Ep. 127 | How to Integrate Your Print and Digital Marketing

This week, we chat with Ryan Cote from Ballantine about integrating your digital and print marketing campaigns.

As you know, there is a lot of noise out there on the Internet. More than 70 million blog posts each month. Billions of emails sent each day. More than 600,000 podcasts. One way to break thru the noise is with an old-fashioned direct mail campaign. And print is definitely not dead.

Ryan is the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a third-generation family-owned direct mail and digital marketing company based out New Jersey.

Picture of Ryan Cote for the Rethink Marketing podcast where he talks about integrating print and digital marketing

Nathan: Ryan, welcome to the show. Can you tell me more about yourself and Ballantine?

Ryan: Thanks Nathan. Happy to be here. And definitely. So, on a personal note, I live in New Jersey. Married for 12 years. I have three daughters. That keeps me very busy.

And then in terms of my professional career, I think you mentioned I’m Director of Digital Services and partner at Ballantine. It’s a family business. Goes back to the mid-60’s. My great-uncle started the company. My father retired a couple of years ago. And now myself, my two brothers, my uncle are partners in the business.

And we do both print, you know, direct mail and digital marketing. So we have in house teams for both services. I love what I do.

Is Direct Mail and Print Dead? 

Nathan: We’re here today to talk about the integration between print and digital marketing. But to begin with, I thought print was dead. Is it not?

Ryan: No, it’s definitely not dead. We do a lot of it. It’s still a major, major part of our business. It’s changing. Obviously digital’s important. It’s just another channel to meet your prospects. And there’s a lot you can do with it.

But print, it’s just changing. The volumes are smaller in terms of the campaigns. But the data is a lot more targeting though. The printing presses have become much more sophisticated where you can get very personalized. There’s different options in terms of formats. So we still do a lot of printing. You think about your inbox. You don’t get a whole lot of mail. So it’s just an easy way to get your marketing message physically in the person’s hand. We do both a lot of print, a lot of digital. They both play their role. And print is definitely not dead.

Nathan: Is it similar to vinyl records, where something old is new again? Marketers today are saying, “Oh, let’s try to do some more print?”

Ryan: I think you’re right. I think because it’s just because … Digital’s great but it is very crowded and very noisy. So I think marketers are just looking for a way to get their marketing message in their prospects’ hands in a less crowded medium. It can be more expensive, of course. You’ve got postage and print, and mail and lists and all that. What I find, too … so some of the markets for us on the print side, non-profits and travel.

So some markets just tend to do better with print. For example, cruise ships. They need to physically get the schedule, the itinerary in the person’s hands so they can kind of thumb through it. Older demographics tend to prefer print. But there’s studies also that, younger do as well. And non-profits, that’s a huge market for direct mail. They need to get money back from, you know, donations, and so … And they give out premiums. It’s just a very effective medium for non-profits to raise donations for their cause.

What are some of the ways that we can integrate print and digital?

Nathan: You were talking about non-profits and I was just thinking about all the email or, not email, letters I’ve received from my local NPR station asking for their quarterly or weekly fundraiser that they seem to be always having. What are some of the ways that we can integrate print and digital?

Ryan: Using NPR as an example. I don’t know if they’re doing this. They’re not a client. But you notice, they have their list. They mailed you a letter asking for donations and so they have your address and maybe your email address. You can upload that list to Facebook, and LinkedIn, and a certain percentage of those records will match. And then you can show ads to those people. So essentially what happens is, you’re getting the mail piece and then a certain percentage of those people are also getting ads in their LinkedIn and/or Facebook feed.

So it’s sort of like a one-two punch. Of course then, you can also layer in emails as well. So now they’re getting the mail piece in their mailbox. They’re getting emails in their inbox from you. And then they’re getting ads from you in their feeds on LinkedIn and Facebook. So it’s a multiple touchpoint strategy combining digital and print.

Then you can also make sure that if you’re running a special campaign through print, their direct mail, the social media posts that you add, mirrors the direct mail offer. Maybe the campaign, the messaging, it’s all consistent. So if someone gets their mail piece from you and they go to your website, obviously you want to mention something about the campaign in your website. If they go to your social profiles, they’re going to see the same messaging. So everything’s very cohesive. So there’s a few different ways you can integrate print and digital.

Integrating Direct Mail in Your Automated Nurture Programs

Nathan: In that sort of scenario that you were talking about, that you started with sort of your print piece of content and your mailing list. Is there a way, and then that kind of led to uploading that to Facebook and doing lookalikes, and stuff like that … Is there a way to reverse that so that you’re having an automated nurtured campaign, which is traditional, digital, lead nurturing sort of strategy. But then you’re having a trigger event where if they’ve read through or watched two webinars, it triggers like a postcard getting sent to them or something like that.

