The media landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade. The emergence of social media and the birth of smartphones and tablets is transforming the way that people communicate and consume information. Yet while doom-mongers may view this as a threat to the print industry, forward-thinking Print Service Providers (PSPs) are looking for ways to make this new world order and information intensive age work to their advantage.
For the innovative PSPs who have always looked for ways to make print more effective and add value to the services they offer, cross-media is an understandably exciting proposition. It offers a means to link the world of print with all the possibilities of online media, while simultaneously making print more measurable.
The opportunity is undeniable. Adding cross-media marketing services to their service offering not only enables PSPs to differentiate themselves in the increasingly competitive and commoditised print market, but it can also enable them to grow their print volumes.
What is cross-media?
Cross-media campaigns are integrated multichannel communications in which digital media (web, e-mail, SMS, social media sites) works alongside print, often personalised, to elicit the desired response from recipients in business-to-business and business-to-consumer environments. Independent research strongly suggests that the combination of print and digital media increases response rates and subsequently the return-on-investment made in marketing campaigns.
In fact, research by InfoTrends shows that most PSPs who have introduced cross-media marketing services have seen an average 14 per cent increase in digital print volumes. As a result, cross-media print volumes are expected to represent 9.5 per cent of total print volumes by 2014.
PSPs who have been using digital print technology for some time will no doubt already be aware of how Variable Data Printing (VDP) can be used to enhance the effectiveness of printed pieces by making them relevant and personalised to each recipient. When used as part of a multi-channel campaign, this careful targeting not only enhances the effectiveness of the piece, but that of the campaign as a whole.
Research by InfoTrends shows that using multiple media types (print, the web, direct mail, email, SMS, PURLs, QR codes, mobile, video and social media) can improve response rates by up to 34 per cent compared with using print alone.
Smart marketers are certainly recognising this. Canon’s most recent Insight Report, The Bigger Picture: Your customers’ view on the value of print found that 58 per cent of organisations are using multi-channel campaigns as part of their communications mix.
Yet while marketers clearly recognise the importance of multi-channel communications, integrating these channels is still a challenge. A recent study from The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) in partnership with Canon explored the key issues that marketers rate as high priorities for their organisations.
The research found that 82 per cent rate joining up campaigns as their number one priority. Yet despite this, the same research found that less than one in five organisations currently achieve high levels of campaign integration.
Many print buyers take their first steps into cross-media with a multi-channel campaign in which print acts as a signpost that directs the reader to a website where further information can be found.
But taking their first steps into cross-media is not sufficient for most print buyers. The Bigger Picture found that cross-media is one of the areas in which print buyers feel print could help them meet their communications needs more effectively in the future. The print buyers who gave this feedback envisage cross-media campaigns that mix print with online media and in which these cross-reference each other in order to track effectiveness and measure response rates.
That is a key factor in the growing demand for cross-media services. When you add the interactivity that cross-media makes possible, the campaign doesn’t only become more effective, it becomes more measurable too.
One of the priorities for marketers identified in the CIM report was the need to improve measurement and evaluation. In fact, only 11 per cent of organisations consistently measure the impact of different communication channels in a campaign.
This finding was echoed in Canon’s research into the views of print buyers, which found that print buyers aren’t sure how they can measure the value of the print that they commission, and are looking for help from their PSPs in proving the effectiveness and value of print.
Cross-media gives PSPs a means to analyse the responses of campaign targets and, with the added support of Canon’s recently developed return-on-investment tool, a way to help their customers create campaigns that deliver measurable results. For marketers, who are under pressure to measure and demonstrate the results of everything they spend, assistance with demonstrating the value they get in return for their spend is an extremely attractive selling point.
Making the most of the opportunity
For many PSPs, the question of how to make the most of the cross-media opportunity is still an open one. Through our experiences of working with PSPs at various points in the spectrum of cross-media services, we’ve identified some key points to consider before you take your next steps in cross-media:
1) Lead by example
Running cross-media campaigns for your own business will give you an opportunity to learn which tools you need and identify potential challenges, as well as to demonstrate your ability to deliver.
2) Educate staff and customers
Today’s marketing professionals want consultants who understand their business and who advise and educate instead of selling. Educating and training your staff about the opportunities offered by cross-media will make a huge difference to the success of your business.
Educating customers and demonstrating credibility are critical success factors in marketing your cross-media services. In many cases, customers are not asking for VDP or cross-media services because they don’t know what they are or that their print providers offer them.
3) Use the resources you have
Simple VDP-based templates using standard software, such as Adobe® InDesign® and Creative Suite®, can easily be combined with customer data, text, images and barcodes to add significant value for the customer without having to compromise on production costs or lead times.
4) Develop partnerships
The shift to full cross-media service delivery is usually best approached in steps. If your business doesn’t currently have the right skills to deliver the service you want to, then developing strategic partnerships with external specialists who have complementary skills will enable you to broaden your offering without hiring additional staff.
5) Analyse results
Using cross-media, tools can be integrated into a campaign to make it possible to measure recipients’ responses and respondents’ preferences. This not only makes campaigns more measurable for the PSP, but it also provides the marketer with useful data that can be used to inform and improve targeting in future campaigns.
To find out more about Canon’s cross-media offering and how an Essential Business Builder Program consultant can help you plan your next steps in cross-media, visit www.canon-europe.com/crossmedia/.
 The Evolution of the Cross-Media Marketing Services Provider, InfoTrends, July 2011
 Multi-Channel Communications Measurement & Benchmarking, InfoTrends, 2012
 Unlock the value of creative: Getting more from marketing assets and campaigns, CIM, 2011
 The Bigger Picture: Your customers’ view on the value of print, Canon, May 2012