Print May Be Dead, but ROI Sure Isn't
We've seen the implosion of traditional journalism in 2009. Not the implosion of journalism, mind you, but the implosion of how journalism is paid for and delivered to us.
Marketers are experiencing similar feelings with a new phase in the evolution of print. Early in the decade, they crafted the “multichannel era,” reasoning that the rampant growth in e-commerce sales was because print advertising created demand. Once this fact was proven, direct marketers entrenched themselves in the “multichannel” mantra.
Unfortunately, the collapse of the economy caused marketers to question every single marketing dollar they spent. Print advertising is expensive, so once again this line item in the budget was heavily scrutinized. In fact, your local co-op sales rep could give you a primer in what it feels like to see print advertising be so heavily scrutinized.
One camp loudly proclaims that, “Print is dead.” Another camp loudly proclaims, “Long live print!”
Who's right? Does it even matter who's right?
What really matters is the marketing strategy that delivers the best return on investment. I have clients that are 100 percent dependent upon print for their success. These businesses would cease to exist without catalogs or direct mail. For those businesses, it's, “Long live print!” I also have clients that invest exactly $0 on print advertising. These clients are also profitable. For them, “Print is dead.”
In the past decade, we’ve become obsessed with channels and, recently, with what I call “microchannels.” We somehow think that if we execute social media properly, we’ll find a pot of gold. Or if we bid the right amount on the right terms on Google, we’ll have a veritable plethora of profitable new customers. We love to think about print driving online purchases.
How often do you really think about customers and put their needs above the marketing channels they might elect to interact with? When it comes to merchandise, most retailers do think about the customer. But in marketing, you’re obsessed with channels. You spend your efforts trying to allocate online orders to online channels or using matchbacks to attribute online orders to offline activities.
The focus of the next five years needs to shift — from channels to customers. Your measurement techniques will increasingly focus on measuring the ROI your holistic strategies yield. The issue isn’t whether print is dead or if social media represents a pot of gold. You're going to be required to look at what I call “holistic investment.” In other words, you'll evaluate customer performance across all activities, and if performance isn’t optimal you'll reduce the level of advertising.
For some of my customers, this will result in a reduction in print because it's least effective for them. For others, they'll increase their investments in print because this is the preferred shopping method for their customers.
The focus will shift from measuring ROI in specific channels to measuring total ROI for individual customers. As you evolve, you’ll learn that the average customer prefers between one and three microchannels. You may manage hundreds of microchannels, but be parsimonious with the number of channels that you push at an individual customer. This will maximize ROI.
Print may be dead; it may not be dead. But ROI is never dead.