by Scott McIntyre
Last week, I shared with you my thoughts on how the nature of your online business will influence any decisions you make as to whether you might consider targeting offline customers. Some of you commented that you are already using a range of techniques to spread your message to the world beyond the blogosphere.
Today, I want to look at some of the practical methods and communication channels you can use to promote your blog, or website, offline. Many of you are likely using some of the methods, while others may want to try the most suitable ideas as new ways for you to reach the offline market segment.
Promoting Your Blog Offline: What are the Benefits?
There are still many people who either a) don’t use the internet regularly, b) have never read a blog, or c) don’t blog themselves. When combined, these groups constitute a sizeable target market.
To connect effectively with these potential customers, it is necessary to engage in some form of offline promotional activity. If your goal is to attract these people back to your blog, then you first need to take your blog to them.
The following list of communication methods is by no means exhaustive. There may be additional ones you are currently using.
If so, it would be great to learn of them in the comments section.
Offline Promotion Methods
- Your current network
You probably have family, friends, and colleagues who either don’t read blogs or are not bloggers themselves. Have you shown them your blog? Often, your best customers are right there beside you now and these folk can become loyal customers or enthusiastic advocates on your behalf.
There is no more effective marketing tool than positive word of mouth when it is backed up by your quality product or service.
- Talk to local organizations
There will, no doubt, be organizations in your locality with an interest in what you have to say. Examples might include charities, church groups, Chambers of Commerce etc.
In my experience, these groups are keen to attract a variety of guest speakers to their meetings. If you are invited to address such a gathering, you can introduce your business to them (not by ‘hard selling’), and also distribute take away literature, like flyers and brochures, which carry your website contact details.
- Advertising in offline media
While advertising may be financially out of the question for a lot of smaller online businesses, properly targeted local media campaigns can prove highly effective.
If you have the resources, local television and radio advertising can provide a good way of getting your message seen and heard by customers in your neighborhood.
It may also not be feasible for you to take out full page ads in newspapers and magazines. However, a first step might be to run a small advert in the classified section of your local newspaper.
- Press Releases
Another method of interacting with the media is through the use of a Press Release.
Industry publications and local newspapers are always on the lookout for news stories that are of interest to their readership- who might also be your potential customers. By writing a good quality Press Release, which is both newsworthy and focuses on your business at the same time, your message can be conveyed more effectively than advertising.
In these cases, your Press Release stands a better chance of being picked up if you have cultivated a relationship with the reporter or editor beforehand.
- Company literature
In the daily running of your business, I’m sure you use many types of documents such as letters, envelopes, compliment slips, invoices, fax sheets, product packaging, business cards, etc.
It is important that your URL features on all printed material you issue as this is a cheap and ready made way of attracting visitors to your website.
- Branded goods
Many businesses find it useful to develop a range of supporting merchandise which carry their website address. Often, these items are given away free or as prizes in contests.
Examples of such items include: calendars, pens, pencils, mouse mats, coffee mugs, Christmas cards, t-shirts, bumper stickers, badges etc. The list is endless!
The key to selecting merchandise which is effective as part of your offline promotional activity is to ensure that the products are of high quality and consistent with your brand. This method works because the items get your website URL out into the real world and in front of the eyes of your potential customers.
There is, of course, an initial cost to produce these items, but they can prove an effective communication tool.
The promotional activities I have described above are only a small selection of the methods which can form the basis of an effective offline promotional campaign.
If you’re a blogger, leave a comment to let me know what offline promotional methods you are using? What are your experiences of these methods? If you’re a blogger who hasn’t yet engaged in offline promotion, which of the methods might suit your business?
If you’re a non-blogger, tell them how they can get your attention offline.
Week 1: Connecting with the Offline Customer: A Non-Blogger’s Perspective
Week 2: Targeting the Offline Customer: Do You Blog for Non-Bloggers?
Lin Burress says
Hi Scott! I use and highly recommend Blog Business Cards, and put one in every piece of mail that leaves your home. I haven’t done any Press Releases (yet) but that sounds interesting and I’ll look more into how to write a press release.
I’ve read on other blogs that many people have found new customers by advertising on Craigslist.com too.
I’m loving your series Scott, keep em coming! 🙂
Cathy C says
The business cards do work great we hand them out daily. We are currently writing a press release to promote the blog to the local community and I will be talking to a local publication to write a monthy column. We also belong to local networking organizations and are involved in the local chamber of commerce.
Cath Lawson says
Hi Scott – these are fab ideas. I can tell from reading this that you have a lot of business experience.
As you know, I just liquidated my main business, so that blog is gone. But I would like to concentrate on branding my own blog, as I’d like to offer some products on it in the future.
And this is a really good time to look ahead at calenders and such as they can take a good while to design etc.
What I’ve found from speaking to customers in the past is that many of them seem to prefer and use desk calenders most – which is good, as they’re usually cheaper.
