You’d be forgiven for thinking that digital ways were edging out traditional methods, but there’s growing evidence to suggest that customer relationship marketing is coming full circle.
Laura Mucklow, Brand Manager at Instantprint, says the physical, tangible element of print is cancelling out digital noise. “Businesses are using more, not less, print to cut through the constant stream of marketing sent online. Receiving a brochure or leaflet from an agency seems to elevate the value of the promotion – clients can take items home and feel a sense of trust that is harder to find digitally,” says Laura.
Businesses are using more, not less print to cut through the stream of online marketing. Receiving a brochure from an agency seems to elevate the value of the promotion. Laura Mucklow, Instantprint.
The trend is borne out in impressive figures. Property brochures, presentation folders and pamphlets are huge growth areas for Instantprint. Over the past five years, it has seen a 131 per cent growth in printed material sales, and the sale of booklets and brochures has grown 32 per cent since last year alone.
Faith in the physical has prompted the company to invest £3.5 million in its production facility, with the addition of a Landa Nanographic Printing Press – only the second of its kind in the world and the first in the UK – which will cut production times and costs for clients. “We’re also looking to launch more foiling and spot UV options to cater for our growing pool of agents seeking to add that extra flair or professionalism to their printed materials,” adds Laura.
Show the love for the letterbox
While brochures and business cards are at the warmer end of traditional marketing – something posted through the letterbox remains at the ‘cold calling’ end of the bid for new business – but that doesn’t mean it’s fallen out of favour. Direct mail still reaches customers, build rapport and increase brand recognition, remaining one of the most highly targeted marketing methods available. Royal Mail research found 92 per cent of people read door drops delivered to their home, and 67 per cent of people have been prompted to buy after receiving a door drop directly through their door.
Get your news, message or offer quickly to people; beat others to the punch and maintain a constant flow of information to build brand awareness. Gary Howard, Precision Connects.
Leaflets are high on the list at Precision Connects; the direct marketing agency’s Gary Howard is concentrating on creating what he calls ‘doorstep drama’ via smarter content and better timing to take print marketing into a new decade.
Gary is an advocate of the nudge theory – a behavioural science used by governments to change habits through gentle persuasion using words and images. Rather than shouting the same old clichés at clients, he suggests adopting the EAST principles:
Ease of engagement; Attractive imagery that reflects the agency; Social relevancy through personal messages that mention a business that already works for local people, and timely interactions that are issued ahead of rivals and provide a consistent flow of messages.”
Print as a gateway to digital
Like Laura at Instantprint, Graeme Edwards, General Manager at Ravensworth says that print is a welcome respite from an online world and he has also noticed that direct mail, door drops in particular, are making a big comeback, “Customers who may have decreased their print marketing are now ramping up direct mail campaigns again.”
Rather than dismiss digital altogether, however, Graeme says agents need complementary marketing campaigns that feature both print and online, “Print can increase the success of an agent’s digital campaign and the likelihood the message will reach its target market,” says Graeme, who has seen print act as a springboard to get home movers engaging with an agent’s online channels.
Print marketing should use demographic software to target the most appropriate audience… postcode sectors where there is high owner-occupier status and a degree of affluence. Andrew Robinson, Mr Flyer.
The complementary aspect is something that Andrew Robinson at Mr Flyer echoes, “Print marketing can work with your digital strategy, rather than it being a case of one or the other.” Andrew’s agent clients often use their print marketing to direct the receiver to a specific landing page – such as a free online valuation tool – or they know a signboard, a direct mail flyer and a targeted Facebook ad will work together to compound the likelihood of a response.
Reaching the right people
Quite unique to agency, prospective clients can easily be targeted by traditional marketing, perhaps even more so than a digital approach. After all, a piece of direct mail will be picked up by a home owner, a tenant or a landlord. Door drops and direct mail can yield spectacular results but they need to be aimed with precision. Luckily, traditional marketing has ever-evolving methods at its disposal.
