I have been surrounded by marketers my entire life. Sometimes it’s been obvious, but other times much more subtle that a person has been marketing their business right in front of me. This has happened in youth sports, adult recreation leagues, high school networking events, and plenty of other settings.
Personally, I have gotten my feet wet with different offline marketing tactics for my own website and other businesses I’ve worked for. Wearing a bright red shirt with your site’s URL might get more laughs than leads (been there, done that) but these six tactics should help your marketing strategy to reach those extra customers and boost the effectiveness of your online marketing.
Not the worst $40 I’ve spent, not the best (source: Bob Buckley).
Offline Marketing Tactic #1: Use Local Newspapers
Local newspapers are an awesome way to connect with people in your neighborhood. There are a few different ways that you can use those, too, so you aren’t limited to one strategy.
If you want to save some money, start building relationships with reporters who might want to do a story on your business. A great example is the St. Cloud, MN-based restaurant Lily’s Wings, Burgers, and Things.
After moving locations to downtown St. Cloud in late 2020, a March 2021 article in the St. Cloud Times highlighted their success. The article helped to advertise their new online ordering system that they heavily invested in right before the pandemic started. It also helped to clarify that they don’t even take walk-up orders anymore.
A faster way of showcasing your business in the local paper is by actually running a print ad. Most newspapers have information about how to run one printed in an empty space next to other ads. There is usually a way to work with them listed on their website, too.
For example, take a look at the options for this small newspaper we have in Minnesota, the Crookston Times:
In the black rectangular drop-down, you can easily get set up with one of their advertising options in the “Marketplace” section by clicking “Advertise Your Business.” These can be anything from press releases to full-on display ads to let people know about your business.
A final (and very effective) marketing strategy is actually submitting an article to the paper. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an opinion or letter to the editor contribution, either.
You can see a great example with this lifestyle column written in the Crookston Times. It’s by Marlo Alleva, a fitness instructor at Gold’s Gym. Her business was probably hurt by the pandemic, but I’m sure she still gets plenty of leads for virtual training sessions since her email is included at the end of articles.
Even better for her, the at-home workout articles she writes will stay relevant for a long time because of how useful they are.
Offline Marketing Tactic #2: Volunteer to Coach a Team
Throughout every level of youth sports that I did, there was almost always one coach on the team who was a small business owner. These ranged from insurance agents, financial advisors, and other types of businesses like masonry contractors. The strategy of community involvement works from the small business level all the way up to major corporations.
Not only does it work to get your business’s name out there, but it also genuinely feels good to give back.
One major thing that a few coaches did was set themselves up for future email marketing opportunities. They would use their professional email address in their contact information and with communications out to parents. That way, everyone would always see the mini-advertisement in their signature line.
It was a great way for them to build rapport with parents and potentially do business in the future. Aside from that, some of them made such a positive impact on me that I added them to my social media connections a couple of years later, and a lot of them will stay top of mind if I need those types of services they offer.
Offline Marketing Tactic #3: Organize Alumni Events for Your High School or College
High schools and colleges are always looking for alumni to step up and organize events for their class or even a few years of graduates. There’s a financial advisor who graduated from my high school and puts on quarterly networking events for all alumni (temporarily paused due to the pandemic).
He always holds a drawing for one or two $25 gift cards where all we need to do to enter is throw a business card in for it and get his monthly marketing newsletters. He schedules them often enough where I keep thinking about his services but not so often that I unsubscribe.
If you decide to approach this or any other tactic involving email marketing, make sure you understand the various privacy laws that relate to what you’re doing. The last thing you want is to end up with someone getting mad at you because they didn’t realize they were joining an email list.
Offline Marketing Tactic #4: Attend Trade Shows & Scan QR Codes
I was an intern for a startup in college called Compaction Technologies. They gave me a ton of initial experience with both attending trade shows and following up on leads from other ones via phone and email marketing.
Image Source: Jeff Tolke/Compaction Technologies, Inc.
Here’s what Jeff Tolke, CEO at Compaction Technologies, Inc., had to say about the effectiveness of trade shows:
“Closely behind a growing installation base, I would rate a trade show as our best marketing tactic. Especially a trade show where we can present a case study or customer success story and further our ‘Thought Leadership’ strategy.”
