Pat Reese, Chief Media Strategist, Rooster Strategic Solutions

To print, or not to print – that’s a question I hear from clients every year as they struggle to generate more content on more platforms with fewer people (social media, anyone?). And the truth is there’s a lot to love about the traditional sales brochure. It’s easier to read than a web page, especially for those of us with older eyes. There’s more room to explain features and benefits with large photos and diagrams. They last longer and are more portable – you can’t hand out web pages at a trade show or workshop.

Despite all these positives, if 2020 is the year that you finally have to let something go, you may comfortably resolve to stop printing sales literature. And when you get pushback from the marketing teams that love handing out paper brochures, use the following points to explain your new resolution.

Customers do their research online. Back in the day, interested consumers would drive around to several locations to talk to salesmen, kick the proverbial tires, and collect literature to review at their leisure. Today they start – and often end – online. That’s why you have a robust web site with features, benefits, specs, and comparisons. Every survey I’ve seen in the last decade shows that the web is the first stop in any purchase funnel, so you should spend your time and money ensuring that this first visit is a productive one. And if you’re tempted to post your product brochures online, I wouldn’t bother. Most online reader tools are clunky, hard to navigate, and aren’t printer-friendly, leading to a poor web experience and an expensive and underwhelming printed copy. You’re far better off taking the best copy points and images from your brochures and using them on your website, in blog posts, and in your digital advertising and social posts.

Most brochures wind up in a landfill. The interested prospect who bends your ear for 10 minutes at the farm show or expo before taking your beautifully printed sales brochure may in fact carry it home for further examination. But more often than not it only gets carried as far as the nearest trashcan. This alone should make you question the investment you made in creating the brochure, not to mention the costs to package and ship boxes or crates of printed materials to your events.

Changes and updates are difficult. Specifications change, prices vary, services fluctuate. All these changes are easy to make on your company’s website. Your printed brochures? Not so easy. Major changes require you to print a new version, which is costly, and adding insult to injury, you’re forced to destroy the expensive literature you still have in stock. And if it’s a minor change you may be tempted to ignore it until the next scheduled update – which means your customers aren’t getting the most accurate picture of your products and services.

They’re impossible to track. These days it’s all about metrics, and I’m hard-pressed to think of any tactic harder to measure than a product brochure.

You have higher priorities. In the end, this is the most important reason to resolve that 2020 is the year to move away from traditional product brochures. You have to fish where your customers are, and that means focusing your attention online, ensuring that your website is an inviting, informative, and easily navigated destination, and that you’re creating integrated online campaigns to drive viewership. The truth is that unless you’ve been overwhelmed with more employees than you need – and I don’t know of a single department or agency that can make this claim – you simply can’t keep doing everything. When you get the inevitable pushback to continue doing printed literature, you should ask which tactics you should discontinue. More than likely this will end the discussion – or at least give you the opportunity to explain why there are more important tactics to pursue this year.