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If you’ve ever told yourself that marketing your online business offline doesn’t apply in your case, you may be missing opportunities to:
- Mine untapped sources of really targeted traffic
- Make important local networking connections
- Become the “go-to” person in your community – with very little local competition – compared to online, where your competition can be in the millions.
- Increase your authority status
Even if you’re positive that offline promotion is not for you, check out these 23 tips you can put in place straight away — then in a month or two, take stock and see if you’re noticing a difference in your sales and exposure.
23 Quick Tips to Use Right Away
- Make sure your blog or website URL is prominently displayed on all your offline stationery, including your:
- Business card
- Gift Certificates
- Give away promotional items with your website URL embedded onto them
- Provide these same promotional items as prizes to local business networking conferences and meetings
- Send out Press Releases linking back to your website, containing a story angle that is relevant both to your target market and local viewers, providing the two are the same. Be sure to put your link with the resource box information — not in the body of your article.
- Submit a proposal for a weekend workshop or evening course to your local community college’s Continuing Education department — as well as to your library. Your website and online business will give you credibility. Many community colleges are eager for experts to pad out their continuing education programs.
- Volunteer at community events. You can participate in a variety of ways, so you’re sure to find one that feels comfortable. Plant trees or assemble food baskets wearing your URL-imprinted t-shirt. Donate prizes. Teach a short mini-workshop for free.
- Sponsor a local team or event. And if you’re budget is too small for that, sponsor a participant in a community event (e.g. a runner in the annual Terry Fox run).
- Run a contest. (Check local regulations.)
- Create a Contract. Call the advertising manager of your local community newspaper and ask if he would be interested in a “contra” where you supply goods for a contest they can run; they get the glory and give you free advertising.
If you’re nervous about doing this, remember that your local community paper will know more about this phenomenon than you — it’s been a time-honored tradition between newspapers and local businesses for decades.
- Offer a contrac to your local radio station. Contact their advertising manager and suggest swapping free advertising for a prize you’re willing to donate. (Make sure the prize is something that will cost you less than the cost of radio advertising, however!)
- Offer to guest on your local radio station. Let them know why you’d be the perfect guest for their listeners.
- Offer to guest on a local TV station show (especially if you have something that’s better shown than explained.
- Propose writing a column for your local newspaper — particularly if yours is a business that can provide relevant service.
- Use your vehicle as a billboard. If your company name and phone number is already on your car or truck, add your website URL too. If you don’t want your company name and contact information actually painted right onto your vehicle body, there are magnetic signs you can have made (this is an especially good strategy if your car’s color doesn’t fit in with your website brand colors.)
- Make sure your URL is easy to remember — especially if you are promoting it by having it on the side or back of your vehicle.
People who are left-turning behind you at the advanced green may be capable of remembering “10TaxTips.com”… but I guarantee they won’t remember “sylvanassalesservices.biz”!
- Donate a bench. Contact your town offices and see if you can donate a bench with your company name (and URL) on it, if your town doesn’t already have a program where you can buy advertising space on a bench. Provide it in a prominent place your target customer will most likely frequent — a bus stop, if seniors are your target market: A park boardwalk, if roller bladers are more — no pun intended — your speed. In a dog walking area, if pet owners are your target market, etc.
- Have an offline promotion plan for the whole year. Don’t just focus on one form of offline contact — plan new ways to keep your URL fresh in people’s attention spans the whole year round.
- Think seasonally. Decide how you can tie in offline promotion to local, seasonal trends. For example, if you’re in maple syrup country, sponsor or put on a pancake breakfast and have your staff or volunteers, if you’re a one-person business wear t-shirts displaying your URL or have your URL printed on all your paper cups.
- Give out samples — with a coupon. One of the biggest advantages of offline contact: It allows your target audience to touch, taste, feel and experience your products, first hand. If you do have a physical product such as maple syrup, give them a “taste” at public events — supply the syrup for that church event, complete with your URL stamped on the containers. Offer samples at local farmer’s markets — and even if they buy your actual product, hand out at the same time a coupon to be redeemed “next time” they visit your URL and sign up for your mailing list!
