Offline Marketing

Looking Back

It wasn’t so long ago that dotcom startups, new media, and break-out Internet companies were pushing their name on the general public through various print ads, massive public banners, radio and television spots, as well as ridiculous and outrageous publicity events. All of these advertising methods proved an effective way to get their names out, but failed to truly establish brand awareness. Whether or not this contributed to the “dotbomb” is arguable and shall be left for another day.

Diverting resources from online marketing techniques to the development of offline marketing techniques, or “marketing in the flesh,” will be a beneficial step to pursue for companies with an established market share and the willingness to put up the capital.

What this did do, however, was to make marketers re-think ways of getting more traffic to Web sites. In the last few years, we have been inundated with all sorts of new online marketing techniques: search engine optimization, search engine placement, banner ads, link trading, pop-ups and pop-unders, email campaigns, and most recently instant messaging and blog comment spam. While all of these techniques may prove effective, not all are entirely responsible advertising.

Internet Marketers with any sense of self-decency limit themselves and their firms to what types of advertising and marketing they will pursue to effectively and responsibly promote a client and themselves. The most common of these—search engine optimization and banner ads—are now being supplanted by some new and interesting twists on other techniques such as monthly placement packages and guaranteed-position text ad sponsorships.

And Thinking Forward

Lately, big-name online companies have been revisiting offline marketing and diving into the public to increase market share and promote brand awareness. Companies like eBay have seen the advantages of offline marketing with their “song-and-dance” television commercials, with its radio spots, and online recruiting firms such as with its strategically placed print ads. All of these companies have attained such a significant share of their market target and online audience that spreading their name offline is the next feasible option. Doing so allowed these companies to further solidify their brand and increase awareness as well as confidence in the companies. Diverting resources from online marketing techniques to the development of offline marketing techniques, or “marketing in the flesh,” will be a beneficial step to pursue for companies with an established market share and the willingness to put up the capital.

Moving from the now low-risk nature of online marketing to risky, high-cost offline marketing is a big step for any advertising firm to include in their repertoire or for any Web department to even begin drawing up such plans. Beginning with identifying effective marketing mediums, selecting the right distribution channels, creating advertisements, working with outside assistance, and tracking results are the most basic steps in building an offline marketing plan—but all of this starts with knowing your market target.

An Established Customer Base

A company considering marketing in the flesh will already have established a strong customer base, with continued growth in first-time customers, and high rates of returning customers. Information collected from customer surveys is extremely important when used in creating a census of the established customer base. This census can aid in gathering the average age range of customers, the places from which they were referred to a site, how they found it, as well as primary gender ratios of customers and other important information.

Identifying Effective Marketing Mediums

Utilizing the census of an established customer base, as well as a projected market target and census goals, will allow for easier identification of what offline mediums are the most effective to use for marketing. The most widely used, but also the most expensive offline marketing mediums, are print ads, radio spots, and television commercials. All of these mediums base their pricing structure on their levels of distribution, audience scope, and ratings. Ratings are only yielded for mediums such as television and radio because newspapers, magazines, and print ad mediums will be able to divulge sales numbers and consumer census reports to potential advertisers.

Ratings, as provided by third party sources (such as the prevalent Nielsen Media Ratings,) are audience studies to determine which radio stations, shows, television channels, and times of consumption have the largest audience. These stations are then given ratings and time frames in which the largest audience consumes their media. It’s important to understand that these media research programs don’t assess how much a particular television show or radio show may be “liked,” but rather how much they are viewed. Using this information, a marketer will determine which mediums and channels will reach the market target and yield the highest return. Once the most effective marketing mediums and channels are selected, it’s time to create the ads.

Creating Advertisements

No matter which medium is chosen for advertising, ads must exist in order to be publicized. Many radio stations, television stations and magazines will offer, at an extra cost, the use of their facilities, equipment, experience, and manpower to generate ads for you. Depending on budget, experience, and abilities, this may or may not be the right decision. Following a process may help to alleviate the unknowns in a company’s first offline marketing endeavor.

Many experienced professionals in different marketing campaigns have used the following process. Obviously we can’t guarantee your success: it is not provided as the ultimate solution, but rather as a sample or guide from which to generate ideas. Hopefully you will discover something useful in it that will help contribute to your campaign’s success.

Once you have chosen your various channel possibilities, the first step is negotiating a deal for advertising space. It’s important to understand how the different mediums base their pricing, charge customers, and what all of the options are. Always, always, always shop around—even if the possibilities of using a different channel are slim, it will help to obtain a broader knowledge of the industry and how this kind of advertising works. Failing to do so will often leave you up a certain creek without a quality paddle.

Creating advertisements will be different depending on the medium through which you will be distributing. Radio ads will require script writing, editing, recording time, sound mixing and editing. Print ads generally need, at a minimum, concept visualization, graphic design, selection, printing and distribution. Television ads, being the least likely for most budgets, obviously require an even more in-depth set of elements than either radio or print.

Once the ads are created and sent to the selected channels of distribution, it’s time to sit back and watch the sales come pouring in! At least this is the fantasy of most marketers. Part of being in marketing deals with justifying the marketing expense and proving that the predictions on which channels to use have proved successful. Thinking in terms of ROI (see K’necht’s article The ROI of ROI for more information), establishing the profitability of a marketing campaign is very important.

Instituting reporting and survey functions on Web sites where orders are placed is an excellent method for finding out how customers were directed to a site. The same is true of telephone questionnaires for customers who phone in orders simply because they wanted to talk to a real person when ordering. Whatever the means, monitoring the success of an advertising campaign involves carefully tracking where each customer came from. Using specialized links for online ads, customer survey forms after sales are completed, or any other method, will help to examine how customers found you. (These methods are usually most useful when some sort of reward is offered for filling them out, say, 5% off their next purchase.) Remember that site access logs can’t divulge any information regarding non-internet-referred visitors and thus won’t be much help in measuring offline marketing ROI.

Understanding it All

Nobody knows all the answers. Understanding that marketing mistakes are made every day is very important. Convincing a supervisor of this is equally challenging. Remember that a well-planned marketing campaign will include many different forms of marketing: paid online marketing (such as banner ads), search engine placement and links, organic marketing through customer retention and other online methods, and then marketing in the flesh via mediums such as television, radio, and print. Diversify, just as a stockbroker would advise.

More important than spending the money to market is justifying the money spent on marketing. With some luck, this will be proven by increased sales. Chances are that the first time out will require careful statistics, survey records, and so on. Though something may not have been profitable, it doesn’t mean that continued use won’t allow for profitability. Try, try again, and try even harder the next time.