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Auditing Your Offline Marketing Materials

by Claire Parker, Staples® Contributing Writer

Those glossy, new postcards sure do look swanky. But what happens when you order too few for the trade show or have too many to give out before they become dated?

Blindly estimating printed marketing materials could leave you with one giant headache from scrambling for extras — or one giant stack of recycling. Either way, it’s an expensive approach to offline marketing.

So how do you gauge your actual printing needs? Do an audit! Dub yourself your company’s newest documentarian and follow the advice of these marketing pros and business owners to understand the marketing materials you need, and assess how they perform.

Consider Effectiveness

Auditing marketing effectiveness helps you make better decisions. Before you place an order, assess which pieces actually bring a return on investment.

“In the past, it was a guessing game whether or not a campaign was effective and when it was time to change or update it to something new,” says Matthew Lee, marketing director at Adhere Creative, a marketing firm in Houston, TX. He suggests using variable data printing that allows you to track URLs, phone numbers and other tracking measures directly linked to your Web site metrics, such as Google Analytics.

“You're able to see and track what's working and what's not, and tailor your print materials and collateral to specific goals or campaigns,” he says. Variable data printing can be expensive, but it provides a true ROI, which may justify the cost for high-volume or high-dollar pieces.

Need to spend less? Get your sales force to do a little digging. Asking customers what made them call or place an order shows which marketing materials resulted in sales. Use a spreadsheet or sales management software solution for tracking.

Estimate Carefully

So how do you determine the quantity you need? Consider your storage space, past history of distributing similar marketing materials, overall budget and the number of people on the distribution list.

And remember, if you go to a show, you’re not going to hand materials to every attendee. Instead, check with organizers for their input or see how many leftovers you have from last year to hone in on a number. Your local print provider can also help you estimate.

Adapt & Improve

After auditing your marketing, you should have a good sense of the design that resonates with customers.

For those super-effective pieces, be sure to edit for dated material before ordering reprints. “I make sure to edit all printed marketing materials several times over,” says Lauren Witte, associate director of client services for law firm Jackson White P.C. in Mesa, AZ. Spelling, photo cropping (no missing tops of heads), dates, times and locations should be looked at carefully. This cuts down on waste — those rate cards with outdated fees — and the expense of unplanned reprints.

Ask for Help

If the idea of editing, adding QR codes (those little abstract black and white boxes you scan with your phone) or setting up multiple phone numbers to track campaigns makes you want to breathe into a paper bag, seek professional help.

Plus if their expertise results in enough ROI to make their fee a wash, then it’s a win. And you’ll no longer feel like your old marketing materials are just fodder for the waste basket.

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