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Is printed product literature still of value?

Is it still worthwhile bothering with the expense of printed product literature?

Looking around exhibitions, it seems that most construction products manufacturers and suppliers have decided that it can all be on the web; at a window exhibition earlier this year I estimated that less than a third of the exhibitors offered printed publications on their stands. I was a bit shocked to be frank.

It then became irritating when I asked for technical details of a particular door handle and was told that there was none available and that I should go online to find out.

The manufacturer expected me to make a note of the reference number and then go to their website and find out for myself. They will never know why they missed out on being specified for that project.

How different it would have been if they had pressed a single-page datasheet or even a flash drive of PDFs into my hand and wished me well.

The personal touch

Personally when I used to attend exhibitions as an exhibitor it was a big help to have something to hand out, especially something marginally more useful than a spongy stress toy. Exhibitions are about personal contact and giving someone something they want will always help.

So having some printed product literature might help at exhibitions, to both your staff and to potential specifiers, but is it of value anywhere else?

Printed material seems expensive nowadays. It needs to be written, designed, laid out, printed, delivered, stored and distributed, which all comes at a cost.

“Well-designed, high-quality brochures provide reassurance and give your company an authority that can be felt in the hand and enjoyed by the eye”

Content needs writing and digital material often needs designing but carries little of the other costs mentioned.

Then you have to consider your audience, their age and their attitude. How many expect hard copy material? What proportion is used to dealing with printed paper?

Can you assume that you can meet your business objectives by search engines alone?

Yesterday a potential customer asked if we had a brochure or flier about a product; he didn’t want anything posted to him but he did want a structured document he could print off and show to colleagues; we emailed him the relevant datasheet as a PDF.

Certain audience

In the immediate future there will be a need for some printed material because there are potential customers who work that way; they are often mature professionals in positions of influence and so must be catered for.

This will most likely disappear eventually, but as of now, influencing, specifying and buying are the processes to take.

There is another area where printed material offers a unique benefit and that is in building or bolstering your brand. Well-designed, high-quality brochures provide reassurance and give your company an authority that can be felt in the hand and enjoyed by the eye.

To sum this up, only bother with printed product literature if you need to. It is useful at exhibitions as giveaways and to capture the moment for a potential customer and it is worthwhile having some brochures and technical datasheets as PDFs.

Printed material is essential for some customers, but only if such people are part of your audience. There are some things that high-quality print can do that digital cannot.

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 www.hotel-standards.com as well as being a CIMCIG committee member and a judge for the Construction Marketing Awards. You can find out about construction marketing at www.cimcig.org.

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