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What Is Offline Marketing?
We live in a world where we’ve moved our personal lives, our work, and our leisure over to digital-based services, so it’s no surprise that some of us have forgetten how effective offline marketing can be, particularly for the younger generation who’ve grown up in the smartphone, app and internet era, where the idea of ‘print’ seems so… old fashioned. But is it?
Ironically, because less people now rely on offline marketing as their main sales generator, it’s become more effective as a result. The businesses who understand this fact, and exploit this untapped opportunity will reap the benefits…
This trend is similar to what we’ve seen in the music industry.
Throughout history, we’ve moved from vinyl, to tape, to CD, and finally – to MP3 downloads and streaming, however recently, vinyl sales have outgrown digital sales. Why? Because there’s a sound quality that comes with vinyl, which you simply can’t replicate through digital formats.
And the same goes with marketing.
If we go back to the good old days, executives at big companies would receive dozens and dozens of sales letters, flyers and brochures in the post, weekly. It was the norm. But nowadays, instead, they’re bombarded with emails, Tweets, and digital media overload, making it difficult for them to distinguish between the good, and the bad.
This means that getting their attention online is becoming increasingly more difficult.
So what does this mean for you?
Well, it’s simple, really.
In a world full of noise, clutter and digital media overload, print can provide a unique opportunity to stand out as a business. A carefully crafted, personalised letter can distinguish you from the noise, or wrapping your latest invention in a beautifully decorated package – ready to grab that target buyer’s attention, can speak volumes.
This guide will cover the different types of offline marketing, so you can try some new techniques to help you achieve your business goals.
And let’s begin.
Print Advertising (Newspapers and Magazines)
Sadly, our move over to a digital world has seen the demise of some of our most favourite, iconic, and historical publications.
We’ve witnessed a rapid, yet critical change across journalism and media: PR has gone digital and social, and it’s moved from print to web content. Some publications have cut their print magazines from circulation completely, others have reduced their circulation, and others have gone bust. But, the clever ones (like Vogue) have increased their circulation.
This demonstrates that there is still a huge demand for print, which is great for you, the advertiser.
So. If your business is operating in a niche sector, and your target customer is hard to reach, advertising in specialist trade publications with a large circulation can still be highly effective, even in the digital era. If anything, it’s more effective than it has been since 1999.
For example, for companies who are targeting recruitment agency owners, a great way to reach them is in the Recruiter magazine, or in Recruitment Grapevine.
And it’s so easy to arrange. All you have to do is speak to the media sales executive, ask for a rate card, and see what’s on offer. Typically, the options vary from quarter, to half, to full page spreads, advertorials, and more, where prices can vary from a few hundred pounds, up to a few thousand. If the magazine has a large readership of 50,000+ buyers, it can be a powerful way to advertise.
The other good news is, magazine advertisements are very similar to online advertising.
You’ll need to design an ad, and track the success of each ad, which is where discount codes and unique phone numbers come in handy. The key is to advertise on as many websites or publications as possible on a low budget first, track the success of each platform, and then focus your spend on those high performers to reap the results…
Sponsoring And Exhibiting At Events
Most trade-based publications run their own industry events for their members and subscribers.
And in a world where we’ve gone digital, there is still no better way to sell your product or service than face-to-face. People really do buy from people, so sponsoring or exhibiting at an event in your industry where your target audience hangs out – is a powerful way to build key relationships with new customers, partners or suppliers.
The best way to maximise your efforts in this instance is:
Identity as many conferences, trade shows and expo’s in your industry as possible, and get in touch with the organisers to find out what brands are involved, who’s speaking, and what the expected attendee turnout is. Focus on the events that have the highest number of attendees and that bring the most reputable speakers.
Also look out for trade shows that have high-profile brands sponsoring and exhibiting, such as Microsoft, as just one example. They’ve already done their homework, so you don’t have to. They’ve most likely been involved in the past, which suggests that they got good results last time. They’ve done the ‘testing’ part for you. Bonus.
Lots of big companies exhibit at dozens of trade shows globally every year, and, they use it as a core part of their marketing, sales and networking strategy. Another good thing about expo’s, is that they provide a great opportunity for you to meet up with those difficult-to-pin-down prospects, and catch up with current clients for retention and up-selling purposes.
