What the Resurgence of Print-Based Marketing Means for Procurement

Posted: 03/09/2019 - 01:24
In 1897, while Mark Twain was in London on a speaking tour, someone started a rumor that he was gravely ill. Another rumor was that he had died. When a newspaper reporter asked Twain for his response to these rumors, he replied, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” 
Some marketing pundits have been predicting the demise of print-based marketing for most of the past two decades. These pundits usually point to the proliferation of digital communication channels and the explosive growth of digital marketing, and they argue that most forms of “dead tree marketing” are obsolete relics of the past. 
But to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of print-based marketing methods are a gross exaggeration. The reality is that print-based marketing hasn’t disappeared, and some types are actually experiencing a resurgence in use and popularity. 
Print Marketing Still Works 
The reason for this rebirth is simple: Recent research has shown that print-based marketing methods are still very effective at generating customer interest and driving sales. 
Take direct mail for example. Research by the Data & Marketing Association has shown that response rates to direct mail are higher today than they’ve been for more than a decade. In the 2018 DMA Response Rate Report, the average response rate for “house” (i.e. opt-in) lists was 9 percent, and the average response rate for prospect lists was 5 percent. From 2003-2015, the average response rates for house and prospect lists were, respectively, 3.6 percent and 1.6 percent. 
It turns out that even millennials – who are usually viewed as digital addicts who prefer to do everything online – have an affinity for direct mail. According to research by the U.S. Postal Service: 
  • 84 percent of millennials take the time to look through their mail, and 64 percent would rather scan for useful information in printed mail rather than email.
  • 62 percent of millennial survey respondents said they have recently visited a store based on information received in the mail, compared to 55 percent of GenX respondents, and 52 percent of Baby Boomers.

Printed catalogs are also still a highly effective marketing tool. Research by the U.S. Postal Service has found that: 

  • The average time spent looking at a catalog is 15 ½  minutes, and on average, consumers hold on to catalogs for about 20 days.
  • 72 percent of people surveyed said that catalogs make them more interested in a retailer’s products, and 84 percent of consumers have purchased an item after seeing it in a catalog. 
Lastly, the resurgence of print-based marketing can be seen in the growing use of brand-published magazines. Printed magazines have become an important part of the content marketing efforts of many companies, and several “digital” brands such as Facebook, Airbnb, Asos, Casper, and Net-a-Porter have even recently launched print publications. 
What This Means for Procurement 
The resurgence of print-based marketing is placing increasing demands on procurement professionals who are tasked with sourcing printed marketing materials. The increased workload is primarily the result of changes in how marketers are using print in their marketing efforts. 
Because print-based marketing programs usually carry a higher cost than many types of digital marketing activities, marketers are motivated to make their print-based programs as effective as possible. As a result, they are targeting their programs more precisely so that the messaging can be more relevant to customers and prospects. So, for example, rather than sending the same mail piece or catalog to 10,000 recipients, marketers may develop four different versions of the mail piece or catalog and send each version to 2,500 recipients.  
The same trend is affecting printed marketing collateral materials such as product brochures and similar materials. In many companies, product lifecycles are shrinking, which requires product-related marketing materials to be updated frequently. Meanwhile, both marketers and sourcing professionals are becoming more aware of the costs associated with obsolescence waste, which by the way can be substantial.  
A few years ago, the CMO Council surveyed marketers and found that 40 percent of the respondents who track the obsolescence of printed materials said they trash at least 20 percent of their materials for that reason. When the cost of obsolescence is considered, the economic benefit of buying printed materials in large quantities is diminished, and this has led some marketers and sourcing professionals to purchase materials in smaller quantities. 
The effect of these trends is that sourcing professionals must now manage an increased number of purchase transactions even if the total volume of printed materials used by their company has not increased. This can strain the resources of the sourcing function because the time required to manage a purchase transaction doesn’t usually vary proportionately with the value of the purchase. In other words, sourcing professionals are usually required to spend almost as much time managing a $10,000 purchase as they spend managing a $20,000 purchase. 
One way to address this issue is to implement a print e-sourcing software solution. A robust e-sourcing solution improves productivity by streamlining the activities required to manage a purchase transaction, which reduces the management time required for each transaction. So, a capable sourcing solution effectively increases the number of purchases that a sourcing professional can manage. 
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." - Mark Twain 

About The Author

Sarah Scudder's picture

Sarah Scudder is president of Real Sourcing Network (RSN), a print and marketing sourcing tool software company.

Sarah Scudder has spunk. Sarah Scudder is a go-getter who has gone out and got. 


Sarah is the youngest executive to ever serve on the board for the Print Services and Distribution Association (PSDA). Sarah is the brainchild behind ProcuRising, the cutting edge magazine that gives voice to industry leaders, writers, and entrepreneurs in the marketing and procurement space.

Sarah hosts thought leadership ProcuremenTalks around the country and coordinates events for the Global Women Procurement Professionals (GWPP). Sarah speaks at several annual sourcing industry events and hosts multiple webinars. She also co-authors a column for the Sourcing Industry Group (SIG)’s Future of Sourcing publication and Institute of Supply Management (ISM)’s “Inside Supply Management” newsletter.


Sarah won the Sourcing Industry Group (SIG) Future of Sourcing Rising Star award. Sarah is a winner of the North Bay Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 award. Sarah won the Print+Promo’s Trailblazer Under 40 award. Sarah also won the Print Services & Distribution Association (PSDA)’s Member of the Year award. 

But none of the above matters.  What matters is that Sarah Scudder treats everyone with respect, and it is her desire to make the world a better place. She is well on her way.