There is a danger of concentrating too much on digital marketing and forgetting what offline marketing has to offer. I am not suggesting digital marketing does not have a place but I happen to believe offline also has a part to play.
Market Review And Planning
Take a step back, resist jumping on the latest bandwagon and assess what marketing process is best. The starting point for that process has to be a market review.
This exercise does not need to be complex or time-consuming. All that is required is an assessment of what do you sell and to who. What needs do your products or services satisfy? Who else satisfies that need?
Identify what is to be pitched and to who before trying to test the best way to reach them. Too much marketing spend is routinely wasted on what appears to be a good deal without checking if it will reach and engage your target customer audience.
Why All The Hype About Online Marketing?
There are a couple of main reasons:
1. Numbers – we are doing a great job – are we not?
2. Shiny object syndrome.
The impact of offline activities can be difficult to measure (see below). Online marketing, in contrast, is relatively easy to measure. ‘X’ organic website visits, ‘Y’ Adwords click-throughs, ‘Z’ email opens. The irony is this; is it easy to link these numbers to sales? No, it is not.
It is important to avoid the hype. You read that company ‘X’ increased their sales 20% using this one simple online technique – yeah right! Your competitor ‘Y’ is generating all their sales via Facebook Ads! Well, who says so? If it’s the competitor themselves why would they give away that sort of information? If it is someone else, then how would they know?
What About Offline Marketing?
First, let’s exclude tactics that simply create annoyance like telemarketing. What is the best mix between brand and specific product focus? Do you have a story to tell?
Offline tactics, such as well-chosen exhibitions, seminars and workshops can be effective. Target customers are likely to be there or can be invited. It is possible to interact with them and deliver the information they need. They can ask questions and objections can be dealt with.
Assuming a high quality (owned) list and an appropriate CRM system are in place, Email marketing is effective. The trick is to combine useful content with subtle sales messages. Bombarding prospects with offers will not work.
The same is true of direct mail and in some cases leaflet drops. Success depends on the type of business, the quality of the list and execution.
Networking works well for some businesses and is a complete waste of time for others. Traditional advertising can increase awareness of a business but the design and choice of media are critical.
So are small businesses over-reliant on digital? In general, I suggest they are. Many offline techniques were used to excess in the past and fell out of favour as a result. The reverse is now true and there are local marketing opportunities to be had offline.