- Offer free workshops. You don’t have to wait for a community college to take you up on a proposal: Host it yourself! It doesn’t matter whether you own a local plant nursery and offer Saturday classes on “How to Dig Your Garden without Hurting Your Back” or your business is strictly online. Be creative, and make it happen. (One VA I know hosted a paid “Business Brainstorming for Women” class, right in her home; promoted it through the local government self-employment program — and collected three valuable new customers that way, as well as having a new network of people added to her list.)
The only “trick”? Make your participants sign up online.
- Omit your phone number. This is a risky ploy not to be used without careful thought, but if contacting you by telephone would actually be counter-productive to your business operation or profits, you might want to consider dropping your telephone number from handouts (either permanently or for particular events) and making your easy-to-remember URL the only way to contact you. (Be aware also that not providing a phone number can decrease local credibility: The ideal IS to make both available!)
- Include local, geographic keywords in your site META data and site keywords. People looking for a Virtual Assistant they can actually meet with will be far more able to quickly find you!
- Target and research your audience or recipients, when implementing any of the above practices. Don’t assume they’ll be the same people who usually buy from you online.
Research what your local customers want (especially if they don’t normally shop or hang out online) — then provide them with a big enough incentive to visit your URL anyway.
Research organizations you’re targeting to see what they need for their customers, users or audience — then show them how you can provide it.
Creative Thinking 101: The “Extra Step”
Take the case of a local business owner who realized that even the most un-tech-savvy people had got into the habit of responding online to cash receipt survey URLs put out by big companies like Staples and Home Depot. His employees handed out “free tickets” at a local sporting event duplicating the visual format of these cash receipt survey invitations — with a step. His free tickets promised prizes with 1-5 odds of winning for the first hundred respondents. In addition to three “big” cash prizes (the top one was $250), they gave out promotional items already in stock to meet that 1 in 5 promise. He reported doubling his business that year, linking it back to the survey “ticket” promotion.
Notice also he did five things that greatly increased the effectiveness of his promotion:
- He observed and researched the habits of the group he wanted to target — those in his niche who did not habitually shop online, finding out about a stress-free place where they hung out (the sporting event)
- He delivered his information in a format they were comfortable with (the “cash receipt” formula)
- He upped the incentive to participate (the 1-in-5 odds of winning)
- He created a sense of urgency to participate (the first hundred participants only were guaranteed 1-in-5 odds)
- He delivered on his promise
There’s absolutely no reason why any online business owner — no matter how small their business — can’t achieve similar results. All it takes is observation and a smidgen of creative thinking.
To get your brain going, ask yourself the following six questions:
- “What is in it for my local customer, if she visits my site? Why will this be a good thing for her?”
- “What is the biggest barrier that prevents her from doing this?”
- “What can I offer or do now, to help her overcome that block?
- “How can I up my incentive even more?”
- “Have I included the principles of exclusivity and urgency?”
- “Is my call to action strong enough and clear enough?”
3 Most Common Offline Promotion Mistakes
The three mistakes most commonly — and fatally — made by those wishing to drive an offline audience to their websites?
- Rushing into it without proper research, interaction and thought
- Doing something that’s easy for them — not for their target market
- Relying on others for ideas and strategies as a substitute for your own research, thought and interaction
Social Marketing and Your Online Business
We’ve spoken mostly about driving your target market to your online site: You can also use your online presence to encourage local customers to contact you offline.
Sometimes being able to connect with you offline provides the biggest incentive for dealing with you in a professional relationship online. (Case in point: The VA mentioned in example #22, who got the “job” because the company contracting her services realized she was local and could attend vital on-location team meetings.)
An ideal way to geo-target offline customers is through social media.
Take Facebook, for example. One of the hottest new trends this year is geo-targeting. Facebook automatically detects the exact physical location its users are operating from — and serves up ads and events they can reach in person.
Facebook gives great prominence to localized events and keywords.
Besides, if people can attend your workshops or meet you at the local food bank drive, they retain a much stronger memory of you. They “know” you — and that boosts trust.
