Regardless of what sort of business you run, what sort of ethic you want to embody, or the relative quality of the product or service you are providing, you need ways to stand out and be seen in the marketplace. Marketing is a must for every business, in one form or another.
Over the last decade, we've seen a huge shift for every industry into online marketing – whether through guest posts, social media, podcasts, videos, email, or any number of other means. While there's a hard cost to creating your marketing content, online marketing (except for paid advertising), is essentially free marketing.
That's great for folks with no budget, but it also means competition is fierce. Any time a barrier to entry is low, more people can enter the arena. On the plus side, that helps level the playing field, create more accessibility for marketers, and also created more choices for your potential clients.
The problem, though, is that there's a LOT more noise to cut through in order to be seen.
So how do you cut through the noise? You zig when they zag. If you've got the budget, it's time to explore offline (non-digital) marketing. I'm not just talking things like pens, cups, and t-shirts (though they are still incredibly effective). I'm talking about any way to market to your Raving Fans using offline methods.
Every year for my client retreat, we use non-digital marketing in the form of "swag" to remind our attendees about who we are, what we're about, and how happy we are to have them in our world. Last year, it was an "easy" button pre-loaded with some of my most common sayings. Like "If it's not scheduled, it's stressful" and "It can be easy." The year before that it was a "magic paintbrush" to remind them of what I say all the time - that they have the power to create their business in the way that works for them.
We're also exploring ways to reach more of our audience through non-digital means, including a live event in New Orleans in 2022, a merchandise line, and a new book. There are unique benefits to going non-digital. Here are a few:
Offline marketing is more memorable
Consistently, research finds that when people interact face-to-face with another human being, they are far more engaged with the experience – and remember far more about it, as a rule – than when they are simply absorbing content via the web.
Online marketing can be extremely sophisticated - like segmented emails and targeted ads. Digital marketing also allows you to achieve all sorts of great things remotely. Online events and digital classrooms have been a very important part of navigating the pandemic. Still, human beings inevitably relate most strongly to other people in a more direct context.
Direct offline marketing like networking groups, live events, and trade fairs allow you to get in-person and memorable with visuals and props that don't translate to the online world. There's an entire industry devoted to custom trade show booth manufacturers that build creative and innovative ways to engage with event attendees. There are also companies that specialize in corporate and client gifts to help you make a deeper connection with the people who make the biggest difference in your business.
Offline Marketing helps you stand out
While email isn't dead, it's getting harder to attract subscribers and keep them for the long haul. That's both good and bad. It's good because it ensures that your subscribers actually WANT to be in your world. It's bad because it means you have to put in more effort to attract those subscribers in the first place. The online world is getting savvier every year. People see through those "just pay for shipping" funnels that try to upsell you to a $500 offer. They opt in and then immediately unsubscribe. Unless there is something particularly sharp and attention grabbing, people just don't have the mental and emotional bandwidth to filter more marketing.
But offline marketing – like direct mail – is still memorable because of the relative scarcity and novelty. "Lumpy mail" has never gone out of style. People still respond to it. It's not free, though, so you've got to have a budget in order for it to be effective. But even a hand-written post card or birthday card can be a powerful touchpoint with your best clients and an affordable way to market.
You will definitely stand out! For last year's retreat I had to mail their swag boxes ahead of the event, so I put a "do not open until" message on the box. The anticipation and excitement was something that I couldn't begin to create in a virtual-only kind of event. A colleague of mine got a birthday card from one of her business partners that featured a picture of her horse on the cover. She STILL has that card on her bookshelf and thinks of that partner every time she looks at that picture.
Offline Marketing is often more fun and creative
The more you go for non-conventional marketing approaches (online or off), the more creative you can be. One side effect of this is that you may well have more fun with the marketing process. The more you actually enjoy your marketing campaigns, the more likely you are to be compelling, charismatic, fun, and give off a positive energy to those you interact with. That's attractive, effective marketing.
You can even hire a design pro to help you create custom "swag" for your audience. My friend and client Tracy Lay over at Digivisual Design is a brilliant creative strategist, and my own husband, Jim, is a Grammy-nominated music packaging designer.
Is it free? Nope. But is it worth the investment? When your creativity is aligned with your audience, the answer is yes... every single time.