By: John Lavey | Hammock President/COO

The dramatic shift from print to digital media, one of the big marketing stories in our lifetimes, happened to coincide with the Great Recession that lasted from 2007 to 2009.

Marketers were more careful with dollars coming out of the Recession and for good reason. There were fewer of those dollars. Cheaper was appealing. And what better way for wary marketers to spend their dollars then on areas where they would be able to see the impact of their spend.

Digital media content such as web-based content, email and social was incredibly attractive at that time for three reasons in particular:

  1. It seemed cheaper, with less cost allocated to “publishing” content online versus printing on paper and sending in the mail.
  2. You could track how many people were viewing your content and, in exchange for some of their data, who was viewing your content.
  3. Audiences were migrating to digital media, and the rise of smartphones really accelerated how people consume digital media.

While there is no going back, maybe not all the changes that emerged from that time were positive. We got used to spending less on marketing than before, and then expected those underfunded efforts to do more. The healthcare industry spends less than other major industries (6.2 percent of revenues on marketing by healthcare companies), according to a 2017 CMO survey. Across all industries, the average is 6.9 percent, and many industries are spending double (as a percentage of revenue) what healthcare spends.

While metrics related to things like SEO and lead generation are important, we became obsessed with them. We applaud email campaigns that yield 30 percent open rates and a few minutes spent with a brand once or twice a year, while a branded magazine regularly delivers 65 percent readership and hours every year with a brand.

Sometimes marketers buy into the orthodox view that print is dead, and that we have to use digital tools exclusively. But print, as it turns out, works well as part of a digital marketing mix. In fact, it might be superior at shaping some attitudes around health among influential audiences.

Takeaway: Consider whether you are spending enough, measuring where it matters and challenging your own perceptions about what works. Look at the budgets of major marketers in healthcare and other business-to-business segments that are still devoted to off-line content marketing, whether branded magazines, print advertising or even catalogs. In many instances, going all digital may be the best strategy possible. But different challenges need different tools—and different media.

Photo | Getty images

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