How to Increase Online Traffic by Going Offline

Most small business owners know the typical advice for increasing online traffic. Having a blog, building a social media presence, targeted online advertising, and running discounts and promotions are all important online ways to build website traffic. However, few business owners think about going offline to build their online presence.

While traditional advertising may be dying (think TV, print, and radio ads), that doesn’t mean that traditional networking is dead also. Business owners are people, and so are their customers. The rules of person-to-person interaction will always be relevant in business. In fact, by going offline, you can build the personal connections and trust that will drive traffic and sales. When you become a face, a real person, to your customers, you gain a significant advantage over your online rivals.

Many small business owners like the idea of going offline to build their business, but they aren’t sure where to start. The key is to start small – just like online engagement, you can’t be everywhere all the time. Finding one or two places to be truly involved will yield a lot more fruit than being sort of active in five or six.

Trade Shows or Fairs. Depending on your product, this can be a great way to build exposure and maybe even make some sales. If you make crafts or small items, an art fair or craft show can be a great way to get known and showcase your work. Businesses can also get a booth at an industry trade show. Here are some ways to make the most of your investment:

  • Pre-Event Marketing. Make sure your customers and prospects know you will be at the trade show or fair. In addition, ask the organizer for a list of registered attendees. Review this list and contact folks who might be interested in your product. Believe it or not, postcards are generally the most effective way of contact in this case.
  • Business Cards. Yes, in the era of online everything, business cards still matter. Fortunately, they are not expensive. They should contain your business name, website, email, and any other contact information you have.
  • Giveaways With Your Website Listed. Handing out personalized pens, paper pads, and coffee cups with your company name and site may seem silly, but the reason so many folks do it is because it works. Find a useful item and put your site on the side. You’ll be surprised how much additional traffic it will draw.
  • Have a Conversation – Make Connections. The bottom line of why you’re there is to make the connections offline that will bring warm prospects to your online site. Be human, get to know attendees, and follow up with a thank you after the show.

 

Local Chamber of Commerce.This often-overlooked resource exists throughout every state. In fact, larger cities may have more than one. This is a great place to go and meet other business owners, and to take advantage of opportunities to let folks know about your business and website.

  • Subscribe to the Newsletter. This is an important first step before attending chamber meetings. Read them carefully – they can let you know what types of events the chamber sponsors and what types of businesses are involved. In addition, the newsletter will let you know what services the chamber can offer you.
  • Attend Chamber Events. Generally, the folks at chamber events will be other business owners. This is a good opportunity to connect with them and find cross-promotion opportunities, where they might promote your site and product to their clients if it’s a good match. In addition, the people themselves might be a good candidate for your product or service. They key is to build relationships.
  • Take Advantage of Chamber Advertising. Most chambers have packets that they send to folks who move into the city for the first time. This is a great way to get your business and website in front of new customers in a way that they will trust. In addition, there will be several other avenues of advertising through the chamber. All of it is backed by the chamber’s reputation, which makes prospects much more receptive.
  • Create a Partnership with the Chamber. Many chambers of commerce have a way for you to partner with them more directly. Perhaps they will exclusively promote your product to their members. Others will give you contact lists with the understanding that they will vouch for your trustworthiness. Regardless of the arrangement, it’s a great way to get access to prospects and let them know about your site and your company.

These two ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Think about what business organizations or events you know about offline, and whether they could help you drive traffic to your online website. Then, get out there and meet people!

This is a Guest Post from Sara Morris at Myron. Myron provides high-quality promotional business gifts designed to maximize exposure and visibility for your business.

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Gary

CEO at 3Bug Media
Gary Shouldis is the founder of 3Bug Media, a web marketing company that helps businesses create 360 Marketing Strategies to dominate their market. His blog is read by over 20 thousand small business owners a month and has been featured in the N.Y. Times Small Business, Business Insider and Yahoo Small Business.
11 replies
  1. Sandra Eamor
    Sandra Eamor says:

    I am a strong believer of both online and offline connections. I find it’s a bit of a two way street. As I meet people in real life, I make sure to follow up and follow them on their twitter accounts, blogs, Facebook pages, LinkedIn, etc. This way I can easily keep in touch. Similarly, I try to connect in real life with those individuals I’ve met online to further strengthen and build the relationship. While it may not always be possible for every connection, I find the more you do it, the better the return.

