Why You Should Promote Your Online Business – Offline

Why You Should Promote Your Online Business – Offline

If you run an online artisan business, or conduct sales of art or crafts through the Internet, you may forget there’s a whole marketing world you are missing. While you may be search engine savvy, you’ll miss many “real world” marketing opportunities if you fail to use off-line strategies to promote your online presence.  

There are many offline marketing techniques that may seem “old school” – such as print, radio and television advertising – but they work. If you don’t have the budget for this kind of advertising, there is a lot more you can do to get your name out in the “real world” inexpensively.  Here are a few creative ideas:

Wear (or Bring Along) Your Craft in Public

“I make hemp jewelry so every time I leave the house I always wear one of my pieces, says Rachel Steck, owner, of Handmade Hemp Jewelry www.customhemptreasures.etsy.com.  “So if anyone says they love it, then I give them a business card and a discount code,” she adds.  She also suggests giving friends and family complimentary pieces and have them wear them in public.  “My friends and family live in different cities and go to different places than I do, so my work gets more exposure.”  If you make a craft that is not wearable – such as pottery – use it to contain food or other items for pot luck dinners or other events.

Use “PR” Techniques

Chris Wise, who runs an artisan business of personalized gift wrap (http://giftskins.com) says not to overlook some traditional public relations techniques such as sending product samples to television shows (national as well as local news segments) which often feature unique artisan products.  “They may even link to you on their website – which will help your online business at the same time,” says Wise. Also, don’t forget about sending simple press releases to local newspapers and magazines. “(Local media) is always looking for stories about local entrepreneurs with unique goods and concepts to offer,” says Wise. 

Teach Your Craft

Teaching your craft is an excellent way to promote your online business, says Jacqueline Gikow, an independent jeweler and owner of New York City-based Chelsea Rainbow http://www.etsy.com/shop/chelsearainbow. “I teach in community centers and community colleges. Usually people who are learning my craft are doing it for a hobby so there is no competition and at the same time I get to show my work to new people who might not otherwise be exposed to it,” she says.

Sponsor Events

Pick an event or a favorite charity to sponsor. “This is another way to get exposure and help out a good cause at the same time,” says Chris Wise. Many events and fundraisers will also have a website -- they will most likely link to you, again helping your online efforts at the same time.

Bring Business Cards Everywhere You Go

While the younger set may not want or need a business card – they know how to find you via the Internet or Facebook if they know your brand name – not everyone knows how to do this, particularly those who didn’t grow up on the web, says Jane Faye, owner of Gaia Noir, an eco and alternative handmade fashion business, selling online and offline, http://www.gaia-noir.co.uk. “Having a physical slip of cardboard with an exact web address is still much appreciated and saves them the hassle,” says Faye.  Your business card should not only look creative and professional, but include your physical address, email, phone number and your company’s full website address.

Go to Craft Fairs, Farmers’ Markets

These are places where you can not only sell your wares, but also pass out flyers, coupons and business cards to potential customers.  “Consider carefully whether what you sell absolutely has to stay online or whether it could be taken to a stall at a craft fair or a display case in a gallery every so often,” suggests Faye. Even if you only do 100% custom made items and can't run a sales stall, you could still run a promotional stall instead, with business cards, samples of your work and a friendly face for potential
customers to chat with. “Even if the items you sell are too large or heavy to
transport to a stall, you could set up a display at an event with professional photographs, banners and laptop slide shows of them,” she says. Don’t forget your online business when you’re offline! Ask people to sign up for your e-newsletter or collect emails for a chance to win one of your pieces.

Try Non-Traditional Places to Display

Don’t stop at traditional venues, explore different ways to display your work, suggests John Caughhell, marketing coordinator for Argentstratus
www.argentstratus.com, which does a lot of its own guerilla marketing. “Have your goods displayed at local restaurants on a consignment basis,” he says. “Computer monitors are just not as vivid as the prospects’ eyes directly on the item.”

Go Offline During the Holidays
When everyone else is sending e-greetings, send an old-fashioned holiday card to your customers.  Include a coupon for their next purchase, or a schedule of art or craft fair events (and your booth number), and don’t forget to provide your web address. Holidays are also a good time to work on some offline marketing techniques such as creating a home party (if your products are easy to transport), or even having an open studio to show off your products and cross market your online business. 
“Basically, it’s good to socialize with people and give them that personal customer service rather than just through an email,” says Mona Moufid, owner of Mona’s Chocolates www.monaschocolates.com.
Promoting your business in other places than online has other more important benefits notes Jennifer Moore of Jennifer Lynn Productions, LLC (www.jlynnpro.com), an artisan who runs several online shops. If you are selling your pieces through a third party venue, remember that the venue’s servers can crash, the business could go under, or the venue can raise prices too high for your budget.   “It's important to promote your online business everywhere, not just for ‘more eyeballs,’ but also because things can happen to a website,” she says.

MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (www.backporchpublishing.com) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire. Marcia’s articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Bankrate.com, NFIB.com, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for Debbie May.com (www.DebbieMay.com), an organization dedicated to helping small businesses succeed.