Is Offline Marketing Still Relevant In 2021?


Over the last two decades, digital marketing has taken over from physical marketing as the most effective form of promotion. Digital marketing can be used to target anyone in any location and can be more easily personalised. In many cases, it’s also cheaper.

The recent pandemic has further reduced the impact of offline marketing. Many forms of physical marketing have become unsafe or simply ineffective. This begs the question: is offline marketing still relevant in 2021?

Below are some of the main forms of offline marketing and whether they are worth investing in during 2021.

Event marketing

No industry has been hit harder by coronavirus than the events industry. Events rely on amassing crowds of strangers – something that social distancing doesn’t permit. As a result, it might seem logical to assume that trade shows, sales conferences and launch parties are off the cards.

While the country is in lockdown, this is certainly likely to be the case. But as the country opens up again, there could be the potential to still embrace event marketing. Before the pandemic, event marketing remained one of the most popular forms of offline marketing – this is because it gives people an experience that cannot be replicated online (the ability to appeal to all five senses). While video-conferences and virtual events have been popular, many people are now starting to suffer from ‘Zoom fatigue’. People are yearning a break from the screen – an explosion in event marketing is predicted to occur this year as a result.

Socially-distanced events are possible and may be something to consider this summer – this guide to socially-distanced meetings offers some useful tips including hosting events outdoors and useless touchless alternatives. Enforcing masks, encouraging use of hand sanitizer and limiting the flow of people can also help to keep events safe.

Signage, posters and billboards

Signage, posters and billboards are some of the oldest forms of marketing – and can still be effective today. The great thing about these marketing mediums is that they require no physical interaction from customers. This makes them a safe option during the pandemic.

Signage needs to look professional – there are sign printing and banner printing companies that you can use to ensure this. If you want to really make a visual impact, there are even options like video signage that you can use.

Where you locate signage matters. Aside from placing signs around your premises, you could consider hanging posters and billboards elsewhere. Many of the traditionally popular areas for posters and billboards such as train stations are no longer busy and so many companies have stopped advertising in these areas. There are pros and cons to advertising in these locations – while your poster or billboard may not be seen by as many people, billboard and poster placement prices are now cheaper than ever.

Signage can be combined with digital marketing to help increase digital sales in some cases. For instance, you can add QR codes to posters to encourage mobile users to visit a webpage on your site. Such a webpage could include a menu, a form or application. This is something that is thought to become more popular this year as a result of the increased familiarity with QR codes in 2020. 

Cold calling

We spend more time on our phone than ever before – and yet cold calling is increasingly becoming less effective with each passing year. Smartphones have enabled us to see who is calling us and even block numbers. Even if you do get through to a customer, there’s a very small chance that you’ll actually be able to sell them something over the phone.

Strategies such as warming up cold calls with emails can help to make them less invasive. It also depends what type of customer you are targeting as to how effective your results will be – B2B companies may have more success than B2C companies as a business is more likely to pick up the phone (some companies may even have departments dedicated to sales enquiries). 

Flyers and physical mail

Flyers and physical mail have become a lot less popular in recent years. The cost of printing and postage combined with the use of paper make it more expensive, less convenient and less green than simply sending an email or publishing a social media post. A lot of customers may also view flyers and physical mail as junk – particularly if it is unsolicited. 

To add to this, flyers and physical mail currently are a lot less safe than digital marketing as they have the potential to aid the spread of Covid-19. Many companies have stopped handing out flyers in person for this reason.

There is one bonus to posting flyers and sales letters through people’s doors – more people are at home and so there’s an increased risk that your flyer or letter may get read. As with posters and billboards, it’s possible to combine this medium with digital marketing by printing QR codes on your flyers and letters. Make sure that flyers and physical letters look professional.

Promotional products

Promotional products are often a means of increasing brand awareness – a company might hand out a pen with a logo on it to a client during a meeting or a branded water bottle to a consumer at a trade show. Handing out these products in person may not be the best idea in 2021 as they could be a means of facilitating physical contact and spreading the infection. 

That said, eCommerce companies may still be able to throw in these products with deliveries to take advantage of this form of promotion. A lot of companies have also started considering promotional products that are practical to the pandemic such as selling branded face masks and branded hand sanitizer.

Print publications

Less people read physical newspapers and magazines nowadays, preferring instead to absorb news online. In fact, many publications are now exclusively online. This is something to consider when advertising through a print publication in 2021.

Often, a more effective option is to approach a publication with a story. Such a story, if published, is likely to be shared online and in a physical newspaper. In order to have a story published about your business, you need a newsworthy angle. This could be the fact that you’re launching or relaunching your business, it could be news of a charity event that you were involved in or it could be a funny or heroic story related to your business. Your best bet is usually to target local newspapers as there’s a greater chance you’ll be featured.

Radio advertising

Many people still listen to the radio in 2021. Creating a radio advert could be a means of reaching out to a large audience. There’s also no risk of spreading Covid-19 through a radio ad, making it safer than other marketing strategies like events and flyers. It is however an expensive form of marketing – so you need to make sure that you’ve got the budget for it and that you’re likely to make a return.

There are advertising production companies that can create an advert for you. Once you have an advert you can try to apply to radio stations to get it on air. This is often the biggest cost – however you may be able to reduce costs by airing your advert at certain times and by only airing it infrequently.

PM Today Contributor
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