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How to Choose Between Online and Offline Marketing Techniques for Your Business

marketing techniques

Image credit: lojogrup.com

Have you ever looked at your marketing to-do list and thought, “If I have to spend one more minute marketing myself online, I’ll go crazy?”

We’ve all had that thought from time to time. Sometimes, we even dream of the “good old days,” when all you had to do was put an ad in the local newspaper. Luckily for us, there is room for both online and offline marketing techniques. The trick is knowing when to use these two different marketing mediums, and it’s a distinction that too many businesses neglect these days.

There are, of course, many who believe offline marketing has simply been superseded by online marketing, and the argument may be a valid one in some cases. However, by throwing out the value of offline marketing, it becomes a little too easy to underestimate the benefits of shaking hands and getting your face (and product) in front of your potential audience.

With that in mind, let’s take a look and see just what each kind of marketing can offer, and what is important to remember with each approach.

Offline Marketing

Pros

The biggest benefit to consider with offline marketing is that it offers a more personal touch. Whether you are meeting with people at trade shows, networking at local events or simply giving out promotional gear, your physical presence lasts much longer than an online footprint. People will remember you, and associate you with the brand and the product.

One of the biggest reasons brick and mortar stores still do well – despite predictions of their demise – is the ‘human touch’. Never underestimate just how far a little personal attention and a friendly smile can take you.

Cons

Offline marketing requires a lot of effort, and results are difficult to predict and to track. You may create numerous promotional items, but distributing them through the right channels can be tricky, and recording how effective they were in bringing customers to your service or product can often be near impossible.

That’s not to say it doesn’t work (this is, after all, how all marketing was done before the internet!). But, the inability to predict and track results is a downside to offline marketing when compared with marketing online.

Offline Marketing Examples

You don’t have to be a walk-in shop to have an offline presence – though it arguably helps a lot more if you are! Nonetheless, even the most online-focused business can use offline marketing techniques. Here’s a few examples of offline marketing strategies.

Business Cards: Business cards are a simple, multi-functional element that every business should have. Not only are business cards cheap and easy to distribute, they also make your company look more legitimate. The fact that a customer can save your business card, even if they have no current need of your products or services, is invaluable. Because when they do need your product or service, they’ll already have your contact information!

Promotional Items: People love getting free stuff. Whether it is free clothing, calendars, coffee cups, computer hardware or anything else, you can bet that people will be trying to snatch it up. And the best part is that with something like printed t-shirts, you can include your business name and contact information directly on the free item.

Even if the person doesn’t use your service themselves, anywhere that they wear that shirt it will be seen by others.

As stated on ThePrintBar: “Over the course of 50 years, the t-shirt has become a significant part of history and a powerful tool for marketing”.

Company Vehicle: If your company is constantly on the go and driving to meet new customers and clients, then it make sense to brand your vehicles. Not only does this make your business look more professional and cohesive, it gets your brand seen in locations it might otherwise not have been.

Online Marketing

Pros

You don’t need to go far to find marketers willing to sing the praises and advantages of online marketing. Online marketing doesn’t require driving to trade shows or setting up face to face meetings, and you can tell far more easily what is working and what isn’t.

Online marketing diversifies and evolves almost quicker than most marketers can keep up. You don’t need much more than a good idea, an intelligent plan, and effort. If you have those three things, you can get astonishingly good results.

Plus, many small businesses and entrepreneurs like the low-entry cost to using online marketing techniques. While offline marketing can get pretty pricey (think radio ads and roadside billboards), it doesn’t take much by way of funding to set up a website and start meeting your ideal clients (and your colleagues) through social media sites and blogs.

Cons

There are some downsides to marketing online, though you won’t find many people pointing them out!  The biggest downside is the incredible size and popularity of online marketing. All the reasons that make online marketing accessible, easy, and potentially lucrative mean that there’s also a heck of a lot of competition!

Getting noticed in a sea of similarly-empowered marketers is hard enough, but there’s also the question of the depth of connection you’re making with consumers. It takes different talents to engage customers deeply online, including good writing skills (blogs, emails, webpages) and potentially a good video presence. Offline marketing relies much more on people to people skills, like being a good listener.

Online Marketing Examples

Social Media: If you  or your small business isn’t utilizing social media, then you should to hurry up and get on the ball. Whether you like social media personally or not doesn’t matter – millions of people who do use social media seem to like it just fine! And while you may not like sharing your personal information, social media is a great way to connect with countless people. These are people that you would never have had the chance to connect with through offline marketing. Instead, online marketing and social media makes it just as easy to connect with someone across the world as it is to connect with a neighbor in the same city.

Email Marketing Campaigns: Email marketing campaigns are great when they are used properly. In some cases, people hate their inboxes filling up with emails on a daily basis, especially when they never open the messages. That is why infrequent emails can be valuable to a company that is looking to maximize online efforts. Simply updating your customers about special events or new information as often as once a month is a great way to stay personal through email, without being overwhelming or annoying.

Online Advertising: There are a variety of different online advertising methods that range from pay per click to pay per mile options. Each offer their own benefits and features, but both also offer the ability to directly market to people who are specifically interested in you. With some offline marketing campaigns, you never know who will see your ad. That means that many uninterested people will see it and pay it no attention. However, online you can specifically gear your ads to target markets that are more likely to be interested in your content.

Which Platform is Right For You?

Most, if not all, businesses can benefit from some blend of offline and online marketing techniques, but choosing which to focus on can be tricky.

