I asked 22 successful founders, marketers, and creators that I know one simple question:
What are your best offline marketing tips for small businesses?
Here’s what they said:
1. Matt Ackerson, Founder of Autogrow.co
“Attend local networking events, get to know the organizers and then ask to give an educational presentation related to what you’re selling with a special offer at the end. This is basically an “in-person webinar” and because it is in person, the trust factor is higher and more in your favor. I’ve consistently noticed a 20-50% higher close rate on in-person sales than phone calls, webinars, emails or anything else. In addition, this is a great photo opp to grow your personal brand as it related to your company’s brand.”
2. Colin Vincent, Co-founder of Equity Directory
“I love the idea of doing co-promos with other business in the area.
The other day I was in a ski shop. They asked me if ever went to the Bridge Tender for dinner and if so here are a couple of coupons for a free beer with a meal.
My guess is the Bridge Tender has some return promo for a discount at the ski shop on their bills or something.
That one is cool because it creates good will amongst neighboring businesses and it doesn’t feel pushy.”
3. Nick Berry, Founder of SendLift
“Following up in person. Pitch however you’re comfortable (phone, email, etc), but following up in person changes the dynamic.
What I do typically is send them something in the mail, usually tips they can use to improve their Facebook, not even related to what I’m selling. Then pop in a week or so later, they always remember that mail.”
4. Mike Doyle, Founder of Drive 80 Studios
“Handwritten letters followed by phone call.”
5. Daniel Kingsley Daines-Hutt, Founder of Inbound Ascension
“I can’t see many demographics listening to radio, mail would be cheaper and higher return.
Failing that, some posters around the town directing people to the store- at that point tho you’re only appealing to people nearby right now and bringing potential customers to you.”
6. Dan Norris, Founder of WPcurve and BoredAF, author of 7 Day Startup
“I’m sure everyone says this but I’d say speaking at events. You get real legit attention from stage and can tell stories that stick with people for a long time. It’s something that I’m not a natural at doing, but I’ve done quite a few because of how powerful it is.”
7. Rod Austin, Marketing Manager at Pagely
“Send a package in the mail to highly valuable prospects/influencers. Could be a t-shirt, mug, etc – as long as it’s in a package or box, and not an envelope. This guarantees that they’ll open it, and are more inclined to respond to your message/request.”
8. Justin McGill, Founder of LeadFuze
“One thing for offline marketing is to use business cards with some sort of “offer” on one side (with your contact info on the other).
For example, with LeadFuze we’re giving away a boost to the free leads we give as part of our trial. In order to track this and for them to claim it though, we send them to a URL that piques their curiosity.
You can do the same by using something like domain.com/offer or domain.com/SecretBonus or something to that effect.
This makes it much more likely that people will actually check out what you have to offer.”
9. Jonathan Mendes, Co-founder of Growsumo
“A few things that we’ve done in the past:
– Find a slack community for your space, ask a question and send pizza to the office for whoever has the best answers
– Send handwritten letters to users with some stickers, everyone loves stickers
– Take note of users who have provided tonnes of feedback and send them cool stuff! Sounds pretty simple but it’s pretty well received, especially when it’s more than just an Amazon gift card.”
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10. Andrew Savitz, Material Clause
“We would host events related to our company (music). So we would have local artist showcases, and invite 3 – 5 emerging artists from the region to play a show at a local venue, have free food, and allow the artists to really get the attention they deserve.
And in turn, they would do some marketing and stuff on their end for us. And we’d get contact info for all the people who showed up in return for getting into the show for free.
That was the most interesting thing we did from an offline marketing standpoint.
Other than that, we had (which is by no means unique) college reps who would do whatever they wanted to get attention for our product at their universities.”
11. Jay Vics, Founder of JVI Mobile
“I have 2. One is the astounding success we see from Text Message Marketing. 98% Read rate within 3 minutes, customizable keywords and super cheap.
The other is a bowling center client who brings cards to businesses around town that says, 2 Free games of Bowling, complements of (Insert business name here, ie- Joes Pizza or Holiday Inn or Wendy’s) Shoes not included.”
12. Justin Jackson, Author of Jolt
“One of the most effective marketing techniques I’ve used this past year is sending people surprise packages. It’s so unusual to receive something fun by post, that people’s first reaction is usually to post photos on Twitter.
In an age where electronic communication is cheap and ubiquitous, the way to stand out is to send something the old fashioned way.” (see more of this idea at https://justinjackson.ca/surprise/)
13. Jon Nastor, Host of Hack the Entrepreneur podcast
“For my money, the best offline strategy is door-to-door flyers. It is simple, easy to test, and cost-effective, making it accessible for most small businesses.
There is a reason direct marketing has produced billion of dollars in sales for companies — because it works. I’ve found it to work even better as more companies overlook this simple marketing method.
Keep your ad focused on your product or service’s benefit to the customer, and test everything from paper color to offer, the neighborhood of distribution to headline.”
