Connecting print and online: techno-channels

I could see Nashville from above now. The ASAE conference was over and along with it, the buzz of almost 6,000 people who attended. Impressed to see almost 200 of them at my latest panel "Making an Impact with your Membership Materials: What Works, What Doesn't". The biggest take away as a presenter? The amount of small-staff organizations with basic needs and lack of tools to meet them. What a great opportunity to give you an insight of what was discussed in this exciting 4-people panel. 

What are techno-channels?

We introduced a new term thanks to Denise Gavilan's creativity, the "techno-channels". The techno-channels are what connect your print efforts with your online presence. I asked the audience, what are you doing on print to generate traffic to your online presence? And what channels are you using when talking to your different audiences?

If we use a professional association as an example, as Sheri Jacobs puts it in an article for Associations Now, you might have two members in your association that demographically look very similar--they are both the same age, they both manage the same size of organization, they were both promoted at the same time, etc.-- but each one connects with their industry in different ways. One likes going to the annual conference and volunteering in local programs whereas the other one has no interest in face-to-face conferences and prefers to connect through e-newsletters and webinars. How are you communicating/interacting with these audiences? 

What are the techno-channels you are using when communicating with your audiences?

Forms of techno-channels

These questions take me to explain a few forms of techno-channels:
  1. Vanity URL: you might already be doing this and that's the URL you use in your direct mail piece with a clear call to action such as "visit", "register now", or "find out more".
  2. QR codes: I'm sure you've heard about them. They've been around for a few years now. QR codes direct you to a place online when you scan a printed code with you cell phone.
  3. Digital watermarks: just as QR codes, these are scannable through an app on your cell phone but the code is not visible, it's embedded on an image or page.
  4. Purls: created through variable data, Purls display the recipient's name on your direct mail piece, and directs the person to a personalized web page.

Why do you need to think about techno-channels?

Simply because you need to connect your print efforts to your online efforts to tell the whole story and being able to communicate with your audiences in different ways. Some forms of interactivity that techno-channels create are:
  1. Landing pages: these are single web pages that live within your website and have a specific purpose such as a registration form, a special offer with an expiration date, or a video testimonial to give a few examples.
  2. Microsites: they live within your website as well but display their own navigation menu and most likely will carry the brand you just developed for a marketing campaign.
  3. Personalized web pages: these are developed through variable data with Purls
  4. Social media: this isn't new anymore and you need to be inclusive of social media to let your audiences share their own stories through photos, selfies, comments, and video.

How do you select the best channel mix?

You don't want to randomly pick your techno-channels. Just as the rest of your marketing tools, you will need to look at some indicators. Here are 3 main ones that could help you with the selection:
  1. Project goals: it's easy to loose sight and forget about the main goals in the middle of the process. Therefore, always go back and review those goals you set up for the project. This will always give you a refresh and keep you focused when making marketing decisions.
  2. Audience behaviors: always overlooked since most organizations focus on demographics only. Do some research and try to do a quick survey on your audiences' behaviors before you choose a channel to communicate with them.
  3. Budget: this is a key indicator on how you will use your money in each of the different communication channels.