Digital marketing is a necessary component of any marketing strategy. Search ads, online content, and social media posts are all inexpensive and effective ways to ramp up your marketing efforts. However, the importance of having a digital strategy doesn’t cancel out the effectiveness of traditional offline marketing practices.
What is offline marketing?
Offline marketing is any advertising or promotional practice that leverages traditional offline media. This includes channels such as television, radio, billboards, print, and in-person events. More often than not, modern-day offline marketing methods are built to support or supplement online efforts.
Why is offline marketing still viable?
Online and digital marketing is a necessary component to stay competitive. But in reality, the best marketing strategies connect and combine offline and digital campaigns. These multichannel campaigns provide greater brand exposure, connect your messaging between every point of contact you present, and can potentially drive a greater return on investment (ROI). It allows you to utilize single campaign initiatives across multiple channels, meaning that you get more opportunities to use copy, images, and promotional material.
Offline marketing ideas for your small business
The best marketing strategies combine both online and offline ideas to elevate your brand and exposure to your target audience. If you’re looking for innovative, and even tried and true, traditional marketing initiatives, here are 15 of the best offline marketing ideas to start you off.
1. Business Cards
Investing in well-made business cards is one of the most effective ways to get your business out there. Set your brand apart by choosing a unique design that reflects your brand values and creativity.
Always ensure that everyone who is anyone in your company has their own to give away because you never know when they’ll need to share your business details with a prospective client.
As with all print designs, weigh what you want against what it costs. There are plenty of cheap, templated business card generators out there. But if you have something special in mind, or you want to have the opportunity to pick (and feel) a specific type of business card paper, you might want to look for a local designer and print shop.
Keep in mind that your business card is an extension of your brand, so it’s helpful if you’re consistent. Don’t use a different logo, font style, or colors than the ones you use on your website or on the rest of your (on and offline) marketing materials.
How to make your business cards stand out:
- Use colored cardboard instead of the usual white
- Change the orientation from landscape to portrait
- Here’s a guide to designing a great business card that will help
2. Create pamphlets and flyers
Another way to get your brand message out to your target market is to give away printed marketing material. Flyer printing may seem like an old tactic, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get results, especially if you’re heading to a trade show, or trying to gain some visibility in your local area.
Go the extra mile and innovate beyond the standard template. There are a lot of creative ways you can get your target market’s attention using flyers and pamphlets, so make sure yours are practical for reading, keeping, and saving. Here’s a guide to making great flyers with some beautiful examples.
Quick tips to make flyers and pamphlets worth keeping:
- Print out informative infographics and turn those into flyers
- Add discount coupons at the bottom of your flyers
- Make sure to include your contact information
3. Publish a book
Your business is likely passionate about the knowledge it provides and is probably already sharing valuable information with its customers. However, you can share your business’ expertise with a larger audience by publishing it.
Try turning your blog and helpful information into a brief pamphlet or book. You can even promote it as an ebook. This kind of offline marketing will allow others to see into the helpfulness of your business and will likely draw their attention back to you.
The great thing about publishing a book today is that you can actually self-publish through Kindle and Amazon. Or, just make it available on your website as a free download in exchange for an email address. You could even make physical print versions available as limited-time offers for your most loyal customers or as a direct-to-consumer marketing initiative.
Quick tips to publish a book that resonates:
- Focus on a niche topic important to your audience
- Include a product ad page somewhere in the book
- Utilize pieces of your book on other marketing platforms
A little change can go a long way! Even something as simple as changing the look of your business will keep you looking fresh, impressive, and relevant. Consistently perfecting your brand will allow for a stronger company voice and ultimately speak out towards the credibility of your business.
Consider sleeker packaging for your products. Incorporate fresh brand colors, logos, and a strong voice. Brand yourself in a way that puts your best foot forward and engages the client. Look at what has worked for your company and re-envision aspects that could be tailored to a more impressive all-around brand.
Quick tips for an effective rebrand:
- Focus on developing branding that showcases your company mission
- Utilize focus groups and surveys to test concepts before a full rebrand
- When launching new products or services consider additional branding
5. Offer coupons
There’s no better way to foster brand loyalty and get your message out there than by throwing a sale.
