Getting to know cross-media
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CRDs have one big advantage over commercial print providers — they know their most important customers, and they should easily be able to get in front of them. According to the Canon Insight Report Corporate Reprographics: Trends and Opportunities, 48% of print projects are originated by sales and marketing. (If you include the 11% originating in the training department, and the 10% in communications, almost 70% of projects come from departments who need to communicate messages to external and internal audiences.)
So, getting close to the marketing department is important if you want to grow the value of your CRD. But you won’t get close unless you understand the enormous changes in marketing communications technologies of the last few years, and their impact on marketing campaigns. Welcome to the world of cross-media marketing…..
After the digital revolution in printing of the 1980s, print providers are no strangers to technological upheaval, but the pace of change in the marketing world is much faster and the new technologies every bit as disruptive. Just a decade ago, marketers had a limited choice of communications channels — essentially print and broadcast media (radio and TV). Competitors were emerging, but their potential was uncertain. The Internet promised much, but the ‘dotcom bust’ of 2000 had knocked confidence in the medium; likewise personalised digital printing faced issues of data management.
Within a few years, things changed out of all recognition. Over a four-year period, a succession of new technologies and businesses appeared at the rate of one mould-breaker a year: Facebook launched in 2004, followed by YouTube (2005), Twitter (2006) and the Apple iPhone (2007). Five years on, these and other developments, such as the Kindle and the iPad, mean marketers can choose from a plethora of communications channels — print, broadcast, online, mobile and social — each with strengths and weaknesses, and all capable of working with each other in different ‘mix and match’ combinations.
What this means for print has been well documented: industry bodies and commentators constantly urge print providers to embrace digital printing as the essential first step in claiming a place for print in the emerging, multi-channel communications industry. Print is now only one of many media competing for marketing budgets. It has advantages over other media, and print providers must make the case for these. But — and this is crucial — print’s future role in marketing will be in combination with other channels. So print providers have to be aware of those channels and understand how they work with print.
From ‘integrated marketing’ to ‘cross-media’
The Insight Report was forthright in its assessment of the impact on inplants of changes in marketing communications: “Marketing departments are buying integrated marketing programmes and selecting printers based on their ability to handle more than just printing — PURLs and specialised websites primarily.” And since that was written, marketers’ enthusiasm for such programmes has only grown, generating in the process a new label for the sector — cross-media — and encouraging a growing number of print service providers to re-position themselves as ‘cross-media marketing services providers’.
Whether or not your ambitions for your CRD go that far, you need to know the essentials of cross-media in order to build a closer relationship with the marketing department. In the following pages we provide you with the basic vocabulary to conduct a constructive conversation about cross-media in general and the role of print in particular. We start by explaining what cross-media is, the benefits it provides to marketers, and the opportunities it offers to the CRD. We then explain some of the key components of a cross-media campaign, including variable data printing (VDP) and Quick Response (QR) codes, which the inplant is well-placed to handle. Finally, we give an example of how a marketing department might combine the different channels in a campaign.
Why cross-media matters — to marketers and print providers
To start understanding cross-media, leave print aside for a moment and consider the variety of communications channels today’s typical consumer is exposed to in a single day:
• Landline phone
• Mobile phone (for voice and text)
• Email (personal and business)
• Online forums (for example, LinkedIn)
• Postal mail
• Advertising billboards
Marketers are taking advantage of this multiplicity of channels — InfoTrends research in 2010 found that on average each campaign uses 2.7 channels. The role of print will differ, depending on the chosen channels and the nature of the campaign. It may be used to start a conversation with the customer, as when a poster or advertisement encourages the prospect to visit a website; or it may join the conversation later, in the form of the personalised brochure sent to prospects after they register their interest. Whatever role print plays in the ‘mix’, combine it with other channels and the results are impressive. In 2008, InfoTrends looked at the impact on response rates for marketing campaigns using different combinations of media.
• Print only — 6.5%
• Print + email + web landing pages — 8.5% (+35% compared to print only)
• Print + email + web landing pages + mobile — 8.7% (+34%)
• Print + email — 8.3% (+28%)
• Print + web landing pages — 7.7% (+19%)
As Professor Frank Romano remarked once, if print had a school report, it would say it “works and plays well with other media.” His comment is supported by Canon’s 2012 Insight report, The Bigger Picture, which identified that 58% of organisations surveyed are using multi-channel campaigns as part of their communications mix, and that print is part of the mix in 94% of these campaigns.
To understand the benefits of cross-media to marketers, you must understand that an essential requirement of every channel in a cross-media campaign is that it supports interactivity. Cross-media marketing is about launching and sustaining a one-to-one relationship between a business and its customers, using media channels that the individual customer chooses, and which allow responses and results to be measured. By addressing consumers with tailored communications, delivered at the right time and through the right channels, brand-owners can increase response rates, convert more of the responses into sales, and gain improved ROI from marketing budgets that are universally under pressure. Clearly, if cross-media can help the CRD to help the marketing department to a better ROI, it’s a major weapon to have in your armoury.
Your marketing department is not going to ignore such significant benefits — remember the RIT report’s observation that marketing departments expect more than just printing from print providers. So having a cross-media strategy is essential if you want to align the CRD’s service offering with the demands of its most important customer. The shape of the strategy will depend on a number of factors, including where marketing is on the ‘cross-media learning curve’ and how appropriate different media channels are to the organisation’s products and services. It will also depend on the level of cross-media fulfilment you believe the CRD is capable of delivering, and the timescale for achieving this. However, one capability that you absolutely must offer is Variable Data Printing (VDP).
