We talk a great deal about SEO and online presence, but there’s a real world out there! For local businesses, visibility in the local community is crucial, and a great way to build it is through creative and well-targeted offline marketing. Here, contributor Kayla Matthews provides her six top tips for learning how these IRL activities affect your bottom line.
In the great pivot to “digital everything,” the marketing community nearly forgot to build a bridge between the still-relevant world of offline advertising and online visibility.
As local businesses struggle to adapt to a changing economy and remain relevant in their communities, managing this digital-local divide is more critical than ever. It’s not impossible, though. Here are six easy techniques you can use.
1. Use a vanity domain or a custom URL specifically for offline promotions
Custom URLs and vanity domains are two of the most straightforward ways to link offline advertisements with online conversions and other events. Using tools like these will provide you with the sorts of digital insights you’re probably used to if you’ve already deployed Google Analytics to study your web traffic.
A vanity URL is usually a short, memorable web address that redirects to your established homepage or a campaign-related landing page of your choosing. You’ll have to buy the domain and set up the redirect, but afterwards you’ll be able to see how many visitors are arriving at your homepage or landing page from the vanity URL associated with your offline ad.
If you don’t want to buy a vanity domain, you can use a custom URL to get the job done. Google provides a URL builder tool for this precise purpose. With this, small business owners can add identifiers to URLs that feed valuable information into your Analytics dashboards, such as how each visitor managed to find you.
For our purposes today, their “channel of origin” could be any piece of offline promotional material they’ve come across bearing this URL, such as a poster, a magazine ad, or a billboard.
2. Use “analog” information, like attendance at local events
We’re talking about local businesses here, and that means businesses that interact with the community in a more immediate and personal way. That puts you in a position to create an attention-grabbing or even headline-worthy event. But it also means you have to find a way to measure the result of such an event. The effort and expense aren’t useful unless you know what you’re getting, ROI-wise, for your investment.
The most obvious way to track this is to use digital check-ins—or, more likely for a local business, an old-fashioned headcount at the door—to keep running totals of attendees registered at live events you advertised beforehand, like a performance or a flash sale.
Apart from inviting your customers to your business for promotion, raffle, performance or unveiling, then counting heads, there are other immediate actions your customers can perform too, which will help you measure ROI.
During a campaign, you can have customers performing all kinds of quantifiable actions, such as placing phone calls for free quotes, scanning QR codes from posters and fliers or, in some cases, even mailing back a postcard or survey you sent to a neighborhood or a subset of your customers.
3. Associate specific discount codes with specific advertisements
There are many ways to evangelize about your company offline: from print ads in newspapers, magazines and circulars to advertisements on local and even national radio and TV stations. Then there are billboards, mailers, flyers, posters, and more.
In much the same way that you can develop unique URLs and landing pages, you can also assign specific discount codes to the promotions you’re advertising in the creative media listed above. Doing this gives you a measurable and causal relationship—the number of codes used—between your company’s presence in an offline creative medium and the corresponding impact on your online traffic and conversions.
Plus, circulating discount codes does the double-duty of gently nudging visitors to interact with your online store, up to and including placing items in their baskets and entering the checkout process.
4. Watch for corresponding spikes in interest on social channels
If you don’t already, it’s time to bite the bullet and join the social channel that’s most relevant to your services. If you provide consulting services, you’ll be harder-pressed to find a use for Instagram than, say, a beachwear company. So read the room, know your audience and know how to translate whatever your business does into a form users of these platforms will enjoy engaging with and sharing with their circles.
After you’ve launched an offline campaign, you should be especially interested in new joins, likes, shares, followers and more. You can also include a custom, memorable hashtag with your offline campaigns and encourage new converts to use it when they say ‘hello’ online for the first time.
Don’t believe people have studied the potential ROI of out-of-home advertisements? Consider Nielsen research, which found that 46% of customers looked for more information online after coming across an offline ad. Even some of the seemingly lowest-tech advertising tools, such as vehicle wraps, can deliver as many as 70,000 unique impressions in a single day.
5. Dive into web traffic for related search volume
Here’s a bonus that goes along with watching your traffic spike during and after offline campaigns: You can use any of several available tools to dive into which words and phrases in your advertisements sparked interest and where you might have left viewers, readers, commuters or listeners with unanswered questions.
According to the Marketing Research Institute, companies with strong digital presences can cause measurable upticks in traffic within two minutes after airing an impactful TV ad. You can even research keywords and phrases related to your industry and brand, to see what else people were wondering about after your campaign went live or your offline ad aired.
6. Ask in brand surveys and customer correspondence
Whether it’s a quick straw poll on your branded Twitter account or a slightly longer questionnaire for recent converts, you’ll find lots of ways to ask your clients and customers how they’re feeling about your service, your products and your general business model.
And so long as you’re soliciting feedback from older acquaintances and new customers alike, why not add questions like: “How’d you find us?” and “Where did you hear about this offer?” Surveys like this are most effective when they arrive right after a major marketing push, when customers are excited to have found you and the details are still fresh in their minds.
It’s easy to think there’s a big digital divide between a company’s digital presence and all of the ways they advertise themselves to, and engage with, their local customers. But it doesn’t have to be that way, with some planning beforehand and some well-chosen strategies and tools.