Marketing Madness

Understanding Both the Benefits and Limitations of Using PDFs for Marketing

Over the years PDF documents have cemented their place in marketing, and are often used as the format of choice when distributing eBooks, brochures, price lists, posters, and many other types of marketing materials. While the popularity that PDF enjoys as a format is certainly well-deserved, it is important that you’re aware that it has both benefits as well as limitations.

Benefits of PDFs

The main reason why PDFs are used so frequently as the format of choice when distributing marketing materials is simple: The recipient is guaranteed to see the document exactly the way the sender intended.

Unlike other document formats where the layout, formatting and elements may go awry when transferred between platforms, PDFs are accurately reproduced instead. On top of that because PDF viewers are so commonplace and popular, it is for all intents and purposes a universal format.

Of course there are other benefits of using PDF for marketing including its ability to incorporate visual elements, relatively small file sizes that make it easy to distribute, and the option for password protection. All of these benefits coalesce and form the main thrust behind the unchallenged position of PDF.

Limitations of PDFs

Make no mistake despite the popularity and benefits of PDFs – they are not perfect nor infallible. In fact PDF is a format that has numerous limitations and some of them could affect certain areas of your marketing or even end up derailing parts of it.

The one main limitations of PDFs is that they are difficult to edit due to a lack of options when it comes to PDF editing software. High-end PDF editors can be very expensive, whereas free editors tend to only have the most basic of features and are often insufficient.

Even assuming you do find a PDF editor that you can use, it is generally cumbersome to update PDF documents. Unlike web-based content that can be updated on a website, PDF documents need to be re-distributed after they’re updated, and the recipients will then have to replace the old version with the new.

Another limitation that is particularly problematic in modern day marketing is the lack of analytics or insights. In contrast to websites and most other online platforms where you can track how viewers interact with your content, with PDFs you will have no such luxury. In short it is difficult to carry out data-driven improvements to your marketing materials since there is little or no data to begin with.

It is important that you’re aware of these limitations, and weigh them carefully against the benefits that PDFs provide. At the end of the day PDFs certainly can be a powerful tool for distributing marketing materials, but you should make sure that the limitations don’t get in the way of your goals. In short, try to use PDFs as part of your marketing strategy and employ them in situations where you can tap into their benefits while not being affected by their limitations.

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Pesach Lattin

Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pace Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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