I know you mentioned newspaper ads and press releases. And I was thinking – if you could establish a relationship with you local newspaper, you could also offer to write a weekly column for them – if your topic appealed to their readers.
Al at 7P says
This is a very good list. Press releases are a great way to publicize with no budget.
I had only a little bit of experience with press releases, but I found that although they might be free in terms of costs, they are not free when it comes to time.
The editors that take press releases for publications are people, and typically a relationship needs to be built first before they publish your press release.
The funny thing is, it’s how relationships are also built with high-profile bloggers. Old rules can still apply to new media 🙂 .
Sara at On Simplicity says
Eek! I’m currently using none of these! I love the combination of formal tactics (connecting with local groups, using press releases) and potential guerilla tactics. I also love Cath’s idea of a local column–that would be a fun one.
Scott McIntyre says
Thank you- I’m so glad you’re enjoying the series!
Business cards are a great way to promote your blog. They’re relatively inexpensive, discreet, and easy to distribute either in person or tucked into other items you’re already sending out.
Let your creativity run free when it comes to business card designs. If you extend your blog’s theme and design into an eye-catching business card, then it will really stick in your contacts’ minds.
You seem to have got the idea of targeting your potential customers locally just right.
Through the publication, press release, and your links to the neighborhead groups, every small Public Relations opportunity will have a cumulative effect. Soon, you’ll have quite a blog ‘buzz’ going on!
Yes, ‘useful’ promotional items- like desktop calendars, post-it pads, pens, etc. are always a big hit. The fantastic benefit is that people are using these items- and seeing your blog’s URL- on a daily basis.
I love your idea of writing a newspaper column to promote both you and your blog. What an excellent way to build a reputation as an authority on a niche within your local community.
There are many advantages in terms of future promotional activities through building mutually beneficial relationships with local media editors and reporters.
I totally agree that one of the most basic- and invaluable- ways of good promotion is through effective networking. This, as you suggest, applies both on and offline.
Cultivating mutually beneficial relationships within any target industry is certainly a wise business move.
I’m sure you’d do well if you tried some of these promotional tactics. The key is to assess which ones allow you to extend the blog’s brand beyond the blogosphere.
Given that you have identified an in-demand niche of ‘simple living’, I’d suggest that there is bound to be interest in your offline community.
It could very well be worth your time to put together a press pack for your blog, then actively seek out the potential of a local newspaper column.
John Hoff - eVentureBiz says
Hi Scott. Great article. I am a partner in a landscape business, own a (new) web development company, and have invested in real estate (flips).
A few things that has either worked for me or others I know are along the lines of your list.
As far as merchandise, people LOVE T-shirts. Shirts aren’t too expensive – and they can be simple. Just your company’s name, web address, and maybe an intuitive tagline.
Coors Beer Company has one where on the back of the shirt it has a picture of a mechanical bull and says, “What happens on the Bull, stays on the Bull.” The shirts were given out here in Las Vegas where there’s the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The shirt was a hit.
Get a box of T-shirts and it will be empty the moment you open it.
Also, you could create a pamphlet about your business and head over to businesses that relate to what you do. Talk with someone of influence over there and show them how what you do can help their customers.
For example, as a real estate investor one of the inside secrets to finding pre-foreclosure homes is to create a small pamphlet and take it into a banker. Show the banker how you can help people save their homes (and thus save the bank from having to foreclose).
Barbara Swafford says
Hi Scott (and Liz),
You nailed it again (but I’m not surprised). This is a great list of resources. With blogging still being in its infancy (I think), it helps to know what to do to be ahead of the pack. Like Catherine’s suggestion, many of these methods may lead to other writing opportunities, as well.
Todd Jordan says
Good article. Made me recall that offline is just as important as online if you have a business. I’m tempted as the next guy to focus on the blog and online time versus doing the work part. The work that pays.
Thanks for the reminder.
Scott – I would like to attract more readers for my blog – through the internet – that do use the internet on a regular basis, but just don’t blog. Do you have any ideas for that?
One idea would be to put more effort into finding readers through places like Facebook and Myspace – since those are people who use the internet and would probably feel comfortable commenting and interacting at a blog but don’t necessarily have a blog, except maybe a personal one for fun.
Barbara Rozgonyi says
Great list! Would add . . .
1. cards: http://www.moo.com – $19.95 +s/h for 100 – people love getting these cards
2. postcard mailings with links to best of or article of the month to a directed list
3. online news releases: yes, online, but good to add an additional resource for offline reporters – whose work winds up being read more and more online – http://www.webwire.com distribution starts at $19.95
4. become the go-to blogging expert in your offline network, volunteer to set up a simple blog for a large organization/non-profit that fits your demographics
5. write about offline experiences [good for brick and mortar stores] and let people know where to find the answers online
@wiredprworks on twitter.com
Yes, indeed, Scott. Offline is what we have been doing successfully for the last 25 years before we moved on to online marketing. I would say a good combination of both can never fail. Thanks again for the list