“People want print material. Although a lot is digitised today, when you’re face-to-face with customers, when you’re at the closing stage of a deal, you want to hand them something to take away and digest,” says Pierre Lhernould of Club Car, a leading producer of electric golf, personal, and utility vehicles.

There is something enduring about the effectiveness of print materials in the sales process which is routed in the way we, as humans, absorb information and perceive value.

“It’s the same with most manufacturers today, customers may do their research and configurations online but when they meet with the company, they want to leave with a brochure in their hands which they can flip through before making their purchase decision,” adds Pierre.

Why is print so ingrained in the sales process? Brand strategy consultancy Kantar Millward Brown, which works with 90% of the world’s leading brands, conducted in-depth research and found that print generates greater emotional engagement than other mediums. They discovered that reading printed materials results in higher activity in the parts of our brains associated with emotion engagement (medial prefrontal cortex and cingulate cortex).

The physical, tangible nature of the medium is believed to be key. Consumer psychologist Sebastian Haupt explains in ‘Touch’ that the multi-sensory experience of print, of handling it and turning pages, fires neurons in the brain which are not fired when reading off a screen. “The endowment effect works even if you don’t own the object,” he says. “It can be triggered just by physical contact. We even get a similar effect if we see someone nearby holding a magazine or newspaper.”

The result? Time and time again, research points to greater absorption of information via print, along and better recall. Examples include Two Sides research, which found consumers gain a better understanding of news stories from paper compared to online, along with a Stavanger University study that found that students score significantly better when reading printed texts rather than digitally.

Along with greater emotional engagement, the practicality of having printed catalogs that detail complex products and include pricing in one place is a huge convenience. This is especially true in industries such as manufacturing where purchases can be substantial investments and goods have high levels of complexity. This higher level of recall can be extremely valuable, especially in such industries.

At a time when digital content is omnipresent, that print stands out today more than ever, only compounds its effectiveness. How likely is an email to make it past a senior executive’s assistant? How likely is it to actually reach the intended recipient, nevermind actually be digested and remembered? If you take a nicely printed brochure or report to that person, not only is it more likely to stand out and be more memorable, its very presence in the office can act as a physical reminder.

“You want to give the prospect or customer physical print so they have something to flip through and can be kept on their desk and that you’re remembered for,” says Pierre.

In industries of great complexity, the greater retention of print can be particularly effective, but it’s vital materials are kept up-to-date, which is easy now but hasn’t always been.

“Our products are highly complex and our sales teams and distribution partners need specs and product catalogues to do their jobs efficiently,” says Allan Snider of Hardinge, an international manufacturer of advanced metal-cutting solutions.

“We offer customized solutions for customers across a wide variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, molded die, medical technology, and more. Print materials are imperative and critical to the business. The short lead times and low order volumes enabled by digital print and Gelato helps because we don't need to have stock somewhere in the basement at risk of becoming outdated,” adds Allan.

Just-in-time delivery and on-demand printing is now possible thanks to Gelato, even if a sales event is in a few days and on a different continent. Up to date materials are easily accessible at short notice.

In the same way personal and physical interaction will forever remain important in sales, print will always offer a tangibility that screen-based communication simply cannot. It is solid in a world of fleeting, virtual interactions and remains a powerful medium delivering information in a way we, as humans, effectively process information.

Allan Snider, Global Marketing Director at Hardinge, shared some thoughts on the importance of print within his organization. Watch the video here.