The Real Cost of Print Marketing Communications

By Bob Baldridge October 26, 2020 print, marketing

Thanks to the rapid evolution of print technologies over the last two decades, getting on-demand, personalized marketing pieces into the hands of highly targeted audiences is more efficient and effective than ever before. But what’s your real cost on print marketing communications — and, more importantly, what’s your ROI? 

Shifting from an Offset Mindset to the New Digital Paradigm

If you’re thinking, “Print marketing only makes sense if I print 5,000 pieces at a time so I can get a break on the cost per piece,” then you’re stuck in an offset mindset. At Varispark, we’ve invested significant resources in digital and inkjet technology so that we can provide our clients with timely, personalized print pieces, without requiring minimum quantities in the thousands. 

Digital printing eliminates the pre-printing step altogether, which means it enables quicker turnarounds. What’s more, digitally stored print-ready files can be edited and re-printed easily and quickly, which makes it possible for us to print smaller runs in quantities as they are needed. Add to these efficiencies the ability to customize every piece using variable data and it’s clear that we’re not just talking about small improvements over offset. Digital printing is a whole new way of doing things.

Less Waste

Not only does our digital print process save you money up front, it also prevents waste and helps you save on the cost of warehousing inventory. With offset, marketers are incentivized to print larger runs to get a better deal — even if some of those marketing materials might sit around until they become irrelevant and eventually get recycled. Digital printing enables you to print only what you need, then update your files and print again when the time comes, saving you space, time, and money. 

Calculating the ROI on Your Print Marketing

These short-term and long-term cost savings matter when it comes to calculating the ROI on a print job today. In addition, there are several factors you should consider — and some levers you can pull — to ensure you see the returns you want from a print marketing campaign. 

For example, a direct mail campaign has certain inputs you can manipulate (how many pieces you send) and others over which you have less control (the average value of a sale). You can use these inputs to predict what your outcomes will be. Consider these five factors:

  • Your estimated response rate. Generally, if you’re using a purchased list, you can expect a response rate between 1 and 3%. When mailing to a list of known contacts, however, the average response rate increases and you can confidently assume around 3% or higher. When mailing to a list of known contacts in combination with a digital campaign, response rates increase even further to more like 5 to 9%. 
  • The average value of a sale. You can calculate this in a few different ways. If you’re specifically targeting new customers and selling something on an ongoing subscription model, you may want to look at the lifetime value of a customer and factor in your churn rate. Most businesses, though, can simply look at the average value of one conversion. 
  • Your typical close ratio. This should be factored in if your marketing campaign is bringing in leads that then have to be closed, whether that’s done by a salesperson or through automated lead nurturing. If your campaign is sending recipients straight to a landing page where they can buy online, then this number is essentially the same as your estimated response rate, or 100%. 
  • The level of personalization you use. Think of personalization as a multiplier that can be applied to your response rate. The more personalized (and therefore relevant) the piece, the greater the likelihood the recipient will act on it. In fact, personalization has been shown to increase response rates by up to 500%.
  • Your total mailing quantity. This one’s simple — how many people are you targeting? 

Understanding these direct mail campaign components (and how to leverage them) is what helps us ensure that our customers see a high ROI on their direct mail and other print marketing initiatives. But don’t just take our word for it. Use our Direct Mail ROI Calculator to estimate the returns you can expect to see on your next mailing.