We now live in a digital age.

Most things we do have a digital equivalent. Instead of magazines, we read websites, instead of Rolodex and address books we have mobile phone apps, and instead of letters, we use email.

However, the real, printed world is still out there, and although it seems everyone searches for information online these days, there are certain times when a physical item such as a leaflet will help more than a web page.

In fact, there’s good science behind using print rather than digital.

It seems that when we look at text on paper, we tend to take it in more than when we read it on a screen, even using e-book readers such as Kindles.

Although much of the research is based on reading books and long pieces of text, it does suggest that we’re just not wired for reading digitally. That’s not to say we can’t do it (we obviously can, or you wouldn’t be reading this now), but if there’s more effort involved, could that put people off?

Reading aside though, there are other reasons why printed matter works better than digital, and why in some cases, it could be one of the best ways to advertise your business.

Your business is mostly off-line

Yes, you should all have websites. Everyone should have a website because if someone is trying to find you, whatever it is you do, they’re going to search online for you.

Recently I was in the middle of Birmingham, which is a pretty large city with restaurants and bars spread over a wide area. Someone suggested we go get a meal, but nobody had heard of the restaurant mentioned. So, I Googled it and was helpfully given directions and an estimate of how long it will take to get there.

If that restaurant hadn’t got a website, their details wouldn’t be known, and they’d have lost a customer.

It’s that simple, websites really are essential these days.

But, their product is not on-line.

It was an Indian restaurant, but it’s the same with coffee shops, cake shops, and cafes. They can’t sell their products on-line (they don’t do delivery, although granted some do.) OK, maybe they can sell t-shirts with their logos on (in a brazen demonstration of their own brand-worth), but they can’t post a flat white with sugar.

Their products are very physical, and they appeal to people at a certain time, usually when they’re thirsty or hungry.

So how do you reach customers?

You may have seen the annoying practice of putting leaflets under windscreen wipers on car parks. Annoying, but effective.

But you don’t have to be so overt with your practices.

I noticed that in a coffee shop I recently went to, they had leaflets on the bar for people to take away. It had a 10% off your next coffee voucher on it.

This is a great way to get your message out and have people do the work for you. In fact, it’s something many businesses already do.

It’s much like social sharing, but it’s off-line and doesn’t require a wi-fi connection.

In a busy city centre, it can work especially well. By giving your regular customers a bunch of leaflets with a discount on them to give to their colleagues, you’re potentially attracting new clients.

Like networking, your reputation is based on your clients’ reputation. As long as they’re liked (OK, that’s a risk!), then you’ll get a good review which can bring more people in.

But, you don’t have to do it this way, there are companies out there who specialize in leaflet distribution and will do it all for you.

Your business is ‘traditional’

There’s a hardware store in a town in Wales I visit that doesn’t have a website.

They don’t have a computer.

They have an old till, much like Arkwright’s in Open All Hours, that clunks when it’s used.

All of their advertising is done via posters and leaflets. They create leaflets which they give out at various events during the year.

The school has them, the library has them, and the churches have them. They’re everywhere.

Everyone knows where he is.

If you need a screwdriver, you go there. If you need a new aerial, you go there. Fuse blown? You know where to go.

The web and all it’s digital goodness might work for him, but it’s unlikely to make a huge difference. He’s got word of mouth and printed matter on his side.

You’re just starting out

Some marketing companies will tell you that the only way to be found is on-line and that the first thing you need to do is invest 60% of your startup money in a website.

There’s a huge problem with that, and it’s simply that people aren’t going to find your website straight away.

Google’s search results have ten results on the front page, and you really need to be on that front page for your most profitable search term for it to matter.

And you can bet that you’re not the only company with a new website. I bet there are hundreds. Thousands, probably.

So what do you do?

You go print.

You can get banners, cards, and leaflets printed for a fraction of the cost of a website, and you can put them exactly where you want them.

It can be the quickest way to get the word out about your new product, your events or your services.

In fact, Paul Serellis of Eazy-Print says that he’s seen a huge increase in the number of startup companies ordering print matter. It seems the digital world hasn’t won every battle.

But it’s not everything…

Marketing is a holistic process involving many challenges, multiple channels and ability to change.

Yes, the digital world has exploded on to the scene in ways many thought impossible, and it’s certainly disrupted the market, but those who said this would herald the end of print based marketing have been proven wrong.

E-books haven’t taken over from printed books, in fact, look at how the experts got that wrong.

This is what they said in 2014:

This is what they are saying now:

That’s quite an error, but it shows that people still want print. They want the physical feel of paper in their hands.

But, e-books are still big.

Websites are big, leaflets are big, it’s all big.

Whatever your business, you simply have to find the method that works for you, but it’s likely it’ll be a little bit of everything.