Marketing Offline for an Online Platform

The last 5+ years of my career I’ve been significantly involved with two technology startups and worked with countless others to help refine their marketing/advertising plans and strengthen their brand. Most of my time here has been spent with two-sided web applications – you know, the one’s with the chicken-and-the-egg problem? While these aren’t necessarily the only web apps that should consider a strategic and early adoption of both on and offline marketing, they are usually the ones that need it most. The problem I’ve seen is that most technology startup founders do not completely understand how to market their platform both on and offline, some don’t even consider it a staple to their success. This IS a problem.

Consider your users first. If you’re like me, you’ve spent an enormous amount of time ensuring they’re delivered a fantastic experience throughout their time spent with your app and you’ve done this through alpha/beta testing, case-studies, and market validation. Depending on the service you offer, continuing that same great experience for your users offline is just as important. Remember this – it’s the entire experience that matters. A great real-world example would be the attention to detail that goes into the entire experience of buying products from Apple. From the moment you walk in, touch the devices, and purchase something to when you get home and open the box for the first time – it’s all entirely designed to ensure your experience is memorable. Guess what? It works!

How do you apply this to your particular business model? First, I recommend hiring someone who has a good understanding for offline user acquisition and retention. Just because you’re a technology startup doesn’t mean you need  an online-only expert – you need a highly versatile and experienced marketer. Don’t just look for SEO/SEM experience on the resume, make sure they understand how to effectively extend the power of your brand offline. So, what does an offline experience look like? It depends on your situation! In today’s world, everyone is continually bombarded with so much digital communication; how valuable do you think it would be to a new user (who in this case paid for your service and/or recommended your service) if you hand-wrote a thank you card and physically mailed it to them? (Side note: if you’re working with truckloads of users, you can still accomplish this without having to hand-write each one, creative automation is key here). It’s such a simple but important gesture that I promise you will go much further than a friendly tweet.

Extending your experience and culture to your users offline will increase engagement outside of Facebook and Twitter, and sometimes this is far more effective. You have to be able to think creatively and discover the optimum times to reach out to users, just as if you were a/b testing messaging for an AdWords campaign. At what point in  your customer’s experience should you do something like this and what is it that you’re going to do? What do you hope to gain from this? How much should you spend doing it (<–important)? Which users, if not all, should be included in this? While those are all good questions, they are very specific to your individual situation. The point is that it’s all about going the extra mile, and don’t you dare think you can come up with a friendly email to accomplish the same thing. Put something in their hands and at the right time – the experience will be rewarding for you both.

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