Sadly, the digital divide exists. There are those who are so facile around a computer, it makes the rest of us sick, or at least highly envious.
I would characterize my computer skills as above average but still below where I would like them to be. Recently I was doing a simple mail-merge with Microsoft word. I was trying to print labels for our company Christmas cards. I’ve done this before successfully but not in a while so I had to start from scratch and familiarize myself with how to do it. It took me over an hour to get to a point where I had merged the address list from the Excel document and it was showing on the label template. However, the spacing wasn’t right which cut off some of the address in each label. I went back multiple times to see where I had gone wrong. I sought a fix from Google with no success. There was nothing in the wizard that addressed this problem. Then, I figured out it had nothing to do with the mail merge program but rather with a different window in Word. One click later, all the addresses fit nicely in the template.
I probably spent the better part of another hour before I figured that out. Someone who had greater familiarity with Word would have known that right away. Those are the kind of things I hate; we’re so dependent on software, it’s really frustrating when some relatively small thing is holding you back from getting the job done. The tech wizards of the world don’t have those problems and sometimes I wish I were one of them.
However, my tale of personal technical futility and eventual triumph is a (very) long way to introduce the fact that the tech-savvy among us don’t have all the answers. For those of us in the printing, envelope and direct mail industries, a front page article in December 12th’s Boston Globe entitled: “Business Entrée is still in the Cards” was reassuring in several ways. The reporter attended a conference of high-tech entrepreneurs where just about everyone was exchanging their “lowly” (the reporter’s inaccurate adjective) business cards. The article described, in interesting detail, why the attendees regarded the printed cards as superior despite the ubiquity of mobile devices.
The reporter pointed out that the super-convenient “bumping” technology between smart phones is not compatible among all devices where platforms differ. Stopping to manually type the contact info of someone you just met was also characterized as cumbersome and “kind of rude” (kind of? Is this a major newspaper or a high school paper?). One of the attendees, a marketing manager at a cloud computing startup, remarked that he prefers to leave an event with a pile of business cards that remind him of whom he met and where he met them. He also said, “Often there are raffle prizes if you drop your card in a box.” Try dropping your smartphone in a box pal!
But the money quote from article’s author is right here: “Entrepreneurs who must fight to be taken seriously by prospective customers and investors talk about the sense of legitimacy they get from seeing their names and titles printed on quality card stock. They say that in the startup world – where businesses often don’t last long – it’s nice to hold something that feels kind of permanent.”
Aside from the reporter’s annoying use of “kind of” without attribution, there could not be a better statement of the value of print and paper in the digital world. I’ve written about this (The Permanence of Print – May 23rd, 2012) but it bears repeating. One of the great messaging advantages of print on paper is the simple fact that it is tangible. It exists in a way that most of us instinctively accept as “real”. This gives it greater value in the reader's mind.
Everyone in the print, envelope and direct mail industry should memorize and repeat that message often. Legitimacy and permanence are two excellent characteristics for a customer’s story.