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Balancing print and online

Headed notepaper, continuation sheets, compliments slips, a price list, maybe a brochure or two and the occasional advertisement in an appropriate trade journal… it used to be so much simpler then.

Then came the web and a host of other, less tangible, things to spend money on – websites, Twitter, email newsletters, LinkedIn campaigns, SEO, inbound marketing, microsites, reputation marketing and so on.  

Still, there is no point in harking back; you need to decide how your marketing spend will be divided up in the present and the balance of spending between print and online will be determined by which is going to work best for your business.

There is no magic marketing bullet that will make all other marketing materials obsolete; the semantic web/the web of things/web 3.0 is coming and will offer new marketing methods but it will not sweep away poster advertising or any other of the older marketing materials.

Remember that Google advertised its then-new browser Chrome on posters and the sides of buses.

The fact is that effective marketing will always consist of a mixture of techniques and materials applied consistently and professionally.

If you want to build a company and establish your brand in the marketplace, then you should concentrate on an authoritative and reassuring website and high-quality printed matter. At this stage your business image is all that potential customers can see and so reassurance that you are not a passing phase is important.

If you’re looking to promote specific items over a short period then online will be your friend. Online advertising can be fine-tuned to your chosen market segment and encourages a speedy, immediate response. Twitter is useful here but beware: there is a growing resistance to Twitter as a sales tool.

For long-term brand building, PR and its younger sibling, reputation marketing, are strong contenders. You can build a reputation by providing genuinely useful material and informing people about it, building a reputation for expertise within your chosen field.

Doing this involves writing for both traditional print and online journals and letting people know you have written them.

Magazine readers will have made some commitment to read a magazine by actually having a copy, be it purchased or requested, and so there is a good chance your article demonstrating your expertise will be read. Online is a bit different; you need to share the demonstration of your knowledge through Twitter or LinkedIn or an email newsletter.

The web is very big and the chances of an interested person stumbling over your information lessen every day. You can help by organising links from relevant blogs and other sites and by optimising for keywords and phrases, but you have to balance the cost of doing so against the increase in traffic; it might be cheaper to send postcards to the intended recipients!

Advertising is another area where print and online at first might appear to be at odds with one another and so are in need of balancing. But the nature of advertising is different according to the medium used.

It is difficult (and expensive) to create feelings of quality and sumptuousness in an online ad; it is comparatively easier and much cheaper to demonstrate high quality in print.

Although download speeds are continually increasing, there will always have to be a balance between necessarily simpler online graphics and the message that you want to put across.

Online advertising is not always limited to text and simple graphics but it is commonly surrounded by other text and imagery, all competing against your message – far more so than is the case with print media.

So what is the balance between online and print? The answer, like so much in life, is that it depends. There is not a magic formula for determining that the split should be.

The balance between the two will depend entirely upon the nature of the message and your campaign objectives. Do not start by saying we’re going to do a digital campaign or run a series of print ads; better to think what you want to achieve, who you want to reach and with what message; then the balance of the campaign will become clearer.

Rick Osman is a partner in Highwire Design, a design and marketing agency that specialises in the construction industry, and one of the team that created as well as being a CIMCIG committee member and a judge for the Construction Marketing Awards. You can find out about upcoming construction marketing events at

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