Variable data printing enables you to produce the personalised print that cross-media campaigns demand — without it, you have no cross-media proposition. According to InfoTrends, print providers offering cross-media reported a 12% average increase in digital colour print volumes and expected this to reach 20% over the next year. So, in a ‘virtuous circle’, digital printing drives cross-media, and cross-media drives digital printing.
The cross-media space is innovative — new channels appear regularly, as do new takes on existing ones — but the technologies you most need to be aware of are personalised URLs (PURLs), email, SMS text messaging (and MMS multimedia messaging), and Quick Response (QR) codes. In addition, many cross-media marketing campaigns mobilise social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, so you need to understand these as well.
Personalised URLs use the data the organisation holds about a customer to present the respondent with a personalised web page when they log in to the web address. The PURL can be delivered to the customer via direct mail, email or SMS text message, which will also carry the ‘call to action’ — an invitation to view a product demonstration, or claim a special offer, or take part in a survey. As well as producing increased response rates, PURLs have several other benefits. By using simple online forms to gather respondents’ personal details, they are an excellent way to gather up-to-date information that can be used in subsequent campaigns. They also enable you to track the respondent's activity in real time and use the findings to further tailor the information they receive.
Once resented by consumers as an intrusive marketing communications channel, email is now more acceptable thanks to more responsible use of the medium by marketers — permission-based mailing only to customers who have signed up for it, for example. The combination of an attractive, relevant proposition and a quick, one-click link to a PURL encourages an initial response, and many organisations regard it as an important element in their marketing strategies. According to the US Direct Mail Association, in 2011 email achieved an ROI of $40.56 for every $1 spent, and although the ROI is falling year-on-year as other channels gain in popularity, that is still a very healthy figure.
SMS (text) and MMS (multimedia) messages are increasingly used to complement email marketing. Compared to email, they convey a sense of urgency — according to Neilsen Mobile, a typical text message is opened and read within 15 minutes — and, unlike email, they reach the audience wherever they are.
QR codes are especially relevant to print providers. When these two-dimensional barcodes are read by a smartphone equipped with QR reader software, they automatically take the user to a URL — there is no need to type in the URL. They therefore link the physical printed sheet with the ‘bits and bytes’ digital world. QR codes are becoming a familiar feature on a host of items — newspaper and magazine ads, posters, retail displays and clothing, and their use will only increase as more consumers adopt smartphones.
Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are also important components of cross-media marketing, and many organisations invest time and money in building online communities on both networks. However, as some big companies have discovered to their cost, managing marketing communications in these public, ‘peer-to-peer’ forums is very different to controlling the personalised conversations that are the objective of other channels. Recognising this, marketing departments are recruiting specialists in digital media marketing, so the CRD is unlikely to be expected to demonstrate expertise in the discipline. But you still need to understand the basics, so if your organisation has a Facebook page or a Twitter account, check them out.
Cross-media in action
The following example shows you how some of these components might work together in a campaign. Our fictional marketing department is within a large car manufacturer launching a new model range through the dealer network.
The campaign uses print (personalised, of course!), QR codes, PURLs, email and SMS messaging. As we observed earlier, print starts the conversation, in the form of a direct mailshot to all customers who meet the campaign’s criteria. The mailshot is personalised with the name of the customer, and also personalised by dealer, including a map of their location and directions. It announces the new model and directs the recipient to a PURL tailored using their personal data — for example, their location, current car and mileage, and suggesting a model from the new range they might consider upgrading to. A QR code saves smartphone-equipped respondents the chore of keying in the website address. When they log on to the PURL they are greeted with a further personalised message and invited to update their personal details before further exploring the new range.
Customers who book a test drive receive a letter confirming their appointment, plus a personalised brochure. They can also request an SMS text reminder a couple of days before the drive. Afterwards, they receive a follow-up email asking for feedback on their experiences and, in return for providing this, the dealership sends them a printed ‘thank you’ item such as a personalised diary or a calendar. Customers who don’t respond within a certain time automatically receive an email reminder containing the PURL — if they open the email, they remain on the database; if they don’t, they are deleted.
This brief example not only shows cross-media’s enormous potential for the marketing department, it also demonstrates exciting possibilities for you to grow the value of your CRD. Think about it, and there are other opportunities for print that we haven’t mentioned — large-format posters for dealer showrooms, for example. It also highlights the fact that, whatever the components of the campaign, cross-media calls for creativity, which must be consistent across all channels and presents an opportunity for your design department (as discussed in part 4 of this series of guides). Some activities may be beyond your CRD’s current capabilities — for example, maintaining good databases, re-purposing digital assets, creating PURLs, and sending multiple emails or SMS messages. In these instances, work with internal or external partners to ensure the CRD plays an active role in delivering cross-media value to your marketing teams.
Cross-media is a big subject, and it’s getting bigger all the time. This guide does not pretend to be comprehensive, but we hope it has convinced you that cross-media is here to stay, and that print will be an important component of cross-media campaigns for the foreseeable future. Cross-media is where print will live in the future, so you need to get to know your new neighbours!
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