By offering coupons, loyalty programs, special discounts, and more you’re making clients feel privileged while boosting leads and sales. Advertise the incentives and you’ll even get the attention of prospective clients who have never heard of you before. You can even offer free trial periods to prove to your customers just how great your product or service is in order to convince them to further do business with you.
Quick tips to give away great discounts:
- Pick out a specific demographic (freshmen, moms, newlyweds) and give them their own sale week
- Partner with other stores in your area to offer discounts that work together; for example, some smaller movie theaters offer discounts on dinner at a local restaurant if you show your ticket stub
6. Send out seasonal cards and gifts
Love the holidays? Send out cards and small gifts to clients and use special occasions and milestones to make your presence known. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money celebrating with your customers.
A well-designed, well-thought-out, personalized greeting or small token can show clients that you care and that they mean something to your brand.
Quick tips to make the holidays memorable for clients:
- Offer unique discounts for every appropriate holiday in your calendar; make it easy for customers to remember with in-store signs and even reminders on their receipts
- Send out “Happy Anniversary” cards with special discounts to your clients on your store anniversary
- A few months before the holidays, give away a coupon book that your clients can use for their holiday shopping at your store
Consider working with other brands you relate to who stand for similar values and business model. You can work together to co-develop products or co-sponsor events, as well as develop exclusive swag! Here at Palo Alto Software, we partner with Intuit Quickbooks to help supplement our LivePlan product and better engage with customers, and help them more accurately work with their financials when it comes to planning and managing their businesses. We also love getting customized Palo Alto Software apparel from Patagonia, a brand that we support because of its mission, activism, and environmental consciousness.
Quick tips for building effective partnerships for cross-promotion:
- Identify potential partners that share your company values
- Focus on branding or product cross-promotions that resonates with your customers
- Identify product or service gaps that can be filled through a promotional partnership
8. Community engagement
A great way to get your name out there (and be a responsible business overall) is to get involved in the community. Now our first thought may be sponsoring a nonprofit, but you can also promote volunteer work amongst your company.
Here at Palo Alto Software, we engage in various forms of community service and encourage our employees to be part of the process every step of the way. Find ways to engage in and help support your community through donations, volunteer work, and joining organizations that also support local people and businesses. Being engaged in your community will help spread knowledge of your business as well as (and above all) get you and your employees doing good for your community.
Quick tips for effective community engagement:
- Involve your employees in deciding on which organizations or initiatives you’ll support
- Go beyond sponsorships and donations by holding events and developing service projects
- Carefully consider which organizations and service you provide to ensure it lines up with your company values
9. Create your own events
When venturing out into the community, cross-promoting with different companies, or even launching a new book, creating your own events within the community (or virtually streaming) can be a great way to market your business. One major benefit of planning events is that it can serve as both an outreach and networking initiative. You’ll get to engage with both customers and potential partners while also supporting your community by hosting local events.
In reality, it’s somewhat of a culmination of much of your other traditional marketing efforts. You can hand out your new business cards, utilize event-specific promotions, and even make new pamphlets or book publications exclusive to that event. Explore new ways to create unique and valuable experiences and even leverage live streaming to make your in-person event a valuable digital initiative as well.
Quick tips to create a buzz-worthy event:
- Create event-exclusive promotions, products, and publications
- Combine traditional and digital marketing to get more out of each event
- Start with smaller venues, see what works, and grow from there
10. Send out press releases
There’s really no need to put together an in-house PR team for your company; you just need to create relationships with relevant media to get favorable coverage from the local journalists in your area. Go out of your way to get to know them and show them what your brand is about.
Get your brand story ready and make sure that it’s newsworthy. To be fair, the days when you circulated print copies of press releases to news organizations are gone. So this strategy is offline in that good, genuine PR, like good marketing, is about creating relationships with reporters and others who can help spread (hopefully good) news about your company.
