So, you want to create a print piece. Maybe you have an idea to bring in new customers with direct mail. Perhaps your sales team is requesting new brochures and product collateral. Or maybe you’re looking to put up a new billboard on a major road near your business.
Clients often come to us with these end goals in mind, but they need help fleshing out the details to create effective print marketing pieces. With the help of our print marketing guide, you’ll have everything you need to successfully navigate the printing process.
Know Your Audience
Before you get excited about glossy paper finishes and binding options, take a few steps back. Who is your audience? What appeals to them? What will they expect from a print piece from your company? How can you meet and exceed their expectations?
Answering these questions first is key to a successful print piece. Unlike with websites and digital ads, you won’t receive any analytics on how your customers interact with the piece. You also won’t have easy editing capabilities once the piece is complete. It’s crucial that the piece resonates with your audience the first time. Do your research first to ensure that you’ll be satisfied with the outcome of your final print piece.
Understand Your Print Collateral Options
We created this print marketing guide because we know firsthand how overwhelming the process can be to those working in print for the first time. It’s easy to get excited about the final product and overlook important details early on, as the format of your piece. While the possibilities are endless, these are some of the most common print marketing formats you may want to consider.
Direct mail is a broad category of print marketing that is sent to your audience via snail mail. It is often used for announcements like store openings, major sales, and new product offerings. The format for direct mail can vary from a postcard to a complex book or video mailer. You can utilize an every-door approach or buy or rent a list tailored to your business and audience. Both of these tactics will help you expand your reach and make more potential customers aware of your offerings. You can also use your in-house mailing list of existing customers to remind them of your brand and encourage them to interact with you through exclusive coupons and offers.
Brochures / One Sheeters
Brochures and one sheeters are short-form print pieces that explain your company, products or services, and contact information in an easy-to-digest format. They can be folded and sent as direct mail pieces or used by salespeople as handouts or leave-behinds. When developing a sales-oriented piece, consult with the team members who will use the collateral every day. They will be able to guide you in what features are most important to customers, what recurring questions they receive, and what would be most helpful to them in the sales process. By allowing your sales team to guide print marketing efforts, you’ll build a tool that helps them attract and impress customers.
Print ads can help get the word out to your audience about news, events, and general messaging. You can partner with vendors in newspapers, magazines, and any other print publications relevant to your audience. One of the benefits of print ads is that they give you the ability to update and edit your message as time goes on. Unlike with a brochure that you may have updated and reprinted once a year, print ads can change monthly or even weekly. They are your opportunity to experiment and see what messaging and imagery resonates with your customers. While print ads can’t be tracked quite like digital ads, you can use custom links for each publication to track who comes to your website from each vendor. Over time, this can help you narrow down a list of your most effective print marketing partners.
Signage is often overlooked in guides to print marketing, but it is key to making a great first impression. Outdoor signage can ensure that your business is easy to find, while indoor signage can reiterate your brand and messaging both internally and externally. Signage can also help with wayfinding to help customers know where to go and what to do when they enter your business. Prioritize signage as a functional and expressive piece for your brand. It should both serve a purpose and provide customers with a subtle indication of who you are, what you do, and who you serve.
Billboards are a classic form of print marketing that has been revolutionized by digital technology. Both traditional and digital billboards are effective options for marketing your business to a large number of people. Traditional billboards are cheaper, but cannot be changed out as easily. Digital billboards will cost you more upfront, but they can be changed daily or even hourly to best target your audience. Much like with every-door direct mail, billboard advertising is most effective for companies that address widespread needs, like grocery stores, car dealerships, home improvement companies, and healthcare providers. More niche companies won’t see as strong of a return-on-investment unless they place their billboards very strategically.
Learn the Basics of Print Marketing Design
We created this print marketing guide because we know that oftentimes, the person handling print marketing at a company is not a designer. They’re much more likely to be a marketing director, event planner, or even an intern, and often, they have very little print marketing experience.
Regardless of your title, speaking the language of print marketing design can help you make the most of your relationship with your printer. And, it can also help you communicate with a freelance or third-party designer to make sure you get the job done right the first time.
Ever wonder why your office printer can’t print quite to the edge of the page? Printing all the way to the edges of a piece of paper is called “full bleed” printing – and it’s unexpectedly complicated. So complicated, in fact, that even expensive print shop printers typically don’t print full bleed. Instead, documents are printed on oversized paper and then trimmed to the final desired size.
If you want a professional edge-to-edge look on your documents, you’ll need to prepare your file with a “bleed.” A bleed is a margin on all sides of your document that will be trimmed off after printing. Every printer is different, but most bleeds are around ¼” per side. You’ll design your graphics going all the way off the page (but keep text and other important elements inside the bleed), so that you have a seamless design once trimmed.
There are two major color systems used in graphic design: RGB and CMYK. RGB or red, green, blue is the color system used for all things digital. This includes:
- Digital billboards
CMYK or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black is the color system used by printers for physical pieces that end up on paper, plastic, metal, and more. We won’t get into the nitty-gritty of how each color system works, but keep in mind that everything you send to your printer will need to be in CMYK color.
