We recently wrote a blog entry on one of our favorite subjects: That Print is the New Alternative Media. This week, the Washington Post published an article that demonstrates the power of print with young people.
Frank Schembari loves books — printed books. He loves how they smell. He loves scribbling in the margins, underlining interesting sentences, folding a page corner to mark his place.
Schembari is not a retiree who sips tea at Politics and Prose or some other bookstore. He is 20, a junior at American University, and paging through a thick history of Israel between classes, he is evidence of a peculiar irony of the Internet age: Digital natives prefer reading in print.
Something to consider when you’re figuring out how to reach your target customers.
Is this self-serving? Of course it is. Custom three ring binders are our business, so of course we want people to use them. In fact, SpeedBinder was founded by a former technology executive who saw the power in integrating a technology-based marketing channel with a traditional print-based product.
Recently, our President appeared at a business forum and discussed this strategy:
When we started SpeedBinder, it was something of a contrarian play. Remember the environment in 2003: We had just come out of the great “Dot-Com Bubble”. Everything was “going internet”. Technology, particularly the Internet, was still novel and businesses were investing like crazy to try to figure out how to create viable business models.
I saw this in my experience at TeliSmart.com, where I was CIO. We invested heavily in an on-line auction based infrastructure, trying to become “eBay for telecommunications companies”. Our goal was to create an online platform that large-scale communications providers could use to buy and sell enterprise level equipment.
While we were largely successful, I also saw that there was a certain category of transactions that were so inherently complex that on-line solutions would never be able to truly replace real customer service, and I went out seeking a business that fit my vision of this model. I found it in custom three ring binders.
The typical SpeedBinder customer is a small to medium sized business. The person we work with is typically either the business owner, or a key employee in a small office. They are looking for a solution that will allow them to “cast a big shadow”: They want to present a highly professional image for their company. They want to project credibility, trust and professionalism. Custom printed binders can play a valuable part in that strategy, but it is not the sort of product people are familiar with purchasing on a frequent basis.
Our mission at SpeedBinder is to create a highly consultative sales experience, and we see that being primarially over the telephone, in person or through on-line chat. Custom printed binders are not complex, but there are a large number of options and features that can play a dramatic role in how a project turns out.
We also understand that graphic design is a critical part of any print project, so we offer complete design and layout service to our clients. Our typical client does not have the resources to work with an expensive ad agency, so having the ability to take their corporate branding strategy and efficiently and accurately map it into a loose leaf binder project is a tremendous value add.
The Washington Post report offers a compelling description of the advantage of real, printed text:
Researchers say readers remember the location of information simply by page and text layout — that, say, the key piece of dialogue was on that page early in the book with that one long paragraph and a smudge on the corner. Researchers think this plays a key role in comprehension.
But that is more difficult on screens, primarily because the time we devote to reading online is usually spent scanning and skimming, with few places (or little time) for mental markers. Baron cites research showing readers spend a little more than one minute on Web pages, and only 16 percent of people read word-by-word. That behavior can bleed into reading patterns when trying to tackle even lengthier texts on-screen.
“I don’t absorb as much,” one student told Baron. Another said, “It’s harder to keep your place online.”
Consider the implications for your product catalog. Sure, most everyone has a shopping cart based solution for on-line sales, but that presents a very different experience to your customers. On-line solutions are best when your customer knows precisely what he or she is looking for and knows how to search for it directly.
But that’s not how customer behavior works. The ability to browse through a printed catalog, to become familiar with its style and layout, is something that drives sales. Customers see items they wouldn’t have thought to search for. One item might jog a thought suggesting another item, etc. It is that process that mirrors the comprehension advantage of print that the Washington Post discussed.
Back in the early 2000’s. we saw lots of companies seeking to save money by abandoning their print catalogs and going to either published CD’s or on-line solutions. A few years later, we saw a lot of those same companies return to print as they realized their electronic versions were not driving sales the way they expected.