Ryan: There is, but we don’t get too involved in that. There’s technology now, which we’ve run a few campaigns for this where you can essentially add code to your site that identifies people that come to your site, like IP addresses for example. And then you can send mail to the people that have been on your site.

So they come to your site. Maybe they visited a certain page. They’re looking at your red widgets or what have you. And then you send them a postcard or a letter about your red widgets. So that’s sort of triggered. It’s a little bit manual, but you can automate it. So that’s technology that we’re starting to take more advantage of. That’s another way, again, to kind of integrate print and digital.

How to Personalize Your Print Campaigns at Scale

Nathan: Well, it’s interesting, right? I mean, I think as I think about this that in the past print was great for scale. You could print out a 1000 and mail it all off. But then it lost something in the personalization aspect, where you can get that in digital. How personal can you make the printing? What are some of the things that can be printed that are also personal?

Ryan: I mentioned in the beginning that the technology for printing presses has really increased. It’s crazy what you can do now.

The digital presses where you can literally, if you’re mailing out, if you’re printing 500,000 postcards for example, all 500,000 can be completely different, different images, name personalization.

It’s also driven by the data, too. Like the data now has gotten really … You’ve got compiled data. You also have responsive data. You have data based on behavioral and interest selects.

There’s a lot of data sources where you can then, that are very personalized, that you can then feed that into the printed piece. Customized imagery, customized information about them.

And then, in terms of formats, I keep mentioning postcards and letters. But we do some crazy stuff for some of our clients like video mailers where it’s literally a small little folder, that when you open it. It plays a video.

It’s very expensive. You’re not doing a lot of it. It’s like literally for very specialized campaigns, where you’re maybe doing a hundred of them. Because they are expensive. But it’s literally a folder that you open up and a video plays. It’s like a two inch by 3 inch screen that plays a video.

Print is definitely not limited to just postcards. Then you’ve got crazy self-mailers that fold out into the shape of like a cross. There’s a lot of ways you can do it. A lot of ways you can do direct mail.

Do Marketers Still Use QR Codes?

Nathan: This just shows you how green I am in this space. I remember always saying, “Oh, just add your QR code to your print ad,” or whatever it was going to be. Or a customer URL. Are those things even still relevant? Are people doing that?

Ryan: Not as much anymore, Nathan. So QR codes, we were doing them for a little while. I cannot think of the last time. It’s been a long time since we’ve used them. They’re kind of neat, I guess. You scan the code and it takes you somewhere. It takes you to a video or whatever.

We just found that no one was using them. And maybe there’s an application. I look at QR codes almost like, if you ever pass by and you see a house for sale, they have the sign in the front and there’s a QR code where the person can scan it to watch a video of a walk through. I think that’s kind of cool.

But in terms of direct mail, we just don’t use them. At least for us. Maybe there’s other direct mail companies that have made them successful. But just for us, in our own experience, they didn’t do anything.

But custom URL’s, we do them less now but we still do them a little bit. The personalized URL’s, where you send them to a personalized landing page. The URL has the person’s name in it. There’s still some value there.

I think what we see is the biggest value is what … It’s called the PURL redirect. PURL means like personalized URL, PURL redirect. So essentially what it is, is it’s a domain. It’s a URL with the person’s name in it. So Ballantine.com/john.doe or whatever. When the person visits it, it still takes them to their normal website. But the redirect captures who actually visited.

So if you look at any direct mail piece, it almost always has the company’s website on it. So you’d still have a website on there. It would still take them to their website. But using the PURL redirect; A. It adds a little bit of personalization which, you know, customers are a little numb to that now but it still has a little bit of a ‘wow’ factor.

But that redirect captures that person’s information. When you look at your campaign stats, you not only see how many people went to your website. But you see who when to your website.

And obviously, that’s like a dream for a sales team because it creates a lead list for them to follow up on.

How do you align your digital to what’s going on on the print side?

Nathan: On the digital side, I’m just wondering what is happening. We’ve been talking a lot about aligning your print to your digital. How do you align your digital to what’s going on on the print side?

Ryan: I think digital and print both have the same objectives. It obviously depends on your customer base. But generally for us, the clients we have. It’s sales and leads. And so, for us, digital is just another way to generate more leads.

So it depends on the client and what they need. But we’re doing SEO, managing their campaigns on social, and Google Ads, for example. Managing all their social media content, their blogs, all that. It’s all with the objective of getting leads.

It’s two different teams here, print and digital. But we do try to combine them when possible so the messaging is all cohesive and the campaign is the same and what have you. Does that answer your question?

Choosing Your CTA in a Print Campaign

Nathan: Yeah, sure. I’m just remembering a follow up question I had from earlier when we were talking about PURL’s and QR codes and so forth.

