Why would you ever restrict yourself to just one type of ecommerce marketing strategy?
If you were looking for, say, legal assistance, you wouldn’t just walk down the street until you see a lawyer’s office and hire them on the spot. You’d use every channel at your disposal—search online, ask your friends and family for contacts, and so on.
In the same way, if you want your online business to succeed, you can’t restrict yourself only to online marketing methods.
The best marketing plans are diverse. You can’t just put all of your eggs into a single basket, even if that basket is the strongest one you have. Things can change online at the drop of a hat, and if your online strategy suddenly won’t work anymore, you’ll want to have other marketing tools to fall back on.
Here are several “unplugged” strategies you should keep in mind for your e-commerce site.
Create a press kit
Your website might already have a “media kit” page featuring photos and information to help out reporters. But a physical, printed press kit can do things that an electronic one can’t.
Anyone can upload a digital press release and a bunch of photos. A physical press kit provides a personal touch that’s more likely to compel reporters to take notice.
No two press kits are exactly alike. Yours might include a pitch letter, a fact sheet about the company, recent press releases, or financial statements (if the press kit is aimed more towards investors than reporters).
If you have press elements that can only be distributed in digital form (such as high-res photographs), include a CD, DVD, or USB drive with the files clearly organized and labeled.
With an “offline” press kit, you can also include samples of your products to give media representatives a better idea of what you provide. If your products are too large or expensive for that to be feasible, a promotional product such as a branded keychain or coaster can be an excellent personal touch.
Put on an event
When you work in e-commerce, you rarely get a chance to interact with prospects and clients face-to-face. But a promotional event provides you with the undivided attention of everyone who attends.
This is a chance to give your website a “face” and break the ice with potential customers (or build your rapport with your current ones). Whether it’s a huge banquet or just a short presentation, planning an event is a complicated affair, but it can give you an excellent return on your investment.
Make sure you account for the number of guests, the venue, and when the event will take place. Consider offering a prize or a discount to encourage attendance. Themed events can be fun, but make sure the event is somehow tied to your business. A beach-themed mixer isn’t especially appropriate if you specialize in, say, household hardware.
This strategy is most useful for sites based out of highly populated urban areas (or, alternatively, sites focused on serving clients in their local community).
Be a guest speaker at a conference
Conferences are an excellent networking opportunity, and acting as a guest speaker allows you to demonstrate your authority with regard to a particular topic or industry.
Depending on the conference, you may find that guest speaking positions have a lot of competition. If you don’t have much experience with public speaking, start small. For instance, local organizations (such as your city’s Chamber of Commerce) will sometimes seek speakers for meetings and events.
Once you’ve established yourself as a thought leader, you’ll have a better chance of arranging a guest speaker gig at a more prestigious conference.
Make sure you’re well prepared. Consider handing out branded ring binders to audience members as part of your presentation; you can provide them with handouts that reinforce your points as well as a lasting reminder of your business.
Hand out promotional products
Promotional products are among the most cost-effective forms of offline marketing. Flyers and brochures often get thrown away at the earliest opportunity, but it’s a different story when the marketing collateral has an additional use.
You’ll get the best long-term results with a product that the recipient is likely to use for a long time. Pens and lip balm are useful, but they run out after a few months and eventually get thrown away. On the other hand, a mug, keychain, or mouse pad might get years of use—which means years of exposure to your brand.
Make sure that your promotional product campaign has a clear objective and distribution plan. If you want to encourage repeat business, consider including an extra gift with each order from your website. If you’re seeking new customers, try passing them out at trade shows or other events.
Buy a local ad
Obviously, taking out an ad in one of your area’s local newspapers, magazines or television stations will serve you best if your website mostly serves the members of one particular community. But if it does, you’ll get an excellent advantage over broader marketing that isn’t focused on your specific target audience.
You can also go with something less conventional. Consider placing a commercial on the big screen before a movie at your local theater. This is an ad that’s practically impossible to ignore because audiences can’t turn a page or change the channel; they are, practically speaking, a captive audience.
Direct mail is one of the oldest forms of marketing, and it can do a lot of things that other methods can’t. Since it relies on the direct response of recipients, it’s very simple to test and track results. It’s also easier to target to specific groups, even on a global scale; you can focus your campaign on particular demographics such as income level, gender, age, and so on.
When creating direct mail marketing, focus on telling a compelling story and giving the reader a strong call-to-action. Make it as personal as possible; use the word “you” and present your pitch as though your prospect is in the same room as you.
Don’t discount a classic strategy like direct mail just because your business is online. If your website allows for it, consider including a personalized URL in your letter to make it extra-personal.
The offline world is, in many ways, radically different from the Internet, but that doesn’t mean you should discount it for your online business, and not make it a part of your ecommerce marketing strategy. They aren’t at odds with one another; they just requires a slight change of tactics.
For even greater success, learn how to integrate your online and offline marketing together with one another. Make sure your print campaigns use the same voice and color branding as your online presence. Upload your best radio or TV ads to streaming sites like Youtube. Think of your various campaigns as threads within the tapestry that is your ecommerce marketing plan.
What are your favorite offline techniques for marketing an online business?