Marketing with information
Whether you work in an in-house print department or with external customers, most print service providers (PSPs) are aware of how fast marketing evolves. With so many of their customers working in marketing, communications or brand management, it would be hard not to take notice of new terminology and emerging channels. Yet while most PSPs operate on the periphery of the marketing world, many do not consider how new marketing techniques could work for their own businesses.
Certainly, most PSPs will be familiar with the concepts of advertising, public relations and direct marketing. However, with marketing trends evolving so quickly that even marketers struggle to stay abreast of what is good practice, many PSPs may be missing out on a vital marketing approach – content marketing.
What is content marketing?
If you’ve read any of the marketing media in recent years you may have been fooled into thinking that content marketing was something new, but in reality, it has been around for decades. It involves creating and distributing content – which may be something written, an image, a video, an audio recording or even a game – with a view to attracting the attention of a particular audience, retaining that attention and inspiring customer action.
The UK’s Content Marketing Association defines content marketing as: “The discipline of creating quality branded editorial content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands1.” In the USA, the Content Marketing Institute describes it as: “…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action2.”
However you define it, the primary goal of content marketing is to draw in the desired audience by giving them something that informs, educates or entertains them without overtly selling to them.
Two opportunities for PSPs
For PSPs, this represents two opportunities. The first is more obvious; the opportunity to print the content that their customers are creating – in the form of customer magazines, guides, books, newsletters and more. The second, while less obvious, is far more important; the opportunity to educate both customers and potential customers about the potential of print.
When conducting their own marketing, PSPs are often tempted to rely on messages about print quality, customer service and the latest equipment. However, in an increasingly competitive marketplace these messages are likely to be very similar to those of the competition. Moreover, while they may once have appealed to print buyers familiar with print technology, these messages are far less likely to resonate with today’s print buyers.
Print buyers today tend to do far more than buying print. They often work in marketing, communications, brand management, media buying or procurement and print is simply one of many channels that they choose from and manage. Often this means that they have little understanding of print technology and are unlikely to be aware of the benefits of one particular approach over another. In addition, they may not be aware of what is possible with variable data printing (VDP) or cross-media, or of print’s ability to deliver an excellent return-on-investment (ROI) as part of a campaign.
These print buyers need help from their PSPs to understand how print can enhance their customer communications, yet many don’t feel they are getting it3. Content marketing is an ideal tool for informing audiences, which makes it perfect for educating print buyers about print.
Telling print’s story with content marketing
The best approach for PSPs taking their first steps into content marketing is to consider what their customers need. What is most important is to create content that helps the customer to navigate the world of print and understand how it can help to make them more successful.
Here are a few examples:
• An infographic – an illustration that highlights the value of print using statistics about impact, ROI and consumer preferences.
• Design templates – simple templates that visitors to your website can download to help them easily create basic flyers and posters.
• ‘How to’ videos – short videos that explain topics such as how to create print files to ensure correct colours or how to place register marks to allow for cutting or binding.
• Blogs – blog posts that highlight the value of print, as well as the benefits of personalisation, direct mail, cross-media, using alternative substrates, creating special effects with finishing and more.
• Customer success stories – written or video studies that discuss why customers opted for print, the role print plays in their particular marketing mix, what the project entailed and what ROI was delivered.
By demonstrating your specialist knowledge while offering customers the information that they need, you will be able to position yourself and your business as a print expert that understands their needs. Getting this right can strengthen your relationship with existing customers and make your business a more likely choice when potential customers next select a supplier.
1 The Content Marketing Association. 2015. http://www.the-cma.com/about-us/why-customer-publishing.
2 The Content Marketing Institute. 2015. http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/.
3 Building your future with print, Canon, 2014