Hard as it is to imagine, there was once a time before the Internet.
Somehow, in the days before Google, Facebook, and instant search, businesses executed well-orchestrated ad campaigns and reached the masses — all without a single click.
While such marketing tactics might seem outdated to you and me, they still have a tremendous amount of value. Offline marketing can not only motivate people to look you up online, but it can enrich the offline world of your business as well. Here’s how:
Print Ads: Yes, They Still Exist — And They Still Work
According to the American Marketing Association, print ads have a unique value these days: people are actually paying attention. Someone reading a magazine or a newspaper in their breakfast nook is more likely to give an ad undivided attention, whereas someone watching a YouTube ad — well, they can’t wait to click “skip.”
Print also serves as a reason to go online, a start to your conversion funnel. An effective Weight Watchers ad used the visual medium perfectly: a larger-than-life “Entrance” door and a svelte “Exit” door. If the ad won you over, your first instinct is to either Google the company or type in their URL. In many ways, it’s essentially an effective online ad. It’s just in a different medium.
If anything, print ads are the perfect supplement to today’s online convenience. While the print ads of the past would simply hope you picked up the phone or maybe remembered the name of the brand, today, a print ad can grab customer attention and direct them to a website instantly.
Networking: Events, Seminars, and Speaking Opportunities
When you advertise online, you go where the business is. In PPC, you use specific industry keywords. With Twitter ads, you focus on your key demographics.
It’s the same for networking. By attending the conferences and seminars in your field, you open yourself up to new learning opportunities, as well.
It’s true that if you own a small mom-and-pop restaurant, you probably aren’t going to find a lot of potential customers at these conferences. If that’s the case, you can always focus your interests locally:
Sponsor a local event
Place a print ad in local newspapers and bulletins
Volunteer to teach a local class in your field
No matter what your business, the more people you meet, the greater your chances of forging valuable connections. And the more connections you make, the more word will spread about what you’re selling.
Referrals: Still the Easiest Way to Get New Customers
Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal. It’s the reason Angie’s List, Yelp, and Google Reviews are so important: people want to know what other people think. And the best part about word-of-mouth referrals is that it doesn’t cost you anything except what it takes to do a great job.
But you can do more than just quality work. You can also do something unusual that gets people talking. Ever visit a restaurant because they have an especially famous or unusual dish?
The Scout in Chicago is known for having a grilled cheese sandwich. The twist: it’s extra-long. That’s right: simply by slicing the bread lengthwise, they’re able to generate a little bit of extra intrigue without buying up Facebook ads or spending more money on web development.
In addition to treating every client and customer like they’re your last, there’s always something you can do that’s a little bit newsworthy — something that will get people talking, even if it’s just to say, “You have to try this.”
Direct Marketing and Snail Mail: Not Just for Gastropods
The term “junk mail” was around even before the Internet. In fact, it was so prevalent that we use the same words to describe the unsolicited emails we never wanted in the first place.
But the reason direct marketing exists is because when it’s done effectively, it generates business. Even a minimalist brand like IKEA — a brand you’d never peg for a direct marketer — crafted an ingenious little pop-up to help potential customers visualize what it might be like to shop there.
The key with using snail mail for your marketing purposes: your letter has to be worth opening. People are so used to bland copy like “Don’t throw out this envelope — special offer inside!” that you’ll just get tossed in the trash.
Creative uses of promotions like IKEA’s, however, will always have a place in the world of marketing because they’re unusual, they’re noteworthy, and they directly tie in to what it is that they sell.
The Art of Giving: Contests, Free Lunches, and Local Media Giveaways
The local radio show in your metropolis is giving out gift certificates to a local business. By donating a simple free meal or free product, you’ve grabbed the attention of thousands of listeners.
You’re new in town and simply want to get some feet in your door. So you set up a policy of free consultations for your services and put a big sign outside telling people as much.
Whatever your business, there’s always a way for you to give it out first to attract business later. Do so without expectation of reciprocity—to avoid that “upsell” vibe—and you’re bound to earn yourself some loyal customers.
Invest Heavily in Your Business Cards
Chances are, the last time you bought business cards, you sorted them by finding the absolute cheapest money could by. After all, you give out business cards in high volumes. No reason to add another expense.
Unless you view business cards as another form of offline marketing.
Browse through the creative business card ideas you see at Bored Panda and ask yourself if a one-time investment in business cards isn’t worth the memorability it adds to your business. And it’s not limited to any specific type of business, either—on that list you’ll see divorce lawyers, yoga classes, photographers, hairdressers, even wine experts. Sit down for a brainstorming session and we’re sure you can come up with something just as creative to assign to your local printers.
What’s the best offline marketing strategy you’ve ever used? Share your experiences in the comments below.