To get the best out of your experience, send an email out to your entire database, and get some meetings booked in. Chances are, a reasonable percentage of your database will be attending the event(s). This is a perfect example of how digital marketing can collaborate with offline marketing in the physical world.
However, exhibiting at an event can be expensive, particularly if it’s a large one, or if it’s overseas. Yet, if you perfect your communications and data capture strategy, it’ll be worth it. Capture as many emails as possible, hand out lots of brochures, and set up an automated email campaign to go out to your prospects through your CRM system. You’ll be surprised at how effective this can be.
And don’t forget about the higher profile sponsorships available such as sporting or charity events, because you may even get TV and press coverage included, too. But these tend to suit consumer-based brands, better. The average sponsorship is between £10-25K, but for higher profile sponsorships such as at music festivals, the price will be substantially higher.
Don’t be put off though, as it can be largely worth it.
Billboard advertising tends to work better for consumer-based brands that sell to the mass market (for example, for businesses that sell cleaning products, make-up, and food, etc).
Unless you’re advertising on a billboard at a specialist trade show in front of your target audience, there’s not much point in advertising a B2B-based service or product on major billboards, such as on motorways, or in street centres. Chances are, most people won’t be interested in your offering…
Saying that, there are ways to be clever about this. Using digital billboards at train stations or in the VIP lounge at an airport can be effective if your timing is right. If your ad shows up between 7-10AM and 4-7PM at a train station such as at Waterloo during peak commuter time, you might just capture some receptive business professionals on their way to, and from work.
And this is the benefit of using digital billboards over fixed, physical billboards. You can be more clever with your approach, position and time your ads in the right locations, and some providers such as Amscreen even include eye-tracking technology which gives you an idea of how many people looked at your ad. Perfect.
Billboards, whether physical or digital, work similar to radio and television advertising. You choose when and where you want to advertise.
And with thousands, if not millions of digital and physical billboards all over the country, there are plenty of opportunities to get your brand in front of people, but just be mindful of your audience. If you do run a consumer brand such as a food product, just think of how many people drive down that motorway, daily.
You know already know the answer to that one. It’s thousands.
Ever heard of the ‘mere exposure effect?’ The more motorways, train stations and petrol stations you advertise at, the more people you’ll reach. Simply having your logo present in multiple peak locations over a long period of time will gradually warm people up to your brand, even if they don’t know what it is that you’re offering… yet.
Another advantage of billboards, is as the years go by, more and more places to advertise will pop up, because companies like Amscreen have made this possible. These days, you can advertise in a wide range of places including doctor surgeries, buses, train stations, petrol stations, airports, and more.
Regional billboard advertising can work really well for local brands. For example, Leeds Building Society often advertise on buses and on digital billboards in Leeds. But would this be as effective in Brighton? Probably not. So there’s something to consider. Positioning is everything.
Public transport is a great option, too. Advertising on buses, trains, the tube, and at other public hotspots can help you to get your name out there, but regardless of which option you go with, your success will be dependent on how captivating and eye-grabbing your ad is. If you’re going to spend the money, make sure you’ve got a good design team to back you up!
Billboards can cost anything from a few hundred pounds per billboard, up to a few thousand pounds, depending on how big the billboard it is, where it’s located, and how many billboards you want to advertise on. It can work great for some brands if executed properly, but it won’t work for all businesses.
Direct Mail (Post)
We covered this earlier, but to re-iterate, direct mail can be highly effective – particularly if you’ve been trying to get hold of a certain company for a while with no luck. If you’ve been calling, emailing and Tweeting, and you’re still getting nowhere, sometimes, just sending a nice letter in the post; addressed to the person you want to speak to, can work wonders.
Personalisation is key if you want to be successful. There’s no point blanket-posting boring, generic letters out to your entire database, because they’ll probably end up in the bin. Invest time, money, thought and creativity into building something that intrigues people, grabs their attention, and makes them want to open your letter or package.
