When companies adjust their marketing methods to suit new customer preferences, they have to make sure they've accurately identified what people want from them. There is a real danger in assuming that forms of communication have gone out of style when they have continuing value. Print service providers probably don't need to be told this information, considering that their clients may be telling them some variation of the above complaint. They've likely been hearing that print marketing is a losing battle in the millennial era. But that's not entirely true.

The printing industry is closely tied to marketing material creation, and the shift toward online communication has undoubtedly weakened the appeal of physical marketing media. That said, it's far too early to say that there is no longer any use for printed materials, especially when these methods have been reported to have continuing appeal for young recipients.

Engagement through the mail: It still works
According to a recent WhatTheyThink report by Keypoint Intelligence, the research organization has discovered in its Annual State of Marketing Communications Survey that there is still an interest in receiving marketing info through the mail. Engagement is a valuable commodity for brands of all kinds. In today's media-saturated world, making a real connection with potential customers is a dearly held goal. The fact that direct mail still delivers this point should be a rallying cry for the printing business.

Keypoint explained that millennial recipients are ready and willing to engage with companies that send direct mailings. This is surprising at first, considering that people in their 30s or younger have grown up in a digital world, with newer and more immediate ways to collect information than using the mail. However, when being inundated by digital messages, a person may be well disposed to receive a physical piece of mail. Direct mail is different and compelling, and the fact that email is so easy and mundane to send may have devalued that method.

Of course, the direct mail marketing campaigns of today, with their continuing value and millennial appeal, aren't exactly the same as the ones that were being launched 10, 20 or more years ago. The Keypoint researchers emphasized that the content in mailings should be relevant to the recipients and very timely. This calls for integration with digital marketing efforts and the related customer data collection and storage. The survey results also pointed to the usefulness of cross-channel campaigns, with the mailings containing features that seamlessly connect them to other types of outreach.

Getting great reactions from offline customers
One of the interesting things about direct mail marketing is the wide variety of possible consumer interactions that come from this seemingly basic method of outreach. Marketing expert and author Brian Kurtz, in an interview with Marketing Profs, stated that there is a case to be made for platform-spanning campaigns that give consumers options about how they'd like to be contacted. Across generations, some people simply respond well to direct mail.

Kurtz explained the concept of "O to O to O marketing." In this scenario, there is a constant switching between physical and digital communication, all based on the choices made by recipients. Giving people options about how they stay in touch is more complicated than dictating a single channel for everyone to use, but it may help businesses hold onto individuals who would otherwise disengage.

Kurtz also noted some of the reasons why direct mail may be a hard sell to some marketing departments, despite the ongoing value it creates. He suggested, for instance, that a lack of expertise is holding some companies back. In addition, others are hesitant to pay the costs associated with physical media when email blasts and other online interactions are so much cheaper. Kurtz responded that when companies take a flexible and nuanced view of direct mail campaigns, committing to best practices, they can extract enough value to make it worth the investment.

The past, present and future
While there is a constant theme of evolution running under marketing practices, print service providers may find they have plenty to offer their clients in the years ahead, holding onto this essential part of their overall operations. The hard part of making this ongoing connection may come in the sales process, when data about the continued efficacy of direct mail has to compete with perceptions that to be made of paper is to be old-fashioned.

The era of direct mail campaigns that smoothly integrate with digital outreach, directly target millennials and provide respite from the always-on digital world is a promising time for the printing industry. Shops have new ways to thrive while meeting clients' marketing needs.