It’s rare these days to run across a brick-and-mortar business that does not also conduct some of its transactions online. It’s not so rare, on the other hand, for online businesses to operate without any sort of physical storefront at all.

The shift towards virtual business makes good sense. When your store is online, there is oftentimes no need to invest large sums of money in personnel, rent, and upkeep. Customers can browse your products and services—and purchase them—from anywhere at any time. A host of free and low-cost tools make it simple to ensure that capital moves smoothly, transactions are well-documented, and customer questions and complaints are readily available for management and review.

For all its merits, online business does leave something behind. It fails to deliver the same opportunities for companies to develop robust, personal relationships with their customers. These interactions—sincere, face-to-face interactions—have always been an integral component of successful companies’ branding strategies.

After all, branding is about more than a name, logo, and aesthetically-pleasing online interface. A company’s brand is complex, bringing dozens of independent elements together such that they create synergy and momentum.

handshakeCustomer relationships are part of a business’ image. There’s no two ways about it. Frequent, friendly exchanges help shape public perception of a company’s values and approachability. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that positive contact with clients can turn corporations into community members.

This transformation often translates into greater profit margins as communities forego doing business with more impersonal companies in favor of investing in what they view as their “hometown mom-and-pop shop.”

Naturally, some of these distinctions have become muddled during the digital age. Becoming the virtual mom-and-pop store no longer requires mom and pop. Likewise, it doesn’t necessarily require a specific hometown.

The trick is for business-owners to begin thinking of the global market as their community. By recognizing that the market is composed of individuals with their own beliefs, needs, and stories, it becomes easier to reach out to them. And by reaching out, they establish themselves as the Good Guys.

Really, it comes down to knowing when and how to capitalize on the best of both worlds—online and off. There are advantages to the automation afforded by operating your company online, no doubt. But there are advantages, too, to keeping one foot in the world of traditional marketing strategy and its focus on customer interaction.

Here are some tips for building a presence for your online business in the offline world:

  • Employee Service Projects – Team up with non-profit organizations that operate in the same region as your base of operations. Organize a food drive, fundraiser, or community service event.
  • Promotional Freebies – Whether it’s traditional items like personalized pens, or something that relates more directly to the products and services you provide, consider giving existing and potential clients a physical reminder that you’ve got them in mind.
  • Printed Newsletters – Many items that were traditionally printed may have gone digital, but paper still has a place. Printed newsletters, especially when they are well-designed, aren’t quite as easy to overlook as an electronic version delivered via email.