Some printers will be willing to convert color profiles for you, but it’s always best to provide CMYK files from the get-go, especially if your piece includes color swatches or anything that needs to match exactly. It will ensure that your colors appear accurately in your final piece, and it will score you brownie points with your printer. If you have strict brand standards or need your colors to be highly accurate, you may also want to consider using Pantone colors.
You may hear your printer mention “ppi” or “dpi.” This refers to the pixels (for web) or dots (for print) per inch that are used to create your images. The more dots, the higher the resolution, and the clearer your image will be.
The standard for printed pieces is 300 dpi, while the standard for digital pieces is 72 ppi. While you may be able to get away with a small, low-resolution image on your website, you won’t be able to in print. While there is some wiggle room (the untrained eye can’t tell 280 dpi from 300 dpi), you run the risk of blurry or pixelated images when using lower resolution files for print. Let your printer serve as your print marketing guide when it comes to image resolution -– they know their equipment best.
Other Printer Requirements
Every printer is a little different. You may receive other requests like:
- Outline fonts
- Embed images
- Provide a reader’s copy PDF
- Provide a spot gloss PDF
If you’re unsure of what your printer is asking, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s their job to be your print marketing guide and help you through the printing process. Failing to adhere to your printer’s guidelines may cause delays or extra fees as they will need to update your files themselves. It’s always better to ask questions early and prevent problems later down the line.
Packaging Your Files
When you’re ready to send your final file to your printer, you’ll need to package your files. Print files are huge, which means that programs like Adobe InDesign don’t actually save all of the images and files you use within your working document. Instead, they “link” to these documents to keep your file size small and your computer running smoothly.
The printer will need not only your working document, but also all of the files it references. That’s where packaging comes in. Be sure to package all images (in CMYK) as well as fonts and other assets like text files. Your printer may also request a reader’s copy, printers’ spreads, and more, so always check to see how they prefer files to be packaged.
Make the Details Matter
While good design goes a long way, the finishing details can really transform a piece. For a home-run print piece, talk to your printer about:
- Paper weights
- Paper texture & quality
- Paper finishes (matte, satin, gloss, etc.)
- Binding options
Attention to these details is what sets an ordinary print piece apart from a stunning one. It’s what prevents your collateral from being tossed in the recycling bin.
Paper weight is how thick your paper is. The higher the weight, the thicker and sturdier the paper. 80 lb. and 100 lb. are the most common weights, with 80 lb. being standard printer paper, and 100 lb. being slightly heavier. Your printer may also mention cover stock (or card stock) and text stock. Cover stock is thicker and sturdier than text stock, and is often used for covers of print marketing brochures and booklets. Text stock is similar to standard printer paper, and is often used in single-use pieces like event programs, since it isn’t super durable. Your use case, as well as your company’s tone and presence, should always guide print marketing decisions like paper weight.
Paper Texture & Quality
Most printers work with a variety of paper companies to offer different brands and qualities of paper. Your printer will likely bring you a book of samples when you meet to discuss your project. The paper quality and texture you choose should reflect your brand. If you run an outdoor gear company, you may want to choose something rougher and more natural. If you are planning a high-end event, you’ll want something silky smooth. When in doubt, ask your printer for their recommendation. Just remember, a nicer paper will come with a bigger price tag. If you’re printing a large quantity or are working with a shoestring budget, you’ll likely want to opt for their “house” stock instead.
Your printer will also ask you what paper finish you’re interested in. There are three popular finishes: gloss, satin, and matte. Gloss finish is shiny and offers added durability to covers and single page pieces. A satin finish is less shiny than gloss, but still has some added durability. Matte finish has no shine. Much like with paper texture and quality, you’ll need to consider your company when selecting your paper finish. When in doubt, satin is always a nice middle-of-the-road option.
Binding Options & Extras
If you’re creating a multi-page print piece, you’ll also need to consider how you would like it bound. The three most common options are saddle stitching, stapling, and spiral binding. Saddle stitching uses a needle and thick thread for a flat seam inside your booklet. Staples also offer a flat seam, but are slightly less luxurious than saddle stitching. Both options work well for small booklets with less than 20 pages. Spiral binding is an affordable option that is best for booklets with lots of pages. The spiral allows the book to lie flat when open or closed.
Spot UV Printing
If you’re looking for a way to add extra visual interest, spot UV may be a good option. It allows you to add extra shine and attention to areas of your print piece that you’d like to highlight. Many companies choose to use it on their logo or on other branded elements to make them shine.
But Isn’t Print Media Dead?
While we hear people say all the time that digital is the only way forward. But for many companies, the best strategy incorporates digital and traditional marketing efforts. Digital marketing can be changed quickly but doesn’t make the same impact as physical print pieces. By using both, you can maximize your budget and your impact on customers.