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Offline marketing can still be effective in a digital world

Does anyone bother with offline marketing anymore?

Diane Hall


Sign for marketing

Everything’s digital these days, certainly when it comes to the realm of commerce. Given that physical shops are shut at the moment, due to the pandemic, and the ease and convenience that comes with shopping online, it’s no surprise that the internet continues to dominate the scene for both retailer and customer.

The rising prominence of social media has also contributed to the ‘digital is best’ ethos, which has seen many companies’ exclusively market online.

For many years, before the advent of the internet, customer relationships were forged through direct mail, via such as leaflets and letters sent to potential customers’ addresses. Digital marketing has swapped our letterboxes for our inboxes, but is it more effective than traditional methods?

In a word, yes—but that’s not to say offline marketing shouldn’t be part of your marketing mix. When you consider the four huge pluses with digital marketing, i.e. it’s more cost-effective than printing lots of leaflets or letters, messages can be better aimed to your target market, results can be measured/tracked, and it can result in a quicker conversion, it’s plain to see why companies opt to promote themselves online.

However, if you’re sending introductory digital marketing messages, e.g. e-shots or newsletters, you may find that customer apathy an issue. The opening rate associated with these forms of digital communication tends to be quite low, simply because customers receive so many of them. They’re easier to ignore and even easier to delete.

Royal mail post box in trees

Royal mail post box in trees

In 2021, the postman delivers more parcels than letters. With utilities, banking and many other day-to-day transactions now online, there’s little reason for any company to send a physical letter to your address.

That presents an opportunity for small businesses.

Though glossy leaflets and brochures are still commonly seen as junk mail and probably binned, a personalised postcard or letter would be something of a novelty these days. A clever and attractively-designed prompt or snippet of information could be enough to stoke a customer’s interest, much more than yet another bland, faceless digital file in their inbox/spam box that will barely register in their consciousness.

There are other avenues for offline marketing that can be effective. For example, well-placed physical advertisements on places where there’s a captive audience: by traffic bottlenecks, on bus stands as people queue for their bus, on product packaging, handing out flyers in places of heavy footfall and chatting to potential customers.

Go back just ten years and the internet didn’t look like it does today; it was nowhere near as populated. Now, you’re bombarded with marketing messages and dazzled by imagery the minute you cast your eyes on your screen. The average person’s social media feed is absolutely swamped with posts and pictures…it’s becoming increasingly hard for any business to stand out, more so for smaller companies on a finite budget.

So, where to start with a leaflet drop or a mail campaign? I wouldn’t suggest posting a thousand flyers to random addresses and hoping for the best—there are ways and means to make your offline marketing more effective and targeted.

Consider the geography

There are plenty of leaflet drop companies, as well as the Royal Mail, who can target specific postcodes. If your product/service appeals to the more affluent amongst us, it’s easy enough to pinpoint areas where residents are likely to have more disposable income than others. Alternatively, you could purchase GDPR-compliant data lists that should allow you to personalise your mailings, too.

Think about the recipient

This is a must for any form of marketing communication, but perhaps it’s more crucial for offline material, given that the real estate space on a leaflet or flyer is so restricted. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes—what would make you sit up and take notice? Highlight the benefits they would enjoy if they bought your product/service, the impact it would have on their lives/wallet/time, etc.

If you’re going to do it, do it well

As I’ve mentioned, direct mail doesn’t necessarily represent the cheapest method of marketing; however, it can bring a comparable ROI. If you’re going to the trouble of creating a postcard/flyer, getting it printed, researching postcodes, etc. then do the task justice. Have your marketing material professionally designed; consider that the recipient’s first ‘bite’ will be with their eyes.

Think of the imagery

A text-only flyer won’t light a fire in the person who reads it (if they do even bother to read it). People’s attention spans today are much shorter than they were when offline marketing was in its heyday. Appropriately relevant, eye-catching visuals of your product or an interpretation of how someone may feel if they undertook the service you offer will fuel desire and increase the call to action probability. Make best use of the space available and inject some quirkiness into your mailing, if at all possible—after all, you want your efforts to stand out rather than simply resigned to the recycling pile.

Offline marketing isn’t the be and end all it used to be, for the reasons stated above and more. If all your rivals are concentrating on digital marketing, however, it’s going to be much easier to stand out with a direct mailing. Don’t forget that, on average, someone needs to see your brand/messages 5-7 times before they act. If you can make a good impact via their letterbox, this sequence could be shortened.

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