The important thing to remember lies in realizing that “offline” and “online” promotion are not only two halves of a whole, they are interchangeable. Offline promotion can net you online business; online promotion can bring you valuable, new, local customers.
And just as you can tailor your online presence, you can also tailor your offline promotion to match:
- Your personality, strengths and skills
- Your ideal target customer
- Your business
I hope these 23 quick tips have provided some inspiration and incentive to promoting your online business offline too. The rewards can be well worth the effort of stretching outside of your comfort zone.
Here’s to your successful promotion — both online and off!
Many online business owners balk at the idea of mixing with offline business people, but the truth is, you need each other. They need your expertise online and you need to be able to break out of the online box and bring more people to your website to use your services or buy your products. The great thing is that almost every community has a chamber of commerce and it’s not expensive to join, additionally, your membership fee is considered a business expense.
The typical fee is from 200 dollars up to 600 dollars a year and most chambers of commerce offer a monthly payment plan on your yearly fee. There are many benefits to an online business joining a local chamber of commerce. This fee can be paid automatically by automatic debit using your PayPal credit card. As most online business owners know, memberships are very valuable to both the member and the organization, this one is no exception. Marketing your online business offline has never been easier.
Networking Opportunities — Chambers of commerce have many luncheons, after 5 meetings, and opportunities to network that are designed for members to exchange information and use each other’s services. It is imperative that if you’re going to join that you participate in the networking and social activities that are available to you. Time after time members who participate get more out of their membership than those who simply pay their monthly fee and expect miracles to happen.
Establish Credibility — Studies have shown that 64% more consumers are impressed by chamber membership and are more likely to purchase products and services from chamber members than non chamber members. Anytime you can create a sense of goodwill in your target market, you should do it. This is one of our least expensive ways to establish good will. You can also arrange a ribbon cutting ceremony that does not have to be at your house but can be at a rented venue, which is a way to get your story in the press.
Group Discounts — In some areas members have access to group insurance discounts and other group discounts that can mean a substantial savings for members. Advertising and sponsorship opportunities are also inexpensive and affective as most chambers have “Chamber Packs” that go out monthly to all members.
Member to Member Discounts — Most chamber members will offer discounts to other chamber members, this could mean a substantial savings to you for supplies, advertising, computers and other products and services that you need. Additionally, you can offer discounts to members too, which means more sales for you.
It is clear that your local chamber has many opportunities for you to make your mark on your local community from being involved in ribbon cutting ceremonies, to having a link on their site to your website, to being asked to speak or teach a class. Not to mention the ability to hear your local movers and shakers speak, have nice dinners, and rub elbows with other business owners, and while you’re marketing your online business offline, you’re also supporting your local community.
Magazines — There are many magazines that accept advertisements from businesses large and small for a reasonable price. Do your research and you’ll do well. Remember to target your advertising no matter what venue you place the advertisement to your target market.
News Papers — Newspapers are not dead yet. You can get some good deals with companies who place ads with a lot of newspapers at once taking up space that was not sold to save money. If this type of advertising did not work, would the same ads appear over and over again?
Local Publications — Don’t discount your local magazines and newspapers for excellent places to advertise and market your online business offline. You can get some great deals and depending on how large the readership is, you can reach thousands of people in your target market with this method.(Remember that local publications might need content too!)
Sponsorships — There are many opportunities to sponsor events both locally and nationally. When you sponsor an event offline, it’s similar to sponsoring an online event. You donate some products, services, content, or something of value, even pay for a spot and you get your name on the brochure, in the marketing materials, the announcements, and on placards at the event itself.
Trade shows — You can go to tradeshows. No don’t go to a tradeshow that is only going to feature tons of people just like you, nope, go to where your client is. If you serve book authors, go to where book authors go. If you service Internet Marketers go to where they are. Whomever your target market is go to their tradeshows.
Car Magnet — You can purchase a car magnet that is you put on the side of your car. This way every place you go without saying a word, you are marketing your online business offline. Make sure you put all the information you can on the magnet, such as your website URL.
Car Stickers — Design and purchase a window sticker for your car with the URL of your website the main focus. Consider your design carefully, look at other window stickers and try to pick one that people can read easily. A memorable domain name helps too.
