4 ways to build offline connections with your startup’s customers



Entrepreneurs are bombarded with advice on using digital means to connect with customers. But what about connecting in real life?

Although much of the marketing world is focused on what’s happening online, most of our real-life experiences with products and brands still occur offline. We go out to eat, take vacations, hang out with friends, shop, and attend conferences — even though we’re probably tweeting or Instagramming the entire time.

It’s hard to beat social media for the sheer number of people it can reach instantly. However, offline marketing stands out because of the quality of connections you can build. Word of mouth is still the most effective form of marketing.

Offline efforts to build brand recognition and add a “third” dimension to your brand open up opportunities not found in the digital landscape.

Creating Opportunities

Offline efforts should increase your brand recognition, create brand advocates, deepen customer engagement, and ultimately, connect back to your online efforts.

By offering new and interesting real-life experiences, you’ll change the way consumers see your brand. People who feel they’ve gotten something unique and valuable from your company will be eager to share their enthusiasm.

Here are four ideas to get you started:

Events: From seminars and networking events to wine tastings and private concerts, organising events is a great way to connect with consumers and boost revenue through sponsorships. Events can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Just remember to be sure they appeal to your target audience.

Airbnb’s recent “hospitality experience” has garnered plenty of media attention even though the site, where people rent rooms in their homes to visitors for cash, is already well-established in California. Still, the company’s series of celebrity-curated pop-up houses around Los Angeles is attracting attention far beyond the city.

Sponsorships: If organizing an event seems daunting, sponsorships are a good way to get your foot in the door. Organisers are always looking for sponsors at varying levels of price and complexity to help cover costs or improve an event by integrating products or services. Again, be sure the event appeals to your target customers and aligns with your company’s goals.

Uber, an app that connects chauffeurs to passengers, sponsors events by offering free rides to attendees. This strategy improves its brand awareness by offering a valuable service to event goers.

Products: The time-tested strategy of giving away swag at trade shows may seem played-out, but when done right, it’s a non-invasive way to get your brand into the hands of new customers. Choose your giveaways carefully: Do you want someone looking at your brand’s logo while he squeezes the life out of a stress ball? Will it end up in the trash 30 seconds after you give it away?

I once got a scarf from Bing at the Sundance Film Festival. The scarf was well-made, and the Bing logo was unobtrusively placed in one corner. It was freezing, so I ended up wearing that scarf the rest of my trip, and I still have it today.

Licensing: Successful online companies can license their intellectual property for additional revenue. This works well for games, blogs, and other entertainment-oriented businesses with large audiences. Instead of taking resources from your core business to create new products, you can team up with someone who already has the manufacturing and distribution of those products in place.

This strategy has been a huge success for Angry Birds, which joined up with Fazer to create candy and with Commonwealth Toys to make plush birds and pigs. In 2012, 45% of Angry Bird’s US$195-million revenue came from merchandising and IP licensing.

Offline marketing means increased opportunities, both for successful businesses and budding startups. No matter what industry you’re in, connecting with your customers in real life can set you apart from your competition. As online businesses increasingly expand to offline marketing, you won’t want to be the one who’s simply a digital afterthought.

Kevin Tighe II


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