Marketing an Online Business

People put a lot of work into mastering their online marketing, and rightfully so. But what about offline marketing? Your business may be run solely online, but why pass up the opportunity to bolster your online marketing efforts with some strategic traditional marketing?

Offline marketing weaves in a personal, human element that can’t always be communicated through e-mail and online interaction. Adding some offline marketing materials and tactics to your arsenal could prove a crucial step in getting your piece of the “potential-customers-who-aren’t-quite-so-addicted-to-the-Internet” pie.

Harness the Power of WOM

Sometimes called referral marketing, WOM (word of mouth) is a powerful lead generation tool. It’s the oldest form of advertising, and 92 percent of consumers say they trust recommendations from people they know above all other forms of promotion. WOM can lead to somemeasurable results, so to make it work for your business, try tapping into your circle of influence by letting family, friends, acquaintances, and even people at places you frequent know what your business does and what makes it unique.

Consider this scenario: You notice your local deli clerk wearing a unique necklace, so you compliment her on it. You then mention you have an online jewelry store, give her the URL, and suggest she check out your collection. She loves it, and shares it with a coworker, tells a friend over lunch, and spills the details after a stranger compliments her on the new pair of earrings she bought from your site. (The online side of WOM begins here, too, with sharing via tweet, status update, pin, or consumer review.)

Even if just to brag about a great find, your local deli clerk has now shared your business with three people in her circle of influence (or within range of it). And if those three people pass the word along, that’s a dozen potential customers who may not otherwise have heard of your business or product. WOM is the gift that keeps on giving—and it’s free.

Conversely, WOM can also destroy your credibility more quickly than it can build it, so be sure to cook up some great customer service, too, so your consumers have only good things to share with others.

Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce

The sole focus of these organizations is to strengthen and develop their communities, and most of this development comes from the growth and promotion of—you guessed it—commerce. Joining your Chamber of Commerce provides access to a number of business expos and networking events, allowing you to connect with reliable people who can provide valuable products and services to your business. And, if you nurture those relationships, you’ll gain some offline exposure, too. It’s also an opportunity to build a solid reputation and become a respected, trusted brand in your community.

You can provide discounts to members and keep them posted about new business developments, products, services, or promotions. They’ll feel like part of the family, which is what offline connections are about. There may even be some WOM to work with if you offer referral incentives or discounts. Play your cards right and you could position yourself to be at the forefront of their minds when they’re approached with questions like, “Do you know anyone who does great ____ work at a great price?”

Buy Offline Ad Space (Or Advertise for Free)

Offline ad space may not be as expensive as you think. Start small and consider placing ads in a local newspaper or magazine, or partnering with a local non-competitor business with whom you share an audience.

If you’re keeping it free, try asking local businesses if you can post or leave business cards and fliers in exchange for ad space on your site. You can also leave business cards at a coffee shop or on a community bulletin board. You can market your business subjectively with these tips, so grab that horn and toot away.

Try a Direct Mail Campaign

With businesses looking for the “next big thing” in advertising, a big, “insert name of your business here”-shaped hole has been left in the world of direct marketing. Contrary to what we believed, consumers do value what they receive in the mail, and direct mail has again become one of the more personal, cost-effective ways to reach consumers.

Compile or purchase a mailing list, and include a specialized URL with a call to action (an incentive or discount). You’ll drive traffic to your site, and a unique URL will provide a snapshot of how much of your offline community you captivated.

When incorporated into your existing marketing campaign, offline marketing tactics can be the perfect complement to your proven online marketing tactics. They could be just what you need to capture an often neglected corner of the market.

What marketing tactics go into your recipe for profitable offline exposure and lead generation?