And always address your letter or package to the person you want to target. Or even better, if you’re in the area, pop in to their office and hand it to them personally, because it’ll give you the opportunity to build that initial rapport, break the ice and stand out. The good news is, direct mail is quite cheap. You can send a thousand letters out for £500-£1000.
There are endless stories of product designers, inventors and innovators who have turned up at a major retail buyer’s office with their invention wrapped inside a beautifully packaged box, and handed it to the buyer personally.
This brave approach has led to retailers making large volume orders there and then on the spot.
So, if you’re struggling to get hold of certain people and you want to create an impact and improve your results, do not underestimate the power of writing, or designing a customised letter or package with your brochure, product or business card in it, particularly if you’re targeting CEO’s, or difficult-to-get-hold-of individuals.
And if that doesn’t work, follow them on social media, find out what events they’re attending, or speaking at and grab a ticket…
Networking can be used in so many ways. It can be used strategically if you’ve been struggling to get a response from that difficult-to-get-hold-of, target client. Be sure to follow your desired contacts on social media, because sometimes they’ll reveal which events they’re attending or speaking at.
This is a great opportunity to meet them face to face, break the ice and make contact initial contact. Strategic networking is the best type of networking. Don’t just turn up to any old networking event and hope for the best. Speak to the organisers first, and find out the answers to these important questions:
- How many people are attending?
- Who typically attends (company type, seniority, job title, industry, speciality, etc)?
We’ve already covered how powerful face-to-face marketing can be, so how better to go about it, than to attend a networking event where you know you’ll meet those difficult-to-get-hold-of people, and be in a room surrounded by potential customers or suppliers in your target market?
The great news is, networking event tickets typically sell at a low price, or for free. Meet as many people as you can, swap business cards, hand brochures out, build relationships and win some new clients. Make a point of getting out of the office a few times a month, to meet new people face to face. Try it. It really does work.
If you’re selling a generic business-to-business service such as accountancy or legal services, these businesses are built on relationships, so networking is an essential source of growth for business owners of this nature. Try attending entrepreneur-based networking events, where you’ll find your potential customer in abundance.
However, if your product or service is operating in a niche sector, such as the music industry, there are plenty of industry-specific networking events out there for you to check out. But make sure you bring your brochures and business cards, and follow up with people after, if you want to get the best out of your experience.
To be successful at networking, the best way to go about this is to make friends with people first.
Don’t just open up your initial conversations straight with a hard-sell, because people don’t like being hard-sold to. If you make friends with people and keep in touch, they’ll consider you when they next need your services, or they might even get intrigued and check out your website.
Designing a really quirky, stand-out business card can make a huge difference too.
Another great thing about attending networking events and exhibiting at conferences regularly, is the opportunities they offer to speak in front of an audience and demonstrate authority and expertise in your field.
If you attend a particular networking event or conference on a regular basis, ask the host if you can put on a talk, but always make sure your content teaches your audience something new and adds value, because there’s nothing worse than listening to a 20-40-minute sales pitch. Public speaking can be great for winning new clients and grabbing people’s interest.
You’ll find that after a good talk, people will want to come and talk to you after, which is worth it’s weight in gold. If you’re sponsoring or exhibiting at an event, always ask if you can do a keynote speech. The organiser will most likely get a lot of requests, but sometimes a speaker slot is included as part of the package, and as their paying client, they’ll most likely put you first.
Get into the habit of asking to speak at local business events, or at specialist events in your sector, because this’ll help you to get your name out there, build authority, and reach thousands of people over time. You can also offer a ‘free gift’ in the form of a landing page, too – where if people type their details into a form, they’ll get a free e-book.
This’ll help you to capture emails, and build your database – another great example of how digital marketing can collaborate with offline marketing and work together as one. Typically, speaking at an event doesn’t cost anything, but if it does, make sure you’re talking to the right audience, and that the audience size is big, so you don’t end up wasting your time, or your money.
Cold calling is a powerful way to build relationships with new prospects, but it can be time consuming and expensive. You’ll need to buy data to get started, and sometimes this data will be out of date. If you don’t have the budget for buying data, building databases manually works, but it can be pricy and time consuming.
Websites such as LinkedIn and Hunter.io are excellent for identitying prospects, finding their emails and making initial contact.
