Written by Howard Fenton
Senior Technology Consultant, NAPL

crowded street blurredOne of the first things you learn in marketing is to ask the question. “Who is your Customer?” In fact, experts have long considered the identification of the target market as one of the most critical factors to success. An interesting question was posted on a new LinkedIn Group called, “Market your Printing Company” which asked the question, “Has your target audience changed with the advancement of Internet technologies?” This is an interesting question and the answers served as the inspiration for this post.

According to a Accenture Study a few years ago, $670B of the $930B was spent on printing that supported a marketing and sales role. That means that over 70% of what is printed serves a marketing and sales role. I could argue that the target audience for those seeking to market and sell their products is not changing, but what is changing is the channel preference of the end-user.

What does that mean? Imagine you have a pie chart with different slices of the pie that represent different channels. The entire pie is the target audience for people who you want to market or sell their products. Within that pie you have different slices representing different channels such as print and mail, e-mail, social media, SEO (search engine optimization) SMS texting. The pie itself remains the same size, but the sizes of each slice are changing.

Some research suggests that the print and mail slice of the pie is shrinking while other slices such as social media, mobile and SEO are growing. But while the target market is not changing, it is the effectiveness of these channels that determines overall success. What determines the effectiveness of each channel? Some people would argue that it’s proximity. In other words, you are going to always be closer to your cell phone than to your computer. That proximity translates to the likelihood you’ll use it, which is why so many people talk about the growing importance of mobile marketing.

But there is another school of thought that says the effectiveness is determined by relevance and timing. In other words, getting the right message to the right person at the right time determines the effectiveness. The channels capable of this effectiveness are not limited by mobile, social or print technologies, but are based on database technologies such as variable data printing, PURLs (personalized URLs), and SMS texting. These database technologies cross all channels.

To answer the original question, the target market is not changing because of digital technologies, but the effectiveness is changing and the effectiveness will become a critical success factor in the future.

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Howie Fenton is a consultant and business advisor at NAPL as well as a paid contributor to this blog. 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.