As a digital marketing writer, it can seem counterintuitive to talk about the importance of traditional marketing ideas. Yet, I’ve found that in today’s always-connected digital world, physical marketing can help you stand out. When I headed to my first freelance writing conference, my husband couldn’t fathom why I went straight to Moo and ordered a set of custom-designed business cards. He echoed the traditional wisdom of today’s digital-first users: “Just connect on LinkedIn.”
But it was easy to hand out cards to potential leads, and it gave them something tangible to hold on to that would remind them of me. In fact, I landed a project from someone looking at that exact business card — seven years later. In a world over-saturated with digital interactions, here’s why you shouldn’t discredit old-school ways of outreach, and how to make them work for you.
Brochures and Fliers: Do People Even Use Those Anymore?
One day when I was working in a co-working space, a software engineer in the next pod asked me what I was working on. “Edits for a client brochure,” I answered, without looking up. He was completely taken aback. “You mean a website?” I explained that, no, it was for a client in the agribusiness industry whose sales teams still visit customers in person, use leave-behinds and rely on print media to drive most of their business.
Depending on the industry, printed media can be a great way to stand out. In fact, many organizations and industries still rely on this type of physical outreach — and incorporating it into your own strategy can symbolize your expertise. Target clients in industries like agribusiness or manufacturing, which may not be as digital-first in their marketing, to show that you understand and can leverage print media as well as digital. One freelance editor I know was hired by an anchor client to handle the creative direction for their physical marketing, based on her own professional brochure.
It’s All About Context: Sometimes, You’re Physically There
Digital marketing has created important avenues for you to connect with clients who’d otherwise never know you exist. Whether you’re connected through a LinkedIn network or a prospect comes across your website organically through Google, digital marketing can yield tremendous value for your business. But if you’re only focusing on digital marketing, you may be overlooking an important piece of context: Sometimes you meet with clients in person.
Physical marketing is especially impactful in your in-person meetings. Whether it’s a conference, networking event or client pitch, opportunity favors the prepared. Here are a few basic things you should consider bringing to an in-person meeting:
- Business cards that include your contact information, your social media handles and the name of your website
- Examples of your work, such as art pieces or articles from a portfolio
- A one-pager that provides an overview of your services
- Detailed client proposals
- Printed testimonials and client recommendations
By leaving behind the types of materials listed above, you can get clients thinking about your services, and make it easier for them to share your information with other decision makers in their firm.
Don’t Forget Local Ads
Taking out advertisements in regional publications, newspapers and magazines can be another great way to reach your audience. An effective ad highlights the services and products you offer, the types of customers with whom you generally work, your pricing structure and your contact information.
If you do decide to invest in an ad, make sure to pay attention to design, language, colors and placement. An ad should convey your voice and highlight what differentiates you from your competitors — encouraging prospective clients to reach out to you to learn more.
Leverage Local Connections
In the digital world, we tend to think of freelancing as a global business. Many successful writers, designers and consultants I know work closely with companies in their own city or state. Being physically close enough to hold in-person meetings or understand nuances of the local market can be enough to help you stand out from the competition. One way to build on those local connections is to make sure your LinkedIn profile and website frame your location. For example, mine say, “Elizabeth Alton – Boston Technology and Marketing Writer.”
Print media can also help you connect effectively with local companies. Need some ideas? Consider joining a local networking group. And distribute fliers and business cards in common areas at conferences, co-working spaces and other areas where it’s okay to do so.
You can also conduct a mailing to local businesses. I’ve landed thousands of dollars in work from regional businesses by sending a simple card to software and tech companies in New England that might be looking for an experienced copywriter. Don’t forget the golden rule: You never know who may be looking for the services you offer.
Target Decision Makers at Larger Companies
Print marketing can also help you reach decision makers at larger companies. Rather than sending generic mailings, select a buyer or desirable contact at businesses with whom you’d like to work. Make a personal, authentic introduction. Recently, I received a package in the mail from a designer, which included printed examples of his work and a handwritten note — all of which were gorgeous. The quality and sincerity stayed with me. I’ve hired him for my own projects and