By Alex Wolk, founder of Insite Advice.
By now, many companies have accepted that online business is the way of the present and future and that brick-and-mortar businesses are fading into a niche. While it may be true that selling products and services online is a safer bet, it doesn't mean that marketing should be limited to that arena. There are plenty of ways to direct consumers toward your online business in the real world. To substantiate this claim, we've provided a handy list of potential ways to attract business offline:
Give away free merchandise.
This is a two-fold marketing ploy. On the one hand, people love free stuff, even if it's stuff they already have; obliging them grants you favor. On the other hand, customizable items like t-shirts can serve as continual advertisements to all who see them. These are called promotional products, and you've probably used or seen them everywhere without noticing. The cost of producing these items usually pales in comparison to the benefits if you have the right message.
Leverage event marketing at trade shows.
The benefits of this can vary according to industry, but acquiring a booth can have an exponential impact on the visibility of your business. The best part about trade shows and the like is that they are made to attract a specific type of consumer, meaning that if you find shows that pertain to your product, you'll have a receptive audience that is looking to gather information on companies that sell what they like. This is also an ideal opportunity to give away the free merchandise we mentioned, and/or butter them up with donuts and pizza.
A little of "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" can go a long way. Partner with a local business to help promote your brand or product. If your event or trade show is near a popular local bar or restaurant, consider giving them a stack of coasters publicizing their business and your event or booth. Or, see what local nonprofits operate in your area and see how you can help them out. This can help generate positive PR or news stories.
Hand out brochures and flyers.
These handouts differ from business cards in that they offer a more in-depth look at what you have to offer, whereas a business card just contains contact information. This is an opportunity to provide value to the consumer by giving them information they didn't already know. Of course, you want to lean back toward your business, but you also want to set yourself up as an impartial dispenser of useful intelligence. After all, displaying knowledge of your industry is one of the more expedient ways to build trust.
The rest is really a matter of getting out there and speaking about what you have to offer. Each of the above tips comes with the assumption that you can speak comfortably and at length about your product when a potential consumer shows interest. If you're not confident in your ability to positively impact their lives, they won't be either. Good luck!
Alex Wolk is the founder of Insite Advice, a St. Louis-based SEO and web design company.