The Digital Age has some construction firms questioning whether the age-old print brochure is still necessary. Why not just cut the expense and go fully digital?
The following article will explore whether it still makes sense to have a print company brochure in today’s technology-driven world. The format will revolve around some of the common justifications firms use to stop the presses on their print brochures and whether they hold water.
When the Print Construction Brochure Ruled
The year was 1995. I was working with my dad’s firm, Fraley Communications. We were an advertising and public relations firm specializing in the heavy construction market at a time when such an agency was even more uncommon than it is today.
Construction brochures were the backbone of a construction firm’s marketing efforts. I recall working on two brochures for large general contracting/material supply operations that were more than 15 pages! Both had lots of copy and photos, and we printed them on heavy, glossy stock. The result was the kind of brochure you felt guilty purging.
The World Wide Web went live in 1991 and company websites emerged. Construction websites began popping up in the 2000s. Next came digital partners like PDF files, email marketing, social media, etc. Although “old school” construction firms were reluctant, cost-sensitive firms smelled an opportunity to cut printing costs.
It seemed the traditional construction brochure, like the old gray mare, wasn’t what she used to be many long years ago. It was far too premature; however, to plan a trip to the glue factory.
Why Not Just Use a Digital Brochure?
Why not just design a digital brochure that you can send via email rather than wasting money on printing? Fair question.
A digital brochure should accompany, not replace, a print version. A print brochure is ideal as a leave-behind after prospect meetings, a handout for tradeshows, and an alternative for people that have no interest in reading a digital document. The latter is a far larger crowd than you think.
Consider that the big picture shift from print to digital is not necessarily driven by consumer preference. It’s more often rooted in companies or publishers that want or need to cut costs. Don’t assume that your prospects want digital.
Let me ask you this. Which has a better chance of being seen? A print brochure handed to a person, or a digital brochure transmitted via email or passed along on a thumb drive? Although no one has data to support this, I believe that a print brochure would get more impressions since the only action required is to flip through a page or two. There is no sorting through emails or plugging in a thumb drive and possibly figuring out which files to click.
Not to mention, have you ever noticed the human connection that takes place when you make eye contact and hand someone a print brochure? Also, the sense of touch is engaged when someone handles a sturdy printed document. It could be argued that the importance of this will grow in a high-tech world increasingly dominated by intangibles and less frequent human connection.
Won’t Our Brochure Get Tossed in the Recycling Bin?
Why print a brochure when it will end up in the recycling bin or the trash? It’s a waste of money and materials, right? This argument is not a new one in the construction industry.
Consider this: what goal have you always had for a company brochure? For most construction firms, it’s about giving customers an overview of your firm, or focusing on specific products or services.
Brochures never had a long shelf life. Is that a reason not to have one? Have you ever considered the shelf life of a digital brochure? I suspect it may be a bit longer, but that’s only because it’s lost among digital files rather than visible in a pile on your desk.
Does your brochure communicate the core message and leave a lasting impression before it meets its final resting place? Can it be filed and retrieved at a later date to remind prospects of your services, materials, and products? These are the types of questions you should be asking.
Didn’t Our Website Replace the Print Brochure?
The website has given us something that a brochure never could – a living, breathing, up to date picture of your firm that can be fine-tuned on a regular basis. This is why the website is the most critical marketing tool modern construction firms currently have.
It’s tempting for hard-nosed construction firms to deem the print brochure repetitious and slash overhead. Your website should complement rather than replace your brochure. There is a time and a place for each.
The goal for your brochure is to provide a snapshot of your firm while also ensuring longevity and staying consistent with your brand. Your website, on the other hand, is a place where curious prospects can drill down to get extensive details.
Check out the Fraley Construction Marketing print brochure below. Click here or on the image below and you will see that it’s a succinct tri-fold piece that offers a very basic primer. The print version is on a heavy, glossy stock.
What Kind of ROI Will It Deliver?
The Digital Age has given us the opportunity to replace printed materials like brochures that have traditionally provided a hard to measure Return on Investment (ROI). The most frugal construction firms have embraced the opportunity to cut expenses.
Our ability to measure marketing ROI has always been critical. Big data has given us the tools to do a better job of it, but to take an ax to anything without a guaranteed ROI is short-sighted. It’s fair to look at expenditures that have a questionable ROI and want to deep six them, but it’s not always a smart move.
One of the things that has helped to offset concerns about wasting money on a print brochure is that it’s gotten cheaper. For one, the days of the 12-plus page brochure are fading away. Secondly, digital has essentially replaced analog printing and it’s cheaper. As some firms ditch the print brochure, welcome this opportunity to get a deal on standing out with a high-quality print brochure.
Isn’t Printing a Brochure Bad for the Environment?
The construction industry, like others, is increasingly focused on sustainability as processes like green building and recycling take center stage. Most construction firms haven’t traditionally put the estimator in charge of printing quantities. The result is that they end up with dozens, if not hundreds, of leftover brochures. Why not just save the trees and stop printing?
Printing brochures has become more environmentally sound, for one. Digital printing doesn’t use the same toxic chemicals as analog, for one. Secondly, we’re saving paper by emailing digital drafts instead of printing color comps. Thirdly, we can virtually eliminate overruns.
The secret to analog printing was that much of the cost was involved in starting up the presses. As a result, it was usually more cost-effective to order larger quantities even if you didn’t need them. This isn’t an issue with digital printing so we can now order small runs for very reasonable prices. Some printers even use recycled paper.
Digital, Print, or Both? The Choice is Yours
The print brochure isn’t the centerpiece of construction marketing as it once was, but it still matters. There is no question that bottom line driven, short-sighted firms have plenty of excuses to stop the presses altogether and put that cash to use elsewhere.
The most progressive firms; however, believe in the timeless power of a print brochure. They also recognize that many in the construction industry still prefer print, and that probably won’t change anytime soon, even after the last of the Baby Boomers has retired. And lastly, they recognize that a scaled down print brochure will effectively complement modern digital marketing tools.
Do you have a print brochure? If so, what other reasons do you have for not going all digital?