    Great post Sara!

  2. Alan | Life's Too Good
    Alan | Life's Too Good says:

    Hey Gary,

    I LOVE the new home page & look of the site. Very now. This article is quite timely for me – I just decided to re-invest money made in my little business in the business – and that means some off-line stuff. I decided to buy some branded golf pencils to start with (don’t ask – there are good reasons, honestly) or maybe some keyrings or usb sticks.

    You’re right – just because online has more reach, it’s a different kind of reach and a very different dynamic to offline marketing.

    I still haven’t got my merchandise (because I am terrible at getting the right sized images sorted out) but intend to.

    How about you – what offline marketing do you do for SBP?

  3. Gary Shouldis
    Gary Shouldis says:

    You do a great job of balancing offline and online relationships Sandra. I think you run a great small business group up in the York Region of Ontario. Looking forward to the next event! Cheers

  4. Gary Shouldis
    Gary Shouldis says:

    Hey Alan, always great to hear from you. Thanks for the compliment about the look of the site, we still have some tweaks to make, but decided to go ahead and switch over to the new design and work the little things out later. Any suggestions, I’d appreciate the feedback.

    When it comes to offline marketing for the website, I created business cards (and am currently creating mini cards) from Moo.com I always get compliments on their quality and I think the mini cards are going to be even better. All I do is have my logo and the website on one side, with some small business quotes on the back.

    P.S….can you message me that plugin you were telling me about, I tried to find it, but I think I forgot the name of it! Cheers

  5. Jason Hull
    Jason Hull says:

    Overall, I think this article is on the mark. We have to get out of our chairs/cubicles/offices/homes and put ourselves out there. I have one additional suggestion and one area where I will respectfully disagree.

    First, the suggestion: speak at conferences. If you’re going to attend, then do everything you can to get a speaking slot. Being a speaker at a conference lends credibility and ascribes an imprimatur of expertise to not only those who listen to you, but also those who may later find you and discover that you were considered expert enough to be accepted to speak at a conference. Usually people attend conferences looking to solve problems, and if you can hold the bully pulpit in a room with people who have problems which you can solve, then you’re getting valuable exposure.

    Now, for the disagreement. I may be the outlier, but I’ve both hosted booths and attended conferences walking around the exhibit hall, and never have I made the decision to engage with a vendor based on schwag. I feel like people believe schwag works because that’s what they think that they’re supposed to think. It’s herd behavior – similar to the experiment where people started standing in line at one restaurant and ignoring a similar restaurant right across the street simply because there was already a line at the first restaurant (http://qje.oxfordjournals.org/content/107/3/797.abstract). I think of the FOSE conferences, where there is a mad schwag run similar to Filene’s Basement’s sales (http://www.opensourceconnections.com/2008/04/03/observations-from-fose-day-2/).

  6. Gary Shouldis
    Gary Shouldis says:

    Thanks for the comments Jason. Yes, if you can land a speaking gig at an industry conference, it’ll give you tons of credibility. For those new in the industry, or not into public speaking, just attending and mixing elbows with others can also lead to some great connections.

    I see your point on schwag, I think if your are going to do it, it should be something of value. I still have a handy penlight a vendor gave me a conference 4 years ago, I use it all the time! Cheap pens and bottle openers don’t really cut it, has to be something of value….or at least funny. Cheers

  7. Sara Morris
    Sara Morris says:

    Thank you Sandra! I completely agree with this practice, it is essential for expanding your network.

  8. Sara Morris
    Sara Morris says:

    Jason – Thank you so much for these comments. I completely understand your points. I also agree with Gary, if you are going to promote your business with swag or promotional items, it should be something interesting that speaks to your attendees. Thanks for the great feedback!

  9. pisces
    pisces says:

    Great advice! Other Chambers of Commerce do those things? Ours does not do any of those things! They just have long meetings where they complain about the governments rules (we live in a small country where the government has decided to oust expats in retail) and make decisions to write and talk to people who don’t listen.

  10. Gary Shouldis
    Gary Shouldis says:

    Some Chambers are proactive and pro-small business and do these things, others are just you describe in your country. You have to look around and find a group that’s a good fir for you and your business.

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