“You see, we dominate the market share of a very under-developed category. Less than 1% of our potential target market uses front-of-house compactors. I believe most of our target market is either unaware the category exists at all, or they don’t know enough about it to think it applies to them. Trade shows help us promote our thought leadership strategy by giving us a well-attended venue to tell our story. Show-goers are turned off by an overt sales pitch, so we tell the success stories that align with their needs. Showing their guests that they’re sustainable and care about the environment. Managing higher payroll costs and retaining employees. Improving the guest experience. We use the tradeshows to tell our story, then capture the presentation and re-purpose the content through the other elements of our marketing mix like social media, email campaigns, and webinars.”
Taking the trade show route is definitely an investment since a 10×10 booth can cost around $14,000, according to Inkwell. However, it could be money well-spent since you will have a lot of the people in your target audience walking around and seeing what you have to offer.
It’s a perfect time to build rapport and line up the next big deal. And, if you scan QR codes for attendees, that should give you some contact information, so you can follow-up via email or phone after.
Offline Marketing Tactic #5: Talk to People One-on-One for Marketing Ideas
You would be amazed at what you can learn from regular conversations with people. About four years ago, my grandma gave me a product idea that she had been carrying around for almost 40 years. I (very slowly) started learning how CAD software worked and steadily developed a functional prototype.
Even though there’s something tangible and it works, I’m probably still a year and a half out from any Kickstarter campaigns.
But, something that’s motivated me a lot to keep working on the product has been talking to people in the target market for my product (anyone who owns a stroller and as well as wheelchair users) one on one. One interesting thing (in the stroller market segment) has been that dads could care less about buying a product like mine, but every mom I’ve ever spoken with has been pretty enthusiastic about wanting it.
I’m not sure how much money I might have spent on ads for dads instead of moms, but I think my in-person market research will have saved me at least a few bucks when the time comes to start running targeted advertisements.
Offline Marketing Tactic #6: Send Free Products to Influencers
Sending out free products to influencers in your target market can be a great way to get some buzz on social media about your business. There are ways to make it easier for people to give you shoutouts, like using this QR Code Generator or a similar site to create a code that goes on your product packaging. Then, fans can scan it with their phone and easily connect with your business’s social media profiles and give you a shoutout on theirs.
A great example of how well the free product strategy can work is to look at Quest Nutrition and its origins. Instead of going out and trying to sell the product, co-founder Tom Bilyeu sent out thousands of free Quest bars and letters to fitness influencers. In this interview on The Jay Kim Show, Bilyeu explained the process:
“We understood that social media was going to be huge before other people did. This is back in 2009 when we first started talking about the company. I laid out a whole plan for how I thought social media was going to impact the space and what it was going to be like and that we should be going after our 1,000 true fans. This gave us a chance to do that all for free and build value and not try to market or sell to them but build a community and really deliver value to their lives.”
“In doing that, we built this incredibly supportive community that was very vocal on social. Really understood digital, really understood social media and how to connect by being authentic, by being transparent, and then couple that with a product that hadn’t existed until that moment, and it just blew up.”
You can read more about how the free product tactic can work so well in the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert B Cialdini. Basically, if you send something to someone for free and it makes their life better, they will probably be motivated to do something for you. A shoutout on social media isn’t too much to ask!
Complement Your Online Strategy with Offline Marketing
Most of our marketing budgets will be spent online. Advertising, email campaigns, and other targeted outreach methods are still the main area to focus on consistently. However, tapping into some offline marketing strategies can be a way to reach some of those harder to find customers and clients.
All it takes are small changes, like putting a tripod and mic in your office if inspiration strikes. Maybe getting involved in the community or just making conversation when you’re out walking the dog. Try it all, you never know what could help your online marketing efforts get some extra lift.
About the Author
Bob Buckley is the Founder of This College Life, a blog with resources for getting into entrepreneurship on a budget. He’s passionate about trying to build things, exercising, and walking the dog all over the neighborhood.