“I believe the future of traditional marketing is all about enhanced targeting,” claims Andrew. “The way we provide print marketing should be based around using demographic software to target the most appropriate audience. With agents, that is likely to be postcode sectors where there is high owner-occupier status and a degree of affluence – all within an appropriate distance from a branch.”
Andrew goes on to say contact methods can be even more fine tuned, “For instance, we approach landlords in an even more targeted way, by sending out personalised printed items – addressed ‘Dear Thomas Smith’, for instance – directly to registered landlords within a given locality.”
Forward, not back, tracking
Print has been let down in the past by its inability to monitor a return on investment, but the future is grounded in marrying paper with personalisation and precise tracking. Precision Connects has been working to develop new ways to bridge the gap between the physical and the digital, as well as deliver reporting in real time.
“The next version of our Connects platform will have the ability to auto generate personalised barcodes for any piece of printed collateral and this will trigger a digital engagement once a smartphone camera captures it,” says Gary. “The barcode will automatically open up a web page, which is customised to the client, and a notification message will be sent to a dashboard.” Gary added that this development is designed to work especially with just one line of address data in a way that is totally GDPR compliant and highly targeted.
Boards are coming in for some serious bashing, with many councils demanding a blanket ban in high density areas. The threat brings in to sharp focus how boards fit in with modern day property marketing and tastes.
Good signage acts as the gateway to an agent’s business. It doesn’t rely on people trawling through the internet, a hefty SEO spend or digital campaign. Tom Cummuskey, Kremer Signs.
It is this most traditional of marketing tools, however, that is very much needed in the digital age – with boards often the strongest piece of physical branding available to online-only and hybrid agents. Sign boards are also one of the most cost-effective marketing tools for High Street agents, with Tom Cummuskey at Kremer Signs saying they stack up favourably against portal fees, SEO strategies and targeted digital marketing.
“Good signage acts as the gateway to an agent’s business. It doesn’t rely on people trawling through the internet, a hefty SEO spend or digital campaign,” comments Tom. He adds that boards have retained their cost-effective edge. “On average, a board used at five properties will only cost £2 per property. Once paid for, you they can be used time and time again. Order a quality product and you have a cost-effective and professional form of advertising.”
Signs of the times
Aesthetics play a big part in the nation’s love/hate relationships with agents’ boards and, ironically, a more subtle approach to this most noticeable of traditional marketing methods could be the new strategy. “There has been a trend over the last four or five years towards less garish and ‘gimmicky’ branding, especially amongst our larger corporate clients,” says Andy March from Signboard.
Andy’s team are increasingly using colour co-ordinated posts and have seen an uptick in small chain and single-branch agents engaging with a designer to create more a polished look. The ‘less is more’ approach sees a pared back amount of information on the board, with simpler designs and only the most functional of information featured.
At Kremer Signs, boards are becoming more sophisticated thanks to new treatments. While planning restrictions and costs rule out LED illumination, eye-catching creativity now comes in the shape of mirror and reflective boards. The former can be applied to the entire board surface or just to certain areas, while the latter is compliant with councils and the Town & Country Planning Act 1947 by using the same vinyl as a hi-viz jacket and road safety signs.
Property boards as propaganda
Looking back, 2019 was the year of a tightening market, in sales and lettings and with less opportunities to erect signboards, does the future mean using boards as a wider marketing and even PR tool?
Take Hugo Rodrigues from Acasa Homes. The agent made a bold statement last year by paying for 200 boards to go up in his local area, printed with a message objecting to a proposed new homes development nearby. While it created a self propelling PR story, it also helped the agent align – perhaps even endear – himself with locals who were also opposed.
For now, the expectancy is for agents to largely play it safe and use boards in between transactions for the greater good. Naomi Wood at Agency Express doesn’t expect to see negative messaging becoming a board trend. “In what can be a criticised industry, we need to remain a positive voice within our communities. We are seeing increases year-on-year in agency boards being used to promote community events and as long as that remains a cost-effective choice, then it is a logical form of marketing.”