Offline marketing: Is it still effective?

Online marketing has taken over as the most popular medium. Not only is it effective, it’s also cheap and simple – it’s possible to build your own website for free with no coding knowledge thanks to platforms like WordPress, whilst social media is similarly free and easy to use.

With such resources readily available, some business owners may wonder if there’s any point marketing offline. Not only does traditional marketing take more time, but it often costs more too. Are such marketing methods outdated, or do they still have their advantages?

The truth is that offline marketing can still be very effective – it depends largely on the type of marketing strategy and the type of business you own. Here are just several offline marketing strategies that are still used today, along with advice on how to implement them (or indeed if you should still implement them).  

Business cards and flyers

Business cards and flyers have lost a lot of their power. Many people see them as a nuisance – business cards serve to clutter up people’s wallets, whilst flyers often end up going straight in the trash. With so many companies trying their best to go paperless, business cards and flyers also go against this ethos.

That said, they do carry their advantages in some situations. When you need to exchange contact details fast in person, handing over a business card is often the easiest method. Flyers meanwhile are great for handing out at events to select people. Going door-to-door to post flyers and business cards generally isn’t very effective any more unless you ‘ve got a reason to target specific homes (a roofing company might target houses with damaged roofs) – PPC ads generally do a better job, whilst requiring less effort to deliver and being less invasive.

Posters/billboards

Posters and billboards are also a lot less effective than they used to be – more so even than business cards and flyers. People are now less observant than they used to be – you’ll find more people checking their phone in a traffic jam than looking outside to read the nearest billboard. Posters are generally cheaper and can be worth putting up in strategic places. Billboards on the other hand are often very expensive and less valuable.

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Phonebook advertising

Unless you deal with lots of older clients, there’s really no reason to invest in phonebook advertising. Hardly anyone uses a phonebook anymore – it’s much more convenient to do a Google search and look up companies this way. Rather than paying for a phonebook ad, your money is likely to be much better spent on SEO (search engine optimisation), that could help to improve your rankings and improve the chance of people stumbling across your website.

Newspaper/magazine advertising

Physical newspapers and magazines are a lot less popular nowadays. That said, many do have online versions, which tend to get a lot more readers thanks to the help of sharing on social media. You probably shouldn’t waste your money on a newspaper or magazine ad if it’s purely going to be displayed physically. However, if the publication also agrees to display the ad online, it could be more worthwhile.

Of course, on top of advertising, there’s also the option of getting featured in a news story, which can be great for one’s reputation. This however also has a lot to do with the fact that news stories are often digitally shared. Hiring a PR company can help to get your company in the news, whether it’s an interview, a review or a story with an angle related to your company.

Radio advertising

Despite many people predicting the death of local radio with the rise of streaming platforms, it has somehow survived. In fact, local radio is still going strong. That said, radio advertising has always been expensive and remains pricy to this day. If you’ve got the money to produce and distribute a radio advert, it could be worth investing in one as you can get good leads from it, however if you’re on a tight budget you may want to prioritise other forms of marketing first.

On top of adverts, you may be able to secure radio interviews on certain talk shows. These could offer you a chance to promote your business. To help get featured on such a show, you may want to get help from a radio plugger.

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Events marketing

Events marketing is still as effective as it was before the rise of digital marketing. In fact, if anything, it’s more effective now – this is partly thanks to the internet making it easier to promote events. Events could include product demos, trade fairs, launch parties and seminars.

Despite videoconferences now existing, people still love physical conferences as a form of networking and for the experience that can come with it. Events allow you to channel into people’s senses beyond sight and sound, which you can’t do online. You can offer foods and drinks to appeal to people’s tastebuds and allow people hands-on testing of products.

Of course, putting on an event can be very expensive – you may have the cost of catering, branding and premises hire to consider. If you can afford to host an event, it’s a good investment as it can bring you great leads, however if you’re tight for cash it may not be worth the potential debt you could put yourself in.

It’s worth noting that on top of hosting events, you can help to sponsor events. This could include anything from a local sporting event to a festival – in return you’ll have your company’s brand printed on banners around the venue.

Vouchers/loyalty cards

Vouchers and loyalty cards are a traditional way of encouraging return customers via the incentive of a discount. Whilst both are still used in their physical form, they’ve also gone digital – many companies now provide online vouchers and loyalty card apps.

Physical vouchers are still worthwhile – whilst you can send people vouchers via email, there’s often a more personal touch when giving someone a physical voucher (you could give vouchers to customers after doing business with them as a way of encouraging them to return). Physical loyalty cards are also popular due to being cheap to produce and easy to use – a loyalty card app could cost a lot of money to produce and whilst most people have smartphones, getting someone to download a loyalty card app isn’t as easy as handing over a loyalty card.

Branded objects

It’s also possible to make use of branded objects such as branded pens and branded drinks bottle. These can still be an effective form of marketing when used correctly. They can be thrown in with promotions as a way of making deals seem more attractive. Unlike a business card, these items also provide an extra function – whilst a business card might get abandoned in a wallet, a branded pen can be used to write things with and this greater usage could lead it to have more impact as a physical reminder.

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Vehicle branding

Vehicle branding can do more than simply provide brand awareness – it can make your vehicle look more professional and improve your company’s credibility. For this reason, it’s still an effective form of marketing.

Vinyl wrapping is the most common way to invest in vehicle branding – this involves wrapping a plastic sheet around the car so that the bodywork itself isn’t affected (useful for leased vehicles or vehicles you want to eventually sell). Other non-permanent and cheaper forms of branding include branded bumper stickers and roof signs.

Of course, if you don’t use a vehicle for commercial purposes, there’s probably no reason to invest in this form of marketing.

Word of mouth

By far the most valuable form of offline marketing is word of mouth. Social media has tried to mimic this, but it’s still not as effective as real world word of mouth. Through networking you can spread the word of your company to potential customers, as well as getting the support of influential people who may be able to tell their network. Meanwhile, by providing great customer service, you can urge your existing customers to spread the word of your company. Some companies go so far as to offer referral bonuses as a way of encouraging word of mouth – this involves paying a customer a bonus for recommending your services to a friend.

*This is a contributed post

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