As a print service provider, you have an important role to play in your clients' marketing strategies. The physical materials you contribute can reach consumers in ways more common digital approaches simply cannot. This has become the niche that the printing industry occupies today, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Having a unique service to offer, one that produces results when companies need them most, is something you can use as a selling point in the years to come.

There's one particular discipline you'll have to master to continue in this role, however: proving return on investment. If you can prove that there is a valid and valuable reason to turn to your direct mail campaigns or other print-based outreach approaches, you'll have an in with objective-based, number-crunching modern marketing departments.

Channel attribution comes into its own
As WhatTheyThink columnist Barb Pellow recent explained, marketers have become more intent on determining which channels are driving positive results in recent years. This is an opportunity for the printing business, as long as providers become more savvy in their measurements. Pellow noted that when InfoTrends polled marketers, it found too many are employing singe-touch attribution. This means they are crediting only one marketing method per customer acquired, whereas it can take many campaigns working together to win a new convert.

Print service providers can start comparing digital metrics over time to see where their own efforts are having an impact. According to Pellow, InfoTrends found one possible method for printers to discover their campaigns' roles in new customer acquisition. Measuring web traffic following the use of a print campaign is a beginning method of detecting quantifiable value. When spikes in attention follow mail-outs, it's a good sign for print's effectiveness. Social media metrics are also easily monitored and potentially telling.

When it comes to winning print contracts, the ability to attribute value to the campaigns may be a great selling point. Pellow explained that marketing leaders today are deeply interested in deploying channel balances that reflect ideal value. When service providers don't actually know the relative usefulness of their campaigns, they are at a disadvantage in negotiations with potential clients.

What's mail worth?
The use of direct mail is one of the most effective tactics left to the printing industry. While they superficially resemble email campaigns, physical mailings are a different kind of outreach. Recipients' interactions with items in their mailboxes will differ significantly from the ways they deal with email newsletters. That said, anecdotal evidence won't do much to make modern marketing departments sign up for your direct mail assistance.

Business 2 Community contributor Vignesh Subramanyan recently pointed out a few ways to make direct mail more measurable. For instance, he recommended the use of customized offer codes or URLs on mailings to make absolutely sure that you know when customers go to a website because of your campaign. Once you have a good idea of how many people have been attracted to the company by the mailing, it's time to create a picture of ROI.

Subramanyan explained that the principle behind this calculation is simple. As long as you can figure out the average amount spent by customers engaged by your campaign, you can determine whether the accumulated profits, divided by the campaign budget, make a positive number. The author added that it pays to follow the lifetime value of customers acquired by direct mail. He pointed out that leads converted through physical mailings tend to be worth more to companies over time than the initially cheaper leads acquired online.

Getting numbers on your side
Admitting that you don't know how much a campaign is worth isn't likely to impress potential print clients today. You shouldn't be afraid to track the ROI of your mailings – these outreach efforts can have real, measurable and positive value for client companies, and if you can prove that unique income, it can be an impressive selling point. Every marketing campaign has its trackable worth, and print is not exempt.