With all the talk about the impact the Internet is having on traditional media, like magazines and newspapers, you might think that all forms of print media are doomed to a much smaller footprint in the future than they've enjoyed in the past. The Internet offers the opportunity to publish and distribute information so easily and cost effectively that it's a fair question.
Imagine then, my surprise when the Internet Retailer Buyers Guide for 2010 crossed my desk a few weeks ago. If there ever was a printed piece that should have migrated to online only, I'm thinking it should have been this one. After all, the tag line to the catalog is "strategies for web-based retailing". As it turns out however, this particular publisher, around for at least a decade, so we know he operates with a sustainable business model, is keenly aware that it is his job to reach out to his customer or market, not their job to find him. And reach out he does, online, in print and at conferences. How refreshing and smart.
It turns out this publisher is not alone. In 2009 an estimated 17 Billion catalogs were sent to U.S. households. That's about 56 for every man, woman and child. All or most of these companies also operate 1 800 call centers where their products and services can be purchased, as well as online ordering operations, if that's the way their customer chooses to engage. Why then incur the cost of also sending out a catalog? Why not just buy some Google Ad Words and be done with it? Because print prompts action, and they know it. Most catalog companies see a 20 to 50% increase in online sales in the period immediately following catalog distribution. Think for a minute, about how many catalogs have arrived at your home or business in the last 90 days.
Color catalogs, whether they be retail oriented like LL Bean, or a housing catalog like The Real Estate Book, are alive and well. In fact they're thriving. They don't claim to solve the worlds problems or profess some strong opinion on the issue of the day. They simply strive to connect buyers with sellers. They interrupt potential consumers throughout their day and these consumers consistently demonstrate a high intent to purchase. As marketers, we need to find ways to leverage the inherent qualities of each media to maximize our results. That's where the real magic is.
I've got some thoughts on how to accomplish this. More on leveraging the inherent strength of each media in a future blog post.