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BEST PRACTICE: Fax marketing

As a means of communication, using a fax machine isn't top of the list for reliability. Fifteen years ago it was at the cutting edge of business communications - every office had one, usually in a central and prominent location. Today however, the fax machine is usually hidden out of sight and rarely attended, and the B2B marketing industry has, by and large, abandoned fax marketing in favour of online methods.

“We've taken a deliberate policy not to invest any further in fax data,” says Nick Fraser, head of B2B at data provider Experian. “We do have around 130,000 fax records, but of those only about 61,000 are not on the Fax Preference Service (FBS), and so by the time you've segmented it to any extent, there isn't very much to work with. Email has replaced fax as the main direct marketing medium for B2B marketers and nowadays we just don't sell that much fax data.”

There have always been problems with fax marketing. One is that recipients have to pay for the fax to be printed and have no choice in the matter. A 2004 survey by the Computer Security Institute found that businesses were paying an average of £500 a year to print fax marketing messages. Another is that it is difficult to control how the finished fax will look. Email suffers from similar issues, but these can be resolved with a rudimentary understanding of email formatting and are in no way as damaging to brands as are smudged illegible scraps of fax paper.