T shirts — Pass out T-shirts to your friends, family, and give them as premiums to as many people as you can afford. T-shirts and other premiums such as fridge magnets, pens, calendars, and other physical items are fabulous to give out to bring more offline people to your website.
TV Commercials — Yes, you can afford to run a television commercial if you pick your local venue. You might be surprised at how inexpensively you can do it. You can create your commercial with Camtasia and your Flip Cam which will make it even less expensive. Don’t be afraid to check it out.
Networking locally is a great way to market your online business offline. There are numerous organizations, clubs, and groups that you can join and network with that will assist with your offline marketing. The chamber of commerce, meet up, women’s groups, even your local hobby clubs are good networking opportunities. Where ever your possible clients and customers “live” is where you should be, both online and offline.
Online business owners often live in a sort of vacuum not having much contact with the outside world, so finding a way to get out of your comfort zone will be good for you and your business. There are good reasons to network locally aside from the fact that it can be actually fun to do. Plus, you need to get out of the house and out from behind the computer to be a well rounded person. Many people are shy or intimidated by offline marketing especially face to face networking, but you need not be worried. Here are a few ways to break into offline marketing via networking.
Church – Yes, church is for worshipping, but you can also network at church. Most people do. They buy from church members, and patronize their congregants businesses and refer each other. This is perfectly acceptable to do and will in fact make you feel more a part of your community. There are churches of all stripes, so if you do not attend one right now, you can find churches that are liberal and conservative, it’s completely up to you.
Exercise class — Of course you should get to know people with whom you are sweating every day! When you get to know people and make friends with them they will want to tell their friends about you, so don’t be shy, and tell people what you do. Ask them what they do first to break the ice.
Join the PTA — Most local areas have Parent Teacher Associations of some sort. If you are a parent, or a grandparent, you can join your local PTA. Once you join, get involved. Usually they will offer several sponsorship activities every year from an advertising spot in the yearbook, to the newsletter, to placards at an event. Even if you do not join, you can usually still sponsor events at your local schools.
Try these ideas for icebreakers to start networking in order to market your online business offline and before you know it you’ll feel more comfortable for more powerful networking such as joining and participating in your local chamber of commerce.
You don’t have to be a college graduate to teach classes to help promote your online business offline. Teaching is an excellent way to market your online business offline because it simultaneously gets your story out, while establishing you as an expert in a way that can be used both on and offline.
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute — These are often housed in a local community college or university you can do a quick Google to find out where one is located near you. Then you simply contact them to offer your services to teach a class in your area of expertise. They will send you information back about how long the class should be, and the available schedule. Then you will have to submit curriculum.
You will not be paid for these services although if your class needs to purchase supplies they will charge a fee. Depending upon where and who is in charge of your local center you may or may not be able to overtly advertise but you’ll be seen as an expert by everyone around you, and you can tell what you do in your introduction which will be live, and in your handouts as well as in the class schedule online and offline.
Create your own venue — You can rent a venue in order to teach your class. The good thing about this method is you can choose to charge, or not to charge and market on the back end. To make this work you will need to have awesome professional physical products to sell when your event is over, as well as information that will lead them to your website to join your membership program, purchase your services, or other products.
Do not over look inexpensive venues such as churches, community centers, and even apartment complex club houses to rent as a place to teach your class. You can make it a one day class, or a multi day class. Check with your chamber of commerce to see if they have space too. Having your own venue is nice when you’re trying to market your online business offline because you make the rules.
Teach to clubs — There are many clubs and organizations that have “educational” programs who will be happy to have you come teach them something about your niche. From the senior center, to local mom clubs you can find a group that will want you to teach them what you know about your niche.
Every news organization, magazine, newspaper, university, and group looks for experts to be their go to person, why can’t that be you? Being an expert is a very effective way to market your online business offline because it will get you noticed. You’ll be in the news, both locally and nationally, maybe even internationally. By being a resource available to others you will quickly establish your expert status.
