It seems most of the emphasis in customer experience these days is on websites, social media, online shopping, and internet customer portals. Those all play important parts in the overall customer experience, but for many companies, the greatest opportunity to influence customer perception is still with printed documents.

Customer interactions through electronic channels can be sporadic. Companies cannot control when customers will be exposed to these messages. They might drive customers to their online content via email or social media, but those are cluttered communication channels fraught with distractions. Gaining customer attention requires planning and persistence. Most companies, especially small- to medium-size organizations that lack full-time marketing departments, don’t have the resources to promote their content consistently.

Twitter and LinkedIn are great for attracting people to informational content designed to establish trust and thought leadership. Lately, I’ve been helping more of my clients boost their visibility using these tools. But it’s still tough. Individuals can easily miss occasional posts that appear in their feeds. To really increase traffic, companies must constantly promote their content in these social networks.

Print Has Unique Advantages

Printed material delivered via the mail has advantages over electronic alternatives. Mail, even if customers don’t open it the day of receipt, can stay in a customer’s home or office for days or even weeks. Mail doesn’t scroll off the screen where recipients are unlikely to notice it. Customers don’t have to remember passwords, log in, or use certain keywords to see the marketer’s content. And, if customers have a compelling reason for viewing the paper documents, such as paying a bill, over 90% of them will see messaging included as inserts or onserts.

With contemporary document composition software and digital printing, printed documents can be just as personalized as online content. Marketers can tailor messaging, offers, and images to match the profiles of each individual receiving them. Color, once a big differentiator between printed and electronic communications, is no longer a roadblock. Almost all print service providers have added color printing capabilities to their offerings.

Digital campaigns are part of the landscape, but to affect customer attitudes, those digital elements must be consumed. Unfortunately, barriers like overcrowded inboxes, pop-up blockers, and filters can reduce electronic message effectiveness. Ignoring digital messaging is easy.

Mail is the only channel where companies have complete control over the format, presentation, and delivery of their content. More companies should take advantage of the aspects of mail that make it so effective.

More Expensive, but More Effective

Printed documents are more expensive than their digital counterparts. But what’s really important, from a customer experience standpoint, is how messages influence the customer. Creating a million digital messages at low cost is only smart if enough of those communications reach the intended recipients, are viewed, and make a difference. If they don’t do those things, spending more money on printed documents that achieve these goals may be a better investment.

Print and mail service providers can help their customers reduce the amount of money they spend on mailed communications by helping to trim undeliverable addresses, removing duplicates, augmenting data for more precise targeting, or many other measures designed to ensure that every mail piece has a reasonable chance of achieving the objective.

For a quick analysis of the long-term costs of poorly targeted or undelivered mail, check out the calculator at

Print and mail service providers should drive these points home. Don’t let customers discontinue or de-emphasize print as part of their customer communication strategies without a fight. Make sure customers understand how the unique attributes of physical mail can help them reach their goals in ways electronic communication cannot.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn.