Remember what it was like in 1990 if you needed something? Say you were looking for a printer for your company brochures. In those pre-internet days it took some resourcefulness and time to find and research the right vendor. Today, you open your search engine of choice, type in a few terms, and voilå: more printers than you can shake a stick at. Thank God for Google.
Clearly, a seismic shift has occurred in how people shop, and consequently in how they market themselves. A lot of the action is happening online, but (of course) not all marketing is web-based. For starters, people don’t always have computer access. But more importantly, some products and services are better served by offline marketing endeavors.
Balance is key
Like your diet, when marketing your product or service, balance is key. In today’s connected economy every company needs an online presence, but companies also need a broader go-to-market strategy to reach their full target audience. Traditional marketing channels like direct mail, advertising, and trade shows still play an important role today – which is borne out in the fact that the vast majority of marketing spending still goes to offline channels.
Here are seven reasons (and ways) to maximize your sales with offline marketing that complements your online presence.
1) Don’t miss out on the offline consumer.
As much as we all spend significant time online, there is a sizeable part of the US population that still has no online access, and there are plenty of people who simply don’t shop online. If you create products or services for seniors, small children, or rural customers, for example, you need to reach out with offline marketing efforts like print or radio/TV advertising, billboards, coupons/flyers, and direct mail. And even those customers who do have online access are not online all the time! It pays to reach out to them when they’re not in front of their computer.
2) Reach out and touch someone with direct marketing.
Who doesn’t love email as a marketing communications tool? It’s a cheap way to communicate with customers and prospects. But what do you do to generate new prospects and customers? Unsolicited email quickly becomes spam: it gets caught by the recipient’s junk filter, and even if it gets into their inbox, it is usually deleted unread. That’s where direct mail (yes, snail mail) becomes a powerful marketing ally. A postcard, brochure, or catalog mailed to the right rented list is one of the most cost-effective ways of adding fresh names to your prospect and customer database. Once you own that name (and they’ve opted in), feel free to follow up regularly with email to remind them that you still exist.
3) Reach impulse buyers.
Why do those annoying subscription cards keep falling out of every magazine I read? And why can’t I walk through the mall with my 14-year old daughter without someone stuffing a coupon in her hand? Because targeting the impulse buyer works – if you sell the right kind of product. Usually it’s most effective for products with a low price point. Online sites like Amazon.com have very effective ways to spur the impulse upsell with their recommendations, and your retail store can also drive store traffic with the right handout or coupon strategy.
4) Give your sales force something to leave behind.
Much business-to-business commerce is generated through direct sales – either by phone or with an outside sales force. But once your rep leaves the customer’s office (or hangs up the phone), what’s left for the customer? A brochure describing your product’s benefits, product samples, a color catalog – these all serve to reinforce your brand, they increase your mindshare with the customer, and they are something tangible that can be passed around the office.
5) Create interest when the customer isn’t shopping.
Just because a person isn’t shopping doesn’t mean you can’t pique their interest in your product. Your job is to create mindshare for your product or service, and this is effectively done through offline marketing channels like magazine ads, billboards, and direct mail. It will often take several impressions to generate a response from these media, but the right message, along with strong creative execution, will drive a response.
6) Overcome your low search engine rankings.
Ahh, to achieve the elusive #1 ranking for that Google search result. Not every company can achieve it. For every search term, only 10 companies can appear on the first page of results, while thousands languish in the obscurity of pages 2 through 987. If your site does not appear at the top of page one of the search results, you need a complementary offline marketing strategy to drive traffic to your site. Direct mail works exceedingly well, as does placing your URL prominently in other marketing materials like ads and brochures. After all, what good is your beautiful website if no one ever gets to it?
7) Nothing says “you’re important” like a personal letter.
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that I’m just a smidge more important to that company who spends the time and money sending me a letter (especially a well-written, personalized letter that strikes a chord) than one who sends me a standard email. Sure, email works, but I’m frequently blowing through the new items in my inbox with nary a second of attention paid to commercial email messages. The direct mail letter – particularly in a simple envelope that looks like it’s a personal letter – gets me to open it every time. Use this medium to add new names to your prospect list, or to just periodically tell your key customers that you love ‘em.
The web and email are some of the most powerful tools available to marketers today, but if they’re the only tools in your arsenal, you’re likely leaving money on the table. And what business owner likes the idea of that?
Tony van Veen is the President of Disc Makers. He is a recovering drummer, former owner of an independent record label, and is currently so busy making and selling discs and downloads for artists and filmmakers that his music jones has to remain firmly suppressed for the time being.