It’s worth noting that a lot of time is wasted with cold calling, because most people won’t answer their phones, or they’ll be claim to be ‘out of the office,’ or ‘in a meeting’ a lot. So the trick is, build an inbound marketing strategy using either online or offline marketing (through advertising, PPC, landing pages, email marketing, etc), to generate warm leads, instead.
This strategy is a bit like fishing. You’ll lure people in with some bait (a free gift), and capture their details in return for that bait. When this happens, it’s essentially someone expressing their interest in your business and giving you permission to call them, making communication much more receptive and effective, and, with a higher conversion rate on spend.
However, you’ll need a substantial advertising budget (minimum 5-10K a month) to generate good results, and if you’re a startup, this might not be possible in the early days, but it’s something to bear in mind for the future, and work towards.
The other alternative is to go down the manual route, but always send a marketing email out to your newly built database first, because some ‘out-of-office’ emails will provide direct phone numbers, and it’ll save you having to go through switchboard, or trail Google to find a head office number. Boring.
You’ll also find that some people will show interest via email straight away, and you may even get some phone calls or meetings set-up off your initial email. Bonus!
And, when you do get round to calling those prospects who didn’t reply to your initial email, it’ll give you something to talk about: ‘did you have the chance to look at what I sent you?’ Sometimes warming people up by email first – will cut out the people who aren’t interested, and identity the ones who are.
As soon as you’re in a position to begin running inbound marketing campaigns, get right on it, because your sales efforts will multiply, your sales calls will become more effective, and you’ll generate more sales that way.
However, there are certainly some other benefits of cold calling to consider, too.
We’ve all become so reliant on email, that it’s easy to be ignored or to slip through the net, so don’t underestimate the power of getting on the phone, building relationships, getting meetings booked in, and building your business that way. A phone conversation will tell someone more about you than a black and white email.
You can also ask more questions and find out more about your potential customer, and tailor your offering and sales pitch to what they need…
Broadcasting (Radio And Television)
Broadcasting is similar to advertising on public transport and on digital billboards in the way that it suits consumer brands better. Also, it’s all about the right timing, and identifying the right channels…
If you’re advertising a business-related product or service, find out what business radio shows are coming up either on your local radio station, or on national radio, and buy advertising airtime just before that show starts, during the interludes, and just after, because it’ll reach a more tailored and suitable audience, and the same goes with television.
If you’re selling a business-related product or service, showing your TV advert just before a business show is your best bet. Running an accountancy or legal advert before a kids’ show isn’t going to generate good results. If you’re selling a consumer-based product, the same rule applies, but there are better opportunities to jump on the back of a suitable show.
For example, if you’re selling a cleaning product, playing your advert just before a DIY show can work well. Another idea is to sponsor a show. Shows like X Factor and The Voice are sponsored by big brands, which you’ll see during the breaks. This can create good brand familiarity and trust, because people’ll associate your brand with something they trust, love, and that is well-known.
Typically, Radio and TV advertising is suited to an older audience, and it can be highly expensive, due to amount of people that tune in. The BBC Apprentice receives 6-8 million views per show, so that’ll give you an idea of how many people you can reach. You’ll find it difficult to get the same reach on a PPC or magazine campaign, unless you’re spending 6-7 figures on a campaign.
So always ensure you consider your audience before spending that type of money. And once again, if you’re going to spend that amount of money, make sure your radio or TV advert is powerful enough to grab people’s attention, otherwise your money might go down the drain. And we don’t want that, do we?
Why Is Offline Marketing Still Relevant?
So, contrary to what people might think, offline marketing is still largely relevant today.
It offers unique and effective opportunities for selling products and services, and it can grow businesses in ways that digital marketing simply can’t. If your marketing efforts are 100% digital, then it’s time to mix it up a bit. Try some of the above approaches, because they work. Invest some of your marketing budget into the above channels, but keep your spend low, and test them first.
The best marketeers combine digital and offline marketing in their campaigns, and they make sure that these two routes to market compliment eachother, and work together seamlessly – which we’ll cover in a moment…
Modern-Day Marketing: The Relationship Between Offline And Online
In recent years (mainly in retail and e-commerce), we’ve seen the term, ‘omni-channel’ become a hot topic, and a buzzword. But what does it actually mean?
To put it simply, ‘omni-channel’ is the relationship between how online and offline marketing and sales (physical and digital) can compliment each other, and as an industry, the retail sector is ahead of the curve as far as understanding how these two worlds can and should work together effectively.
Here are some examples of effective ‘omni-channelling:’
- Click-and-collect: Customers can now buy their desired product online at a major retail outlet such as ASOS, and collect it in store when they’re next in town.
- Discounts: Nowadays, customers follow their favourite brands on social media to take advantage of discounts and offers, which they can spend online, or in store.
- Experiential: A number of retailers organise pop-up or experiential events to build their brands. A few years ago in Manchester, Pringles built an enormous Pringle Christmas Tree in the Northern Quarter (a peak spot with large footfall), and they used signage to encourage passer buyers to take a selfie and use a certain hashtag which entered them into a competition – great publicity, and great engagement.
Now, we live in an age where people shop for products in-store, but go home and buy them online, instead. Why? Because it gives them the chance to read reviews, and shop around for bargains. Understanding how online and offline can work together, and coming up with innovative ideas of your own will make you stand out from the competition.
Another example of offline and online marketing working together perfectly is what we’ve seen at major events, such as at Reading and Leeds festival, who advertise on local billboards, in local press, and use Facebook advertising to attract local attendees to their events, and when attendees are watching bands, they can use a hashtag to have their Tweet or selfie shown on the big screen.
This is a classic example of good audience engagement. And don’t forget that Reading is shown on national television every year. Festival Republic have nailed their marketing and PR strategy, and they’ve perfected their balance between online and offline marketing and audience engagement, which is why the event is so iconic. And they introduce new innovations every year.
If your event is regional like Reading or Leeds, using fliers or local radio can drive attendees in a great way, as can using regional Facebook advertising or local press. These types of campaigns will help you to gain new mailing list subscribers and new followers on social media, which will increase your website traffic, meaning you can advertise back to those people through digital, too.
This is commonly known in the marketing world as the ‘customer journey.’ What journey do YOUR customers go on, before they eventually become a customer? You might want to look into that. It’s also important to note, that whilst this varies for every company, you can influence this by mapping out your desired customer journey on A3 paper, to give you some control over this process.
Companies that provide services that target a predominately older audience such as wheelchairs, or hearing aids, still rely on local and national press, television, and radio, and flyers, because the older generation (70+) don’t use social media as much. However, millennials are so digital heavy, that Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube advertising is almost a given.
If you’re targeting both audiences, use both methods of offline and online to expand your reach and to reach both audiences.
But always use the same hashtag on digital and print ads, and make sure that your ads are similar for brand consistency. People might see a billboard in town on their daily travels and Tweet it out to their followers. This means you can identity your customers and follow them to drive engagement and interaction.
How Much Money Do Companies Spend On Offline Marketing?
According to Web Chanakya (http://www.webchanakya.com/why-business-need-to-integrate-online-and-offline-marketing-strategies/), in 2012, 80% of ad spend was offline, although digital marketing budget [was] believed to go up to 75% of the overall marketing budget. In other words, print is still widely used today, and most companies use both.
Which Provides The Highest Level of ROI
A different study by Marketing Profs (https://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2017/32189/which-digital-channels-deliver-the-best-roi), showed that roughly 18% of marketers across all industries say email marketing delivers an excellent return on investment, and 17% say social media marketing delivers an excellent return on investment, too. So according to this data, digital is dominant as far as ROI goes, but don’t underestimate print.
To summarise, offline marketing is still hugely relevant today, even in a world where we’ve gone mostly digital. But they key is, to test different channels out on a low budget, to find the ones that work. And then, make sure that your offline and online campaigns work together in harmony and complement each other, and you can do this through customer journey mapping.
Allow time to find the perfect blend between your online and offline marketing efforts, and work towards a solid strategy over the next 3-5 years. This’ll help you to maximise your results, and your ROI. The best marketers use both, so if you’ve ditched your offline marketing, now is the time to re-introduce it. Good luck!