While many companies are investing heavily in social networking and other online tools to expand their visibility with potential customers, its important to remember the value that “old school” marketing techniques can provide. Handwritten thank you notes, referral incentives, face-to-face networking and hosting events are just some of the ways companies can connect with existing and potential customers. See the following article from The Street for more on this.
Social media may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
In recent years, small businesses and corporations around the country have begun to invest time and money into social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with customers and market their products. But according to marketing experts, it’s essential for these companies not to lose their focus on offline marketing strategies as well.
“Social media is not a panacea,” said Al Lautenslager, a marketing consultant and co-author of Guerilla Marketing in Thirty Days. “Social media is one more marketing tool in the arsenal … but at the end of the day, people do business with people, not with websites.”
So while new media may expand the options available for companies looking to build buzz, it’s equally important to find ways to connect with your customer base in person.
“If you are doing something online it is really important to try it and get feedback face to face, whether a product, or service or even an online offering,” said Beth Schoenfeldt, a small-business expert who has helped launch thousands of companies.
The best way to make this kind of in-person connection may be to resurrect some of the tried and true marketing tricks businesses relied on long before people had ever heard the phrase “social media.”
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Hosting events and networking
Just because it’s offline doesn’t mean you can’t still do some serious social networking. According to Lautenslager, businesses looking to attract attention should host and attend events where they can network and get their brand in front of the right people.
Sometimes this might mean a partnership with a nonprofit for a charity event to broadcast your company in a positive light. Or it could mean the simple act of grabbing a table at a trade show to expose your company to the people in your industry.
Hand-written thank you notes
Lautenslager emphasizes the importance of adding a personal touch when reaching out to potential customers. As an example, he suggests that small businesses mail hand-written thank you notes to customers whenever possible.
“People like personal attention, not mass marketing,” he said, which is why he believes sending personalized notes can be more effective than “blasting out tweets online” to thousands of customers at once.
Along the same lines, Lautenslager recommends holding a customer appreciation event. At one event Lautenslager helped organize recently, the company announced beforehand that they would give out customer of the year awards, and ultimately gave an award to every person who attended.
“Needless to say, all the customers loved it,” he said.
Once you have a customer base, the trick is to figure out how to expand it. Schoenfeldt argues that one of the best ways is to provide an incentive to customers who refer friends and family members to your store. No, you probably shouldn’t hand them a $100 bill for telling a friend to stop by, but why not offer them 20% off their next purchase?
Speaking events and teaching workshops
Schoenfeldt and Lautenslager suggest business owners find opportunities to speak at lectures or teach workshop classes. This way, you not only reach out to a new audience, but you can begin to establish yourself as an expert in your field, which can attract more customer loyalty.
Publicity stunts can be a cost-efficient way to gain a lot of attention for your brand very quickly, but only if done properly.
“Publicity stunts are often very successful, but they have to be aimed at your target market, get attention in a big way and still have a message to communicate,” Lautenslager said.
He offers the example of KFC, which last year decided to fix potholes in several major cities including Louisville, Ky., and then wrote “Re-Freshed by KFC” in chalk on the street alongside their work. This act got lots of media attention and was largely positive for their brand.
Publicity stunts can also go very, very wrong if they are not done in good taste, so be careful.
A beginner’s guide to social media
Ultimately, it is essential for businesses to maintain both an online and offline presence to reach a wider audience and build a brand, but how much one or the other is leaned on depends on the kind of business.
“If you are an online-only company, of course online marketing should be more of a focus, but most businesses cannot exist with online marketing alone,” Schoenfeldt said.
This article has been republished from The Street. You can also view this article at The Street, a site covering financial news, commentary, analysis, ratings, and business and investment content.