Written by Howie Fenton,
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL

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Let’s do an exercise. Let’s say you were asked where you invested your marketing dollars and which of those investments were most effective. Do you think there’d be a relationship between investments and success? Do you think those two lists would overlap? What if they didn’t?

Well, we just recently did exactly that. In the 2013/2014 NAQP Sales and Marketing study, we asked which marketing strategies were used the most and which marketing strategies were most effective.

When companies were asked: “Select all the marketing areas you invested in this year or plan to invest in next year, and rank the top-five,” the responses were:

42% – Direct Mail
39% – Website
36% – Brochures/Sales Literature
25% – Membership in Business Organizations
22% – E-mail Marketing
15% – Social Media
14% – Search Engine Optimization

However, when asked to rank effectiveness of each the following, these were the top answers:

79% – Shop Tours
72% – Brochures/Sales Literature
72% – Websites
68% – Telemarketing
68% – Membership in Business Organizations
68% – Direct Mail

If you compare these two lists, a lot of interesting conversations can result. For example, why are shop tours listed as most effective, but not an investment priority?  I would guess that you could argue that offering a shop tour does not require much of an investment, but others might argue that updating your equipment and training your staff does require investment.

In the current environment of websites and social media, some might say the idea of shop tours has fallen out of favor. You certainly can say it’s an “old-school” marketing tool.  But it’s hard to argue with the fact that people say it’s the most effective marketing strategy they use.

And I think it’s important to recognize that not all shop tours are the same. As someone who goes on shop tours several times a month, I can tell you there is a big difference between an unrehearsed shop tour given by someone who doesn’t really understand the benefits and value of the equipment, staff, and procedures…compared with a shop tour given by someone who does understand. I can see the value of a great shop tour from a mile away but only see them in about one in ten companies.

Another interesting conversation focuses on where these two lists overlap and where they don’t. For example, direct mail, websites, membership in business organizations, and brochures/sales literature are on both lists. However, some tactics including e-mail marketing, social media marketing or search engine optimization does not appear as effective. Digging deeper, we might ask why.  Is it because they are less effective? Is it because the companies don’t understand how to utilize the technology? Or some combination of both?

I don’t know the answer. Why do you think e-mail marketing, social media marketing or search engine optimization are investments but not more effective?


Howie Fenton is a consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers and in-plants on benchmarking performance against industry leaders, increasing productivity, and adding digital and value services through customer research. For more information click here.