In order to establish yourself as an expert, you will need to contact the press every chance you get via press releases and queries for comments on issues. Submit content to offline publications, magazines, and newspapers as often as you can either via letters to the editor, commenting on someone else’s entry, or submit an actual article allowing them to publish it free or in some cases you can get paid too depending upon the venue. Remember that the important aspect of this is to be established as an expert in your niche.
Be available to the media to answer questions whenever there is a news story about your niche. Create an effective press kit that includes the types of information that offline media needs such as a “one sheet” which is essentially a paper, that is one sheet, that gives information about you in a nutshell. It has your photograph, your bio, your claim to fame and more all on one sheet of paper.
Sign up to be an expert on any database you can find that might be of interest to your target market. Always return calls even if you’re not sure if you can give the right information. If you’re quick to follow up, the press will be quick to use you again even if they couldn’t the one time. Make it clear that you’re ready and available for interviews, comments, and will help with anything they need.
Join local organizations and present yourself as the expert you are in your niche. Be a valuable member and contributor to the organization by being on the board, being a volunteer, submitting content for their websites and publications. Additionally, attend as many social events that are available as you can stand and make sure everyone knows you’re always able to speak on your topic at their organizations.
Contact your local radio station with your expertise and your story. Sometimes you might have to pay to be on the radio, but if it’s public radio it’s a great way to support them. You can also offer prizes to your local public radio station to give away at their fundraisers. Public radio stations love to interview local experts on many different topics, if you provide a compelling enough story, you’ll get on as an interview. If you went from a laid off mom on welfare, to a successful Internet marketing business owner, this is a compelling story, tell it!
1. Be an expert — Make sure everyone knows your expertise so that you can be a resource to them. Do not keep your online business a secret from your offline friends, family, and contacts. Talk about it, educate them, and before you know it you’ll be the expert that they come to when they realize having an online business is real.
2. Be a speaker — Find your local speakers bureaus, sometimes maintained by your local library, your chamber of commerce, local businesses, nonprofits and universities and find out how to offer your speaking services. Create a “one sheet” which is just what it says, one sheet of paper that gives information about you as a speaker including your photograph, what you talk about, your fees, and products. Do a search on “one sheet” to discover what should be on this important marketing document.
3. Teach a class — If you have a college degree you can usually teach at your local college or university on an adjunct or part-time basis. Being a college professor will definitely give you “street cred” in your local community, and out of your local community. This is something you can add to your websites immediately. If you do not have a degree, you can still become a Lecturer when you own a successful business. Call your local university, college, community college, or the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in your area for more information on how to get started.
4. Contact the press — If you have a good story to tell, send the press a tip. If you have certain news people that cover different types of news on your local channels, send them a brief summary of your story. Have friends send links to your story that you’ve told online. You might be surprised that sometimes they have slow news days and need to fill the space. In addition, make sure the press knows your expertise too, and make sure they know you have an open door policy to make comments on issues surrounding your expertise.
5. Network — Go to after 5 chamber of commerce meetings, business women meetings, meet ups that are in your area and rub elbows with a lot of people, making sure that they know your business, your expertise and your name.
6. Send out press releases — Whenever you have something wonderful to announce send out a press release and make sure it gets into the right hands. Target your press release blast to the right people, because otherwise, they will just toss it. If it gets to the right people, you’ll be surprised at how many will be printed.
7. Advertise locally — There are many local advertising and marketing opportunities for the online business to use off line. There are local magazines, local papers, placemats, bathroom ads, grocery cart ads, local “coffee news”, and more. Find these opportunities and use them. Usually the cost is minimal. Additionally, many of these local venues need content, you may be able to get free advertising by offering local content. Your info will be in the byline, much like online article marketing.
8. Business cards — Buy them, make them look great, and use them. So many online business owners purchase business cards and never give them out. Probably because they often never leave the house. So order some, and get out of the house and network.
9. Volunteer — Helping others is an excellent way to market your online business offline. Many organizations need volunteers, board members, sponsors, and participants. Leave no stone unturned. Volunteering locally will establish good will and trust both online and offline.
10. Advertise on your car — You can purchase either magnetic signs for the side of your car or window decals that give a website or phone number for people to call for more information. This is a great way to market your online business offline and get the word out wherever you go.