Why Offline Marketing Still Matters
By Annie Mueller September 8, 2011 3:52PM
Updated: November 10, 2011 4:40PM
This post originally appeared on OPEN Forum, the online publishing platform and community for small business owners.
By: Annie Mueller
Offline marketing used to be the only kind of marketing. Billboards, flyers, brochures, sales letters, direct mail, cold calls, marketing events, seminars, sponsorships, newspaper ads, magazine ads, giveaways, signs-those were all the old-fashioned methods of building a brand, building relationships, building awareness, communicating with your customers and potential customers, and getting buzz on the street.
They were all common marketing techniques for small and large businesses, and they often cost a lot of money. Small businesses have, for the most part, embraced online marketing with a sigh of relief. For a smaller investment, they can reach a more targeted market and, often, have a better chance at tracking their ROI, which means they can make better choices about whether or not to keep investing those marketing dollars in the same places.
Does offline marketing even matter anymore?
Here's a scenario. You're looking for a new employee. You've got an expansive online network, lots of contacts in social media, a huge e-mail address list and an active LinkedIn account. You get social networking. You've put the word out that you're looking for a new hire.
You go out to eat with your family, and while you're there you run into an old friend. You shake hands, chat, and it turns out your friend has the precise skills you're looking for and is looking to make a job change. He promises to send you his resume.
The next morning you check your inbox to find a flood of responses from your online network: personal recommendations, LinkedIn messages and e-mailed resumes. Oh, and there's the resume from your old friend, halfway down the e-mail list. Which one do you click on first? Which one gets the most consideration? Which one has a draw, a personal connection that makes it easier to imagine hiring this person who sent you this resume?
Most people will be drawn toward the face-to-face connection. As great as social media networking is, as powerful as online connections can be, as many new doors as the Internet can open, the tangible reality of seeing a person in the physical context of your real, offline life makes more of an impression than a virtual hello ever could.
Does this mean your small business is wasting time and money with online marketing?
The world of marketing is not diminishing and should not be divided into online vs. offline. Rather, marketing has expanded into a two-ring circus.
Online marketing provides many immediate ways to connect with a target market. It gives you a voice into new circles of conversation. It gives you the ability to meet people who otherwise would have remained unknown to your business. It provides instant connections, unlimited availability, and many ways to gather and track and respond to data. There is much to love about online marketing.
And online marketing, all by its virtual self, can garner a good response if done properly and consistently.
But if you're tired of seeing incremental number changes in your online marketing, you need to step back into the second ring. You need to make a tangible connection, and that's done via offline methods: a paper letter, a hand-written card, a physical product, a face-to-face meeting, something to be touched and felt and experienced, or someone to be met and talked with and remembered.
However advanced our technology might be, we still rely on direct methods of assessing value and trustworthiness. But online interaction removes many of those gauges we use to establish value and trustworthiness. A person's relationship with a business depends on how the person perceives the value and trustworthiness of the business.
If you limit the gauges by which people can establish your business credibility, you slow the relationship down. In some cases, you'll stop it altogether, because your business will simply get lost in the online roar. But when you couple online marketing with the tangible, offline interaction that we still need and crave, you boost relationship development.
When a couple who has met through an online dating service starts "getting serious," what is the normal next step? They meet in person, in the real world, in a place where they don't have to make judgments based on virtual clues which none of us are instinctively good at reading. It's the real-life meeting that determines whether the relationship will go forward or not.
Don't make the mistake of keeping your business relationships and your marketing virtual when a little offline work could move them forward, from connections to loyal customers.
It doesn't take as much effort in offline marketing-in terms of time or dollars-to make an impression. If you've already established some common ground via online marketing, then the offline efforts will have a foundation on which to rest. You can follow up with more online marketing, but you'll be following up with the strength you didn't have before: the strength of a tangible, personal connection; the same strength your old friend has behind his e-mailed resume merely because you shook his hand the night before.