Over the past five years, online marketing has become the primary focus for companies across many industries. With the growth in social media for advertising and an increasing number of online advertising options, such as search, display and video on demand (VOD), many businesses have moved away from traditional marketing activities such as print and direct mail.
But are these companies missing a trick? Ploughing an entire marketing budget into online or digital channels could result in missed opportunities and diminishing returns. An “integrated” or “360°” marketing campaign that combines both online and offline marketing activities can deliver outstanding results. The reason is, it has the potential to reach customers at multiple touchpoints throughout the buyer’s journey. The ideal balance of online and offline marketing strategies will depend on your type of business, target audience and budget.
But for most businesses, there is still incredible value in offline marketing strategies such as networking, creating bespoke printed banners and signs, and attending trade shows. Provided your message is consistent across all channels, offline and online marketing activities can work hand-in-hand to deliver the results you need.
Check out our top five offline marketing strategies for maximum return on investment (ROI).
1. Trade shows
Whether you work in the construction industry or catering, there are likely to be several trade shows relevant to your business. Large cities generally host trade shows. They allow businesses in the same industry to display their products and services to potential customers, network with potential partners and to listen to talks by industry experts.
The financial investment required to attend a trade show may seem daunting, but the ROI often makes it an extremely worthwhile offline marketing activity. Giving your business a presence at a relevant trade show can increase brand awareness, generate leads, facilitate new business partnerships, provide opportunities for competitor analysis — and help you to stay up-to-date with industry news.
So it’s worth investing in a high-quality backdrop stand that will have a real impact on your target audience. Carefully designed exhibition shell scheme graphics and customised printed banners and signs will help convey your message and draw the people most likely to convert to your stand. Once you have potential customers visit your stand, it could be advantageous to think of some out-of-the-box tactics to ensure the people you attracted remember your brand for the future. This could be done using the various common freebie products, such as umbrellas, tote bags, and more. Or you might even think about creating your own sweets or chocolate using a white label chocolate manufacturer, people will be sure to remember your brand while eating a bar of your chocolate while at home! Trade shows provide a ready-made audience of highly targeted buyers — a dream for your sales team!
For maximum ROI, combine online and offline marketing efforts by promoting your attendance on social media and report on the event in your onsite blog. Trade shows offer the opportunity to meet prospects, partners and industry experts face-to-face. Online marketing can never entirely replace the value of face-to-face meetings.
2. Direct mail
Direct mail has decreased in popularity in recent years, but it can reap rewards for your business. Direct mail is the process of sending printed marketing literature to potential customers by post. While it can be costly, the return may outweigh the investment if your mail campaign is well-considered, delivered to a high standard and suits your objectives and your target audience.
Some groups of buyers are more likely to see and respond positively to a physical piece of advertising received in the post. If your customers tend to be older or retired, they may be less likely to access email and social media. They may also be much responsive to learning about your business via direct mail. People of all age groups often respond positively to physical mail that “has a built-in emotional response factor”. This factor can increase the desire to respond and purchase.
There is some evidence to suggest that direct mail has a higher response rate than email and that brand recall is significantly better for direct mail. Email may require a lower financial outlay. But it often represents a less savvy investment as so few people respond.
While it is certainly possible to network online, attending networking events can often lead to more fruitful interactions. As with trade shows, meeting people face-to-face allows you to build their trust in your business. You can also convey your message and effectively target the prospects and partners most likely to convert. Allowing customers, prospects and partners to meet the people behind the brand is a great way to boost your company’s reputation and increase brand loyalty.
There are thousands of networking events around the country. Unlike trade shows, these are not confined to large cities, so there is a good chance you’ll find a highly-relevant event near your location. Running a networking event is a fantastic way to generate leads and raise brand awareness. Inviting people to see your premises and how you work shows people that you run your business in a transparent and honest way. Consequently, you can build the trust required to close a sale or partnership deal.
4. Speaking engagements
Many trade shows and networking events invite industry experts and exhibitors to book a speaking slot. They provide a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of your business and establish your company’s reputation as a thought leader and industry expert. Both will build trust in your brand.
Speaking slots are not an invitation to deliver a direct sales pitch of your product or services. However, you should maximise any opportunities to display company branding on presentation slides, printed banners and signs — even on your own and event staff clothing. Unless you have a significant budget, you may need to start with small, local events until you establish a strong reputation as an industry speaker. Amplify your attendance at these events using social media and your company website.
5. Print articles and advertising
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is likely to be a vital element of any successful company’s marketing campaign. However, there is still a place for print publications. With online PR efforts, you can build the reputation of your company by having articles published on authoritative sites that link back to your website. Similarly, you can publish articles in relevant and respected industry print publications to add credibility to your business.
Most trade shows will produce an event guide in which you can feature. This guide allows you to get your brand name in front of people with high buyer intent. Print ads that include a QR code work especially well in event publications as you can easily direct people to your stand. Choose publications wisely and the ROI from print articles and advertising could be significant.
There’s no need to choose between online and offline marketing activities. Consider your business’ goals, target audience, budget and resources to help you determine where you should be focusing your marketing efforts. Traditional and digital strategies can often complement one another — such as promoting your attendance at a trade show on social media. Make sure you have systems in place to track your spend and ROI. This will allow you to invest more heavily in activities that offer the greatest reward and stop spending on marketing that is not working for your business.
There is no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. But offline marketing certainly has value to add and you could miss out on some fantastic revenue and lead generation streams if you focus purely on digital strategies.
John Leatherbarrow is the founder and managing director of Banner World, a market-leading provider of large format graphics. He has over 20 years’ experience in the sign industry and has led the company to successfully deliver projects for brands including Amazon and the BBC.