on direct-to-consumer means of communication. This is where a printer can step in.

Although printers traditionally operated at the top of full-funnel marketing plans, as technology advances, they can move to operate within the bottom of the funnel. Click to enlarge.

According to Curtis, print traditionally functioned at the top of a full-funnel marketing plan, with catalogs and other direct mail. However, the same technology that is used for search retargeting advertising and email remarketing in a typical digital marketing campaign, can now be used for printed pieces.

“[You] can take all the advantages of digital marketing … and marry that with a superior touchpoint, which is print,” he said.

One of the most important aspects of this for printers to understand is that there is a “many-model methodology” in digital marketing, with different models of consumer engagement running behind the scenes. Print is usually relegated to single-source models, using mailing lists and some other statistics to create a target list for mailings. But this is changing as printers are able to utilize new data technology.

That’s why Curtis calls data literacy “one of the lessons the printing industry needs to take to heart.”

He explained that there is a big link between print and paid search demand, and suggested that companies take a deeper look into what is driving activity during a marketing campaign. The reason for this, he noted, is that a lot of that demand is coming from print pieces delivered to someone’s mailbox, which they then take to search online — but which comes through as paid search. Understanding the data is significant, but understanding that print is a crucial part of the marketing process is equally important.

“[At CohereOne], we have seen clients that paid search demand, particularly on pay branded, the demand can fall as much as 50-76% when print is not in the equation,” he said.

Adopting a Digital Mindset

Although it might seem overwhelming at first, Curtis said taking small steps to a more digital mindset is necessary for printers.

“Profit is the function of the incremental,” he said.

By that he means that understanding data and adopting a digital model doesn’t have to be approached aggressively and in one fell swoop.

“Many companies are looking for a silver bullet or looking for something that will really move the needle to their bottom line. But instead, while they should be focusing on those elements, they’re dismissing smaller, more tangible steps that can be taken to bring profit to the company overall,” Curtis pointed out.

Focus on targeting, analysis, and better communication with clients, he explained, which can help build better sustainability in your business.

Wherever a printer launches into the adoption of a more digital mindset to provide the printed arm of a comprehensive digital marketing campaign, it’s all about aligning the best of both channels.

“Digital buyers are very responsive to the print mechanism,” Curtis said. Take advantage of that.

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