The Power of the Printed Word in an Omnichannel World

A funny thing happened earlier this summer.

The Power of Print

In anticipation of our research on the evolution of the member experience to be more omnichannel in nature, I traveled to Washington to observe a focus group at ASAE. A variety of association executives, who work across multiple functions and from organizations of all sizes, gathered around a conference room for a conversation about the techniques and strategies they were using to drive engagement.

That’s when it started.

“We’re using print. Our members are telling us that they can’t handle more email.”

“Really? Us too!”

Here’s the thing. I receive an email to my inbox. And I keep getting messages over the course of the day and if I haven’t read it? Then it gets pushed to page two. You’re lucky if I ever see it. But if I get a magazine? That magazine will sit on my coffee table. And I might not read it today or tomorrow, but I see it and I’ll eventually pick it up.

As someone who has long been involved in using – and tracking – digital marketing, the enthusiasm for print caught me off guard, but it probably shouldn’t have. According to Marketing General’s 2019 Membership Marketing Benchmarking report, members receive an average of 4 emails per week from their association while Personify’s recently published Member Experience 2.0 report suggests that only 12% of members want to hear from their association more than once a week.

For many organizations, email fatigue is real. While print has become a slightly niche proposition in the past few years, it hasn’t gone away. A magazine or annual report offers a unique opportunity to deliver powerful, engaging and creative content. Aside from bills, members may not receive a lot of traditional mail pieces. Those that do make it to their mailbox stand out and provide a way to potentially reach and engage members in a memorable way.

While a majority of members surveyed in our research expressed a preference for receiving digital materials from their association, 45% still reported that they prefer print, especially boomers who told us they prefer print by 22 percentage points. And although a plurality of members said that email was the best way to reach them, print wasn’t the worst way – in fact, it outperformed social media, the darling of digital media, by 15 percentage points.

How Does Print Factor into an Omnichannel Strategy?

In an omnichannel experience, which Hubspot defines as “the ability to deliver a seamless and consistent experience across channels,” print offers an interesting alternative but it must be used differently. The challenge is how to leverage the power of print with other omnichannel media.

Whether you’re sending out a quarterly magazine, a direct mail postcard or a journal with new research, here are some best practices for incorporating print into your omnichannel marketing:

1. Connect Channels with QR Codes

One of the best ways to drive action through your print assets is by leveraging quick response (QR) codes on all print collateral. In the one-click it takes your member to scan the image with their smartphone, a QR can send your member directly to a specific landing page where they can find out additional information, register for an event or share information.

2. Include social media handles in all print

Although members surveyed in our research had mixed feelings on social media, it’s still worth ensuring that its part of your omnichannel mix and integrated with print to create that seamless experience. Whether it’s a direct mail piece, newsletter or a magazine ad, you should always add your social media handles so members know how to connect and further the conversation.

3. Understand the role of print media as part of the big picture

It’s no longer enough to focus on highlighting benefits when creating a magazine or printed postcard. Consider the context when developing new content and how it connects to the larger narrative that your omnichannel efforts are trying to tell about your organization. How will your print campaigns offer relevant and valuable information to get your member more engaged or closer to a specific goal?

If you’re interested in learning more about the channels members are using to engage and how to incorporate them to maximize value, check out our Member Experience 2.0 report and on-demand webinar.