In the dark ages of B2B marketing communications, circa 1980, the goal was to get your snail-mailed communications past the office gatekeepers (a/k/a "executive assistants"), and onto the desks of your targeted decision-makers.
Most often, however, the sheer volume of first-class mail processed every morning by office gatekeepers made it more likely that your personalized pitch letter and costly sales brochure would end up, unopened, in the garbage can. Dead on arrival.
But starting in the mid-1990s, corporate adoption of email communication changed the dynamics of direct marketing. First-class mail volume dropped from a peak of 59 billion pieces in 1996, to 23 billion pieces in 2013 — a 61 percent decline.
So in theory...this significant reduction in snail mail volume meant that the bar for getting materials past the office gatekeepers was lower; making it far easier to get your marketing materials into the hands of intended targets.
But that's not what's happened.
Instead, in lemming-like fashion, B2B marketers largely abandoned snail mail as a viable marketing communication channel, and adopted email as their "direct" medium of choice.
Now, 20 years later:
Misguided "eco friendly" practices (notably, failure to appreciate the paper industry's stellar record of sustainable forest management) have fostered a generation of lifeless marketing collateral that's either viewed onscreen, or downloaded and printed in PDF format on office printers.
As a result, today's B2B marketers are failing to capture opportunities to connect with prospects through physical materials, in a business environment where the arrival of personalized, first-class mail is often a unique event; prompting most gatekeepers to ensure that it's delivered to the intended target.
In addition to capturing this marcom window of opportunity, marketers would be well-served to take an additional giant step BACKWARDS...by developing "Ink on Paper" collateral materials that build brand stature.
What marketers will gain by recapturing the lost art of Ink on Paper includes:
Visceral Impact – Pixels on a screen have no weight, no dimension, no texture, no smell. Ink on Paper places something physical into a person’s hands. They open the cover and turn its pages. It’s a sensory experience that communicates on human terms, and that cannot be replicated by a flimsy PDF reprint created on a laser copier.
Personality – The range of creative expression using pixels is limited by the fixed dimensions of a flat glass screen. Ink on Paper lives on a canvas of unlimited graphic possibilities, in terms of size, shape, color and physical features. It provides an opportunity to stand out from the crowd, to express yourself more effectively, and to make an impression that’s likely to be remembered.
Permanence – People scroll through computer screens at hyper-speed. The volume of information is unlimited, and no intellectual commitment is required of viewers. Ink on Paper moves in slow motion, forcing readers to pay closer attention to its content.
Whether they sit on a desk or in a vest pocket, high quality printed materials suggest that the people and company who produced them actually exist, have nothing to hide and can be trusted.
Practitioners in most disciplines are often quick to embrace new tools and methods that enhance their results and professional satisfaction. But a much smaller number of those professionals understand the importance of sticking with, or adapting, existing tactics that work well. They do not fear appearing out-of-touch or old fashioned.
Seasoned marketers who have thrown the baby out with the bathwater in their wholesale adoption of digital communications, as well as more recent arrivals to the marketing profession who have always lived in a paperless world, would be well-served to reconsider Ink on Paper as a medium.
No marketing communications program is truly integrated without high quality print collateral.
Try using those materials as the basis for a snail mail campaign with clients or prospects, and see what happens. Ideally, do it before your competitors discover the opportunity.