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Long live print: Why the latest b2b content marketing trend has gone retro  

  • by Matt Duxbury
  • 1st Nov 2017
    • Content, Lead Generation

There’s an exciting new development in the b2b content marketing world – and believe it or not, there’s not an app or algorithm in sight!

Remember back to when the e-reader first appeared and people thought physical books would soon become extinct? Back in 2011, the Kindle had taken the world by storm and nervous publishing executives worried that e-readers were poised to rip up their industry in the same way digital downloads forced record labels to sing a completely different tune.

However, the printed word has proved more resilient than many experts predicted. According to recent data, consumer e-book sales have fallen for the past two years, while sales of printed books grew by 7% in 2016. “Screen fatigue” – the idea that people are increasingly seeking time away from their electronic devices – is often cited as the main reason for this change. Now seems to be the perfect time to plan this new trend into your b2b marketing tactics, and get your prospects picking up your print.

Opportunities to engage b2b prospects

Savvy b2b content marketers shouldn’t ignore the resurgent popularity of printed reading material. Unsurprisingly, some of the world’s biggest brands are leading the way by experimenting with new print launches alongside their digital activity. Take Airbnb, for example. The holiday rental website, famed as a digital disruptor, announced its foray into print media late last year.

The simply titled airbnbmag is available to buy at airports and book shops, but will also be distributed among Airbnb hosts to share with their guests. The format may look ‘old school’, but there’s definitely a digital flavour to the magazine’s content – article topics are sourced from the data Airbnb collects from users online. “No one [else] has billions of demand search data points for nearly every country in the world. That gives us a leg up,” chief executive Brian Chesky told the Wall Street Journal.

From digital immediacy to print permanency

With the typical consumer now facing constantly updating streams of information online, the Airbnb boss hinted at another reason for brands returning to print in their content marketing activities – the desire to create something permanent. “There’s the possibility that it can be saved. It isn’t ephemeral, as opposed to content on a feed that expires,” he explained.

B2B brands with a strong digital identity are also increasingly embracing print publications. Global logistics giant DHL publishes five ‘Delivered’ magazines per year, which are distributed to those who have an interest in the latest developments and trends in logistics, business and innovation. The topics they cover resonate with an audience they are either already engaged with, or would like to work with. Creating valuable interactions with customers and prospects gives DHL the opportunity to ‘spend more time’ with their consumers, as customers spend ‘an average of 25 minutes actively engaged with their magazine (the equivalent in time to a 50 30-second TV spots).’ APA Advantage Study.

This doesn’t mean that b2b companies should suddenly move away from their digital communications efforts. As communication channels expand, it will be left up to the customer as to how they want to be served marketing material. When online and offline work in harmony, building brand loyalty and encouraging sales, the dialogue has the power to convert a reader of your magazine into a qualified prospect, perhaps via a digital brand touchpoint down the line.

It will be interesting to see if more companies contribute to the trend by launching print publications this year. Perhaps you’ve been inspired to consider your own print content? With sites like blurb available, putting together a printed magazine is more straight forward than ever before.

For more fresh content ideas and lead generation tips, don’t forget to download your copy of our new B2B Cookbook Marketing Cookbook. And if you would like a print version on the book just drop us a line to

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