A lot of this, having the audience, the person that receives this piece of print collateral taking action. You have to be smart about what that call to action is, right? I mean, if it’s just learn more about my history, that might not follow up and go to that PURL. But if it’s be entered to win a trip to Mozet land or where ever else, maybe they would, right? Do you have any advice or strategies for that?

Ryan: Yeah, I mean, so clearly the call to action’s definitely … If you’re just throwing your address on your mail piece, there’s very little incentive for someone to go. You’re going to see a very low visit rate on that. Unless the person’s really interested. That’s a good lead, but it’s going to be small numbers.

If you’re going to use a PURL redirect. And you want to give it the best chance of getting the most visits, it needs to be like the call to action, front and center.

There needs to be a reason for the person to visit. And grab your white paper, enter to win, what have you. Not just learn more, but like a real strong reason. Then make it front and center, not buried in the right hand corner or what have you. It needs to be front and center. That would give you the best chance of getting a visit to the PURL.

It’s almost like a website. When you look at the website you want to make sure you have the phone number top right hand corner, everything above the fold, live chat maybe. Don’t make the person think like if they want to contact you, it needs to be super, super simple. Well, the same thing applies with the direct mail piece, with call to actions, with PURL redirect, or a phone number, or whatever the call to action is. Make it very, very, very easy for them to respond.

Call tracking and your print campaigns

Nathan: You mentioned phone number there. That also can be sort of personalized in a way, right? I mean it could be custom nowadays. Am I right about that? Or? Something I don’t know anything about, so.

Ryan: You can create a phone number for the direct mail. So any calls you get, you know it came from the direct mail piece. And then, yeah. We do call tracking for all our digital campaigns.

So we’ve got phone numbers for organic, for paid, for LinkedIn, for Facebook, email. We try to track everything so that when you’re looking at the list of leads that you got, the phone calls. You know the breakdown of where they came from. It’s good for us, but the client needs to see it, too.

You definitely want to do call tracking. And there’s no reason not to because it’s super simple. We use CallRail. That’s just who we use, but there’s other options out there. And they’re not terribly expensive. We spend a lot now because of the numbers we have and how many clients and stuff like that. But the value far outweighs the cost. You need to do it.

Who’s the ideal target for a direct mail, integrated digital campaign?

Nathan: And speaking of the audience that you send these direct mail pieces to on behalf of your clients you’re getting this stuff out there for. Who’s the ideal target for this sort of direct mail, integrated digital campaign? Is it current customers? Is it warm leads? Cold leads? Something of everything? Or what?

Ryan:  I can answer this from a print and digital because it’s pretty much the same. It’s a little bit of everything. It really depends. I’ll just give you specific examples. It really depends on what you’re doing.

Like you mentioned, NPR, maybe you donated for them in the past? Let’s say donated for them in the past. Well, you know, they’re mailing to you as a quote unquote customer, trying to get more donations. If you haven’t donated, then that’s a cold lead. They’ve bought your name from somewhere. Maybe you donated to another cause and they’re hoping you donate to them.

On the digital side, we’re going after. If a client has a list of customers, and they want to upsell them on other things. They want to cross sale or what have you. And you were running campaigns to the customers to get them to buy more, targeting cold leads on Facebook and LinkedIn. LinkedIn, we could target different groups. People that are part of different groups, different job titles, different industries. Those are cold leads.

If you’re doing an email newsletter, generally you have your client list and your lead list. Clients, obviously that’s more nurturing. Nurturing the clients. Whereas the lead list, you’re trying to nurture them as well but there’s different objectives.

So I would say it’s a little bit of everything. It just depends on the channel you’re using and what the campaign objective is. But generally, you want to target customers and cold leads. And I think of our own marketing here at Ballantine.

We always send out a weekly email newsletter. It goes out to everyone because we want our clients seeing the content we’re creating, reminding them that we’re here. But we also want our prospects to get it, too, because we want them to become a client. I think you need to target all those channels: customers, warm leads, and cold leads.

How does someone get started with an integrated campaign?

Nathan: How does someone get started? You know, even if it’s just with a pilot?

Ryan: It starts with a conversation just to find out what the campaign objectives are and what you’re currently doing. What your needs are, what we could provide. But it really starts with a conversation just to lay it all out and see what makes sense.

Nathan: And to get that conversation started, how do I learn more about you and Ballantine?

Ryan: So Nathan, we put together a website, a URL. It’s sort of personalized, I guess, going back to one of your original questions. It’s Ballantine.com. I’ll spell it out because it’s easy to misspell. It’s B as in Bob, A-L-L-A-N-T-I-N-E. Ballantine.com/rethink.

And on there, you can catch me on LinkedIn. There’s also an offer for free video analysis of your website. So, we’ll take kind of like a screen share of your website, look at how your SEO is, how the website looks, call to actions. Basically an overall analysis of your website, your digital marketing through video. And I personally do that myself. And so if there’s an offer there and you want to take us up on it.