The obvious thing to consider is what exactly you’re offering. Do you sell physical objects? And if so, are they standardized goods where people know exactly what they want (things like car parts or electrical accessories) or luxury goods that people can be enticed by or may want to try out (clothes or flowers, for instance)? If it’s the former, online marketing can be arguably a lot more beneficial, as convenience and price will most likely engage consumers. In the latter case, offline marketing may be better at involving customers in the kind of exchanges that result in an impulse purchase or hands-on sale.

Does your business serve an older demographic? If that’s the case, offline marketing is an obvious choice as they will very likely be more traditional shoppers. Don’t rule out online marketing though – it can sometimes be more effective than offline marketing in ‘breaking’ the habits of traditional shoppers.

Is the type of consumer you’re trying to reach out to internet savvy? If so, online marketing can work well, though it will need to be framed in unique way in order to grab their attention.

The bottom line is simple: try to determine what type of consumers you wish to connect with, and understand what will work best for them.

Personal Opinion

Personally, while online marketing is now the dominant force, I think there’s still room for creative, penetrative offline marketing, though the extra effort and cost is undeniably a barrier for many.

What do you think? Have you tried both options and experienced better results with one of them?

What would you consider to be good online/offline marketing opportunities? Do you even think that offline marketing can still be a valuable tool for marketers? Let me know in the comments below!

About Bob Gorman

Bob Gorman is an IT engineer and blogger who recently started to study marketing and ways to promote businesses both online and offline. He wanted to share his ideas and thoughts about traditional vs. modern ways of business promotion. He also enjoys traveling, outdoor sports, and - of course - everything related to IT.

12 comments

  1. James Lee says:

    Very interesting post Bob. Thanks for highlighting the pros and cons of both Online and Offline marketing techniques. A mix of both establishing a bridge between the two techniques can be the best marketing technique perhaps.

  2. Marlene McPherson says:

    Thanks for your persectives. Both have a place and it depends on the personality of person. I aim to use my offline workshop to market my online service so that this would be a vehicle to have some traffic. I have already done an inhouse offline launch showcasting what I do and how it will benefit them. It was well received and some persons are aware so I will have to continue the monmentum. With now a days tech it is wise to have both but they have to be used efficiently.

  3. Marcy McKay says:

    Thanks, Bob. I’m so glad to hear you talking about a combo of the two. I’m fairly new to the commenting on all these blogs in my field. I absolutely see the advantages, but miss the face-to-face interaction. I recently went to a conference in my field and left SO ENERGIZED. I gained new subscribers and it’s helped me jump back in on-line!

  4. When it come to 1 on 1 coaching, I’ve found that clients are ALWAYS created as a result of one thing – a conversation.

    This can happen online to start with, but the closing discussion is always a very personal, helpful, emotional conversation either by phone or in person.

    My clients get to know and like me online. They don’t give up the TRUST until they talk to me.

    This may be true for most “heart based” businesses where the product is felt as intensely personal and a bit scary.

  5. Wendy says:

    You haven’t even touched on one of my favorite offline marketing techniques – partnering with like-minded organizations and nonprofits!

    As for the original question, it really depends on the business and its brand. Since I work with women business owners, while we do a mix of online and offline, her personality and what she’s comfortable doing plays a lot into what methods we focus on.

  6. Katharine ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well, frankly:
    I market to Christian women. Although many of them are modern and on, many, unknown even to themselves, trust more when things are presented in a pointy building by someone who is standing at on a podium. So I love going. I recently discovered a small camp I can rent inexpensively and I’m thinking about that for teaching events.. Also, you have confirmed my thought that although my outreach is ultimately to the women, I need to address their pastors for more exposure opportunities.
    And…I have a sneaky feeling that I can ask my women followers to petition their pastors to invite me, saving me much effort.
    Last, but not least, I think a big question must be: Which am I better at doing? And the answer is: speaking. If you offered me pay for speaking vs. eating ice cream, I’d be frantic!
    Speaking vs. blogging? No contest!

  7. Lora S says:

    Thanks for posting this. I do b2b consulting, so most of my target audience is business owners. One approach I’ve been using is to attend networking breakfasts and such, although, I’m finding them to be very time consuming. Do have any thoughts about this being worth my time or do you have other suggestions on how to connect with my local business owners? Thanks for the ideas 🙂

  8. Jessica says:

    I find offline marketing is good for building brand awareness but it’s when they start connecting with me online that they turn into prospects. Maybe that’s because we deliver our services electronically (for the most part). I like both. Even though I’m an introvert it’s nice to get out to a networking event here and there. Online marketing is fun but a time suck – I need to work on being more efficient!

  9. Great article! I have been focusing more on offline marketing to be able to connect with local prospects. It has been a while since I’ve provided promotional items to people, so I may be doing that soon because of your tips. Thanks a bunch!!

  10. Carolynne says:

    There is a lot of valuable information in your blog, Bob. I am starting out on-line, but at some point I would like to include an off-line element to my business, so your blog has give me several points to think about. What caught my eye was the ability to tack on-line marketing but not off-line. I never gave it much thought before.

    I also think you could get lost more easily in off-line marketing, for even though with on-line you have a lot of competition, with off-line you don’t have the captive audience. In off-line your marketing budget would have to be huge to just to get noticed in the sea around the market.

    Thanks for your insights!

  11. Sharon Brodin says:

    Thanks for this great article, Bob—the timing is just right for me. I’ve also been digging into marketing for freelancers & small business and have been finding out a lot of the same info as you write about here.
    Good job summarizing!!

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