14. Eric Jackson, Founder of Keystone
“I collect people.
That may sound a little Dahmer-esque out of context. Organizations don’t make decisions; people make decisions. I believe that the more people I can get to know, the better our business gets.”
15. Stuart Brent, Founder of Vacord Screen Printing and userinput.io
(and yeah, I am compiling the article but I also love marketing tips so I wanted to include my own suggestions here!)
“Joe Girard, who was the most prolific car salesman ever, used to offer $50 to anyone who sent a customer his way that ended up buying a car. And this was back in the 1970s, when $50 was way more substantial. But $50 is still enough to get people’s attention today, so an old school referral program like that still works. For example, I know a hot air balloon pilot and he rewards me $50 for anyone I send his way who wants to go on a ride. (This happens more often than you’d at first expect, because I’m also a balloon pilot, but only as a hobby.)
Ticklers are another powerful old-school marketing method. For example, if you provide entertainment or catering or tote bags or whatever for an annual event, whether it’s a conference, birthday party, or family reunion, set yourself a reminder to follow up with them 300 days after you do their event. That way, it’s about time for them to start figuring out logistics for the next conference or event, and it’s easier for them to go with you again than it is for them to find a new provider. Plus, organizer teams have a lot of turnover so it just really increases your retention rate.”
16. Pedram Daraeizadeh, Founder of Product Buff
“I co-organize Product Hunt and Product Tank meetups once a month in Montreal. But yeah I do dinners too, so I’d say dinners over meetups actually are more effective if you get the right people.
To make it successful, choose a theme for dinners, and keep it between 6-8 people. It’s better if they don’t know each other.
And if this feels like too much work, find a co-host and each bring 2-3 people.”
17. Ryan Evans, Co-founder of tend.io
“I’ve thrown informal social events with other entrepreneurs and something good always comes out of it. Even if the people aren’t necessarily prospective customers, almost everyone there wants to know what you are working on and how they can help. Bringing smart people together and showing them a good time can be an easy way to strengthen your network and grow your business.”
18. Matthew Spurr, Founder of Quuu
“Offline marketing is something that few people bother to master these days with such an abundance of online strategies that seem so appealing. But behind all of this, the thing that really moves the needle is people, and when dealing offline, this is the area that requires finesse. My top tip for a company looking to grow using offline marketing strategies would be to identify strategic partners who have complimentary services that could be used to reach new audiences, or achieve otherwise unobtainable goals. The best way to do this is to setup a network of ‘contra deals’ whereby you offer to scratch one another’s backs for free.
A basic example of this might be that in return for sponsorship or advertising exposure for Company B, Company A will offer to send out a mailer or email to their data (who they would have identified as being an ideal demographic to target). The basic idea behind a contra deal is that you exchange mutually beneficial services without any money passing hands.”
19. Dinesh Argawal, Founder of Fanharvest
“One can spread the word with flyers/leaflets in the mail or with the newspaper.
This works great for local businesses. I have called a lot of people after seeing their leaflets delivered to our office.”
20. Stephanie Newton, Editor for startups.co and the Startups Daily newsletter
“1. Chalk on sidewalk promoting event/business/sale/etc. When I was in Detroit, a new business chalked all sidewalks within a mile of their business with arrows and really vague/intriguing messages. Needless to say, I followed them, and so did many others.
2. Donating time. Either through speaking at an event, volunteering at a program or sponsoring a local fundraiser
3. Snazzy Packaging. Think of the envelopes Ipsy subscriptions arrive in (Shiny pink!) or the iconic Victorias Secret shopping bags—Brand recognition is so important, and having functional material stand out, really puts businesses ahead.”
And a bonus online marketing tip for your local business!
21. Trey Myers, Founder of Turnipblood Entertainment
“I try to be a walking billboard for my own business. And I don’t mean just wearing my logo real big on my shirt. But I look a certain way, with crazy hair and a big beard, so that I throw people off when I walk into the room, and when they ask what I do for a living I say “I throw frat parties” and that confuses them and they want to know more.
I try to brand everything I do, even replacing the Toyota emblem on my car with the Turnipblood logo.”
Bonus marketing tips from Aladdin Happy, Founder of growthhackingidea.com
“Yesterday I received an email from Google that my photos gained 1,174 views (+332 the past week) on Google Maps.
… and I uploaded photos to only 3 or 4 places.
– if I had a local business (a photo-studio, taxi, pizza, etc.),
– or any type of national, global consumer goods/services company
… I could add small ads on the top of every photo
+ upload new photos every day
+ take photos of every place related to my audience
+ and gain a ton of free and highly targeted traffic from Google Maps.
By the way, did you know that Google Maps has over 1 Billion Monthly Active Users.
Get a chunk of it ;)”
And if you enjoyed this post, check out our post about 5 old school and 5 online marketing ideas to help your local business thrive.