Regardless of whether you are a brick-and-mortar business or a technology company selling online services, obviously digital and social marketing is vital but offline marketing is still crucial for building a strong brand. Here are 19 free or inexpensive ways to market your business offline. They get more traffic to your store AND to your website and cause more people to buy your product or service. Best of all, they don’t require a bank heist for pulling off—just consistency and common sense.
#1. Spread word of mouth
Word of mouth is arguably the most important factor that influences your users to try your service or product. You can generate short-term word-of-mouth publicity by doing something out of the ordinary, like a cool outdoor advertising idea:
MacFries Pedestrian Crossing (Source)
But, the only way to achieve positive and long-lasting word-of-mouth is to provide extraordinary products and services. Exceed your customers' expectations, and they will spread the good word about your business. Word-of-mouth publicity doesn’t cost anything, though providing extraordinary products and services does.
#2. Craft an elevator pitch
What if you come across a customer in an elevator and have to sell him or her your product within the duration of the elevator ride? Seriously. These days, people have an attention span shorter than goldfish. Whatever media you choose, remember that 8 seconds is all you have to capture their attention. Write a crisp and clear elevator pitch, not longer than 60 seconds. Then use it in your offline messaging.
#3. Sponsor community events
Community events are often covered by media and attended by many people. They are also a lot cheaper to sponsor than commercial event. Having your logo or banner displayed while a local press photographer clicks the title image for tomorrow's newspaper won't hurt your brand, to say the least.
#4. Attend industry exhibitions
For exhibitions, have the necessary ammo such as your leaflets/brochures, promotional items and displays ready, with all the bells and whistles. Most importantly, you should have trained salespeople with good knowledge about the product/company. Depending upon your budget and the kind of event, you can book a booth in a few hundred to a few thousand Pounds.
#5. Attend professional events
Professionals such as doctors or lawyers can spread positive publicity about their personal and professional brand by being a regular at seminars, conferences, or other important events pertaining to your specialty. Have your visiting cards ready to pass around, regardless of whether you're just attending, or speaking at the event. Most people may think of public speaking as something unthinkable, but if you can conquer your fear of it, nothing works better for your brand than speaking at a professional conference.
#6. Distribute promotional products
Low-cost free giveaway items work well for both B2B and B2C businesses. It's always nice to have something free, to the extent that sometimes the purchase is made for the sake of the free item (think about McDonald's Happy Meal). B2B companies usually print calendars or emboss wall-clocks with their logos to create a long lasting reminder of their brands. Your customers see your company name and logo each time they use the item.
#7. Offer free product trials
If you can, why not give away your own product free? This induces trial and if you're good, repeat buying will always follow. That's why so many businesses offer free trials. Almost all paid websites offer them, for a limited period. Car showrooms offer free drives and fast-food joints offer free fries or drinks.
#8. Collaborate with other businesses
Sometimes, small businesses can benefit from big brand-names by being a part of co-promotions, but this can only happen if you have a truly innovative product and have good connections. Short of that, you can involve one or more small businesses to plan and run collaborative marketing campaigns. For instance, a cab company can place their brochures at a hotel's front-desk and in exchange place the hotel's brochures in all cabs.
#9. Print flyers and brochures
The good old flyer is the weapon of choice for startups and small businesses. Convenient and cheap, flyers can sometimes prove problematic to distribute. So, make sure you know how you'll distribute the 500 or so leaflets that you're going to order. Brochures tend to be more long-term and detailed, covering your company or product from all angles. They are good for B2B or high value products, but can be more expensive to design and print.
#10. Print car stickers
Your flyer is seen by just the person you give it to. A car sticker can be seen by hundreds of people. The catch here is that most of the people you give the sticker will never paste it on their cars, unless they really own your brand. Hence, target your loyal customers for this freebie. Of course, paste the stickers on your own vehicles too.
#11. Give away branded T-shirts
I'm mentioning Ts separately from promotional items because a T is something more personal. The customer proudly wears your logo on their chest as they go around their Sunday shopping or evening gym routine. Everyone loves a free T, as long as it's not a total rag that you're handing out.
#12. Free radio and TV publicity
Believe it or not, there may be journalists in your area struggling to have content for their weekly TV or radio programs, content that you can provide. If you are an expert in your niche—a chef, a lawyer, a therapist, etc—go after a few local journalists with your idea to cover the topic in their magazine shows. There are many ways to find journalists, but you need to have a good story that their audience will be interested in.
#13. Leverage business cards
Business cards are usually the first stationery item any business would like to have printed, yet they are vastly under-utilised as a marketing tool. Think of your business card as a mini brochure. Include a QR code or add testimonials on the back. Do you support a social cause? Mention it on your VC. Print your website and social media accounts. Get creative and create a unique design that surprises people, so that they may remember your business and talk about it.
#14. Display banners and signs
Do you have a physical storefront or an office? You should obviously have some well-designed signage displayed. Your aim is to get people through your door, and banners and displays help you do that. There are simple vertical banner stands that don’t cost more than a few Pounds to buy, and stunning digital prints are also inexpensive.
The only thing you may need to put some money into is the design. Attractive design will attract people's attention, so they'll know that you're there when they need your products or services.
#15. Surprise your audience
It was many years ago. I stopped at a traffic sign and a pedestrian was crossing the road. It was a young boy holding up a placard that reminded people to brush twice a day for better oral hygiene. You guessed it. The placard was from a toothpaste brand that had hired the young man to (maybe) just cross a few dozen roads. It was surprising and very effective, as I still remember the brand. There can be as many ways to create astonishing brand presence as you can think of—decals, 3D signs, social experiments, and even surprising videos such as this one from McDonald's:
#16. Become a social entrepreneur
According to different studies, people hate businesses that make money their first priority. Consumer trends favour brands that stand for a particular social cause. Unlike a conventional entrepreneur, who thinks how he can maximise returns on investment, a social entrepreneur thinks how his products and services can make this world a better place. Profits are nowhere in the equation, but profits always follow. If you're determined to go the mile for a cause you believe in, you'll find people who share your dream and are ready to help you turn it into a reality.
#17. Build business networks
NSY president Tom Farley says he owes every bit of success he has ever had to networking. Networking is not about how many people you know, but how many people know you and your business. Make a list of people who you think can matter for your business—clients, influencers, journalists, CEOs…the Prime Minister. Set up appointments and do your homework before you meet them. When properly done, networking is one of the best uses of your time.
#18. Billboards and outdoor wraps
Billboards are ON 24/7. You can't shut them off or switch channels. They're great for announcing launches and displaying your brand, but they can be expensive. A cheaper alternative is to have your own (or contracted) vehicles wrapped in your branding and turn them into moving billboards. The more creative you can get with the design, the better.
#19. Use innovative packaging
Regardless of where a customer saw your ad, the purchase is going to happen at the shelf. Innovative packaging can prompt your customers to pick up your product and ignore a more famous brand.
Can you think of some more? Did you find any idea particularly useful? Let me know in your comments.