Computers have taken over and many of us have turned to digital marketing. Websites and online ads have destroyed the need to have one’s company advertised in a phonebook. Social media has made networking much easier and given us access to a whole new previously unreachable audience.
There’s no denying the importance of online marketing. However, that shouldn’t mean that we should all abandon offline marketing as a result. If your marketing strategies are currently all virtual, take some time to get away from the computer screen (after reading this post that is!) and rediscover the forgotten art of offline marketing and how you can make an impact.
Leaflets, business cards and branded items
Many of us are quick to throw leaflets straight in the trash. And few of us have ever been tempted to call up a business because of a branded pen we found at the bank. However, branded items still have a time and a place – many of us just don’t use them strategically.
The first step is knowing where to take your branded items, which involves knowing your target audience and the places they’re likely to hang out. If you’re an accountancy firm, think about places where freelancers or recent start-up entrepreneurs are likely to go (this could include coffee bars, coworking office spaces and estate agents). If you’re a sports club, think about where people are likely to think about wanting to get fit (a fast-food restaurant, a pub). If you’re a sandwich bar think about where people are likely to be hungry (a gym, offices).
Creativity is key. This includes where you place branded items (putting a branded bookmark in a library book to do with your field), but also the kind of branded item you’re using (M&Ms for example do branded versions of their sweets). You can even use other incentives. For example with leaflets and business cards, consider posting through people’s doors with vouchers or coupons attached.
Conferences and local business groups
Attending conferences and local business groups can be a great way of networking. They generally attract members of other businesses, making them more suited for B2B companies. However, even B2C companies may find them useful as an opportunity to meet fellow businesses, to gain tips and possibly talk cross-promotion ideas.
Conferences are generally one-off events centred around a certain topic in a certain field. One person may give a talk or several people may debate a topic, often to a live audience. It’s possibly to organise a conference oneself, although this can be expensive and very time-consuming to arrange. For smaller businesses, going as an audience member is generally advised – there will be time before and after to mingle and get to know other businesses.
Local business groups are generally open to local entrepreneurs or workers within a certain field. They may be set up purely for networking or have charitable or community goals such as a Rotary Club. Starting your own business group generally isn’t advised unless you’re a higher member of your community. Joining one however is generally easy and cheap and an ideal opportunity to become more prominent within your community.
Trade shows are specially set up for businesses to attract clients. By being centred around a certain trade, they attract only people interested in that trade. This makes it much easier to focus your marketing.
The downside with trade shows is that you’re surrounded by stalls run by competing businesses. This means that you have to find a way of standing out from the crowd. The most obvious way of doing this is to make your stall bold and colourful. There are many visual props you can use including marquees and cardboard cutouts. Those interested can see Event Display for info on some creative ideas including inflatables. Doing a live demo of your product, playing music or having some form of interactive exhibit can also lure people to your stall. You should also use this opportunity to give away branded items that further spread word of your business.
Some trade shows may also offer the opportunity to do a talk. If you’re brave enough, this could be something worth taking part in o further make a name for yourself. Often there are limited places for talks, so ensure your put your name down early.
Like conferences and business groups, trade shows can also be a great chance to network and meet other businesses. Even if you don’t want to run a stall, attending one could be beneficial.
Getting involved in a charity event is a great marketing opportunity, as well as an opportunity to give something back to the community. Being charitable bolsters your reputation as a good business. You can host your own charity event or donate services to a pre-existing one.
There are many ways of hosting a charity event. You could hire your premises out to a local charity, organise a charity fair or organise a charity raffle with your services as the prize.
You may also be able to donate a product to a charity auction. These often consist of products donated by local businesses as a way of helping with a cause.
It’s important to find a cause that’s important to you and not simply use the opportunity for wholly self-promotional purposes. Not only will people be able to see through this and think less of your business, it may also be deemed illegal under some circumstances. Often a separate account will have to be set up for you to put any charity earnings in. Sponsoring and donating services is often the safer and easier route to take, so that others deal with the proceeds.