Quick tips to get extra PR power:
- Invite the press over for an official meet and greet/ or remote tour
- Invite public officials to your office or a remote meeting, to comment about a top of mind issue that pertains to your business
- If it makes sense for your business, look into offline publications that your target market is most likely to read (maybe it’s the Wall Street Journal, maybe it’s Backpacker’s magazine) and get familiar with their publication protocols
11. Network your way to success
Even with a small business, you can network your way to success. There are countless opportunities to build a business network even in a small town, so make sure that you attend all relevant business activities in your area.
Look for your area’s chamber of commerce, a Toastmaster’s club, Rotary, or other professional associations. And of course, now, most of these meetings or events will be held remotely. So even if you’re not a fan of networking you can get to know other business owners and industry professionals from the comfort of your own home.
Quick tips to create a strong business network:
- If your area still doesn’t have a business group, round up some interested business owners and meet up to start a small network
- Don’t forget to bring your business cards everywhere!
- Practice your elevator speech about your business so you’re never caught off guard
12. Participate in trade shows
Attending and participating in trade shows is another way to get more exposure for your business. Whether you’re displaying or selling, you’ll be able to generate quality leads in just a few short days.
Make sure that your promotional materials are well suited to your objectives so that you don’t waste valuable time or resources. Again, these will likely be virtual events, for the time being, so be sure to prepare to showcase your products or business accordingly.
Quick tips to make the most out of trade shows:
- Have a gimmick so that your target market will flock to your booth
- Give away free product samples or discount codes for every lead you collect
- Be a speaker or offer a workshop at the conference: a built-in, captive audience
- Follow up with everyone who gives you their contact information within a week of the conference
13. Offer free workshops
As an expert in your chosen field, there are numerous opportunities where you can help people and at the same time get airtime for your business.
Try becoming a guest at a local radio show or morning TV show and offer consumer advice that is related to your brand and industry. See if you can get a regular column in your newspaper or other relevant publication. Be genuine and offer some valuable information.
If you use your platform to deliver a hard sales pitch, you’ll waste an opportunity to build real relationships and connections with peers and potential customers.
Quick tips to be the expert:
- Hold a “free consultation” day at your business; make it valuable and actionable
- Have a section for useful tips on your flyers
- Look for opportunities to share your skills and insights in the wider community
14. Showcase your brand
If you want to be more visible in your community, there are a few ways to help people start to recognize your brand.
One option: outfit your team (even if that’s just you) with quality clothing that features your branding. It’s good advertising and a good investment in your team. Also, Think about sponsoring or volunteering for a cause in your area. Most sponsorship opportunities come with some promotion (brand awareness) opportunities.
And if you do decide to volunteer, wear that branded shirt!
Quick tips to make your business more visible:
- Look for causes that are in line with your mission, when you’re thinking about volunteering or sponsorship opportunities
- Think of your logo wear as an investment that shines a light on the quality of your brand
15. Refine your elevator pitch
One major way to help market your business offline is to refine your elevator pitch. Whether you’re at a sponsored event, doing community service, or reaching out to potential partners, it’s crucial that you’re able to represent your business’ ideas and be both straightforward and compelling.
Ideally, you already started developing your pitch when writing your business plan, but it’s important that you continue to revisit and refine it. Having a solid elevator pitch can mean the difference between attracting customers, investors, and affiliates or having them walk away. And knowing the ins and outs of your business to confidently speak on it will immensely benefit any of your other offline marketing efforts.
Any marketing initiatives should support your overall business plan
Before diving into executing any of these offline marketing methods, make sure they support your overall business plan and that your establishing goals and metrics to determine your return on investment. And if you’re looking for a simpler way to keep track of your planning and business financials, you can always employ business planning software like LivePlan. With LivePlan, you can easily update and maintain your business plan, forecast financials, and get immediate insight to make the right decisions, including marketing initiatives.
No matter if you utilize a traditional business plan or a planning tool, it’s important to utilize it when developing new marketing initiatives. Doing so can help you avoid costly mistakes and ensures any changes make sense for your business overall.
While there are many aspects to offline marketing, they all have similar themes revolving around outreach, involvement, and being a confident advocate for yourself. Putting effort into both social and search marketing as well as these important offline marketing tactics will give your business the push it needs to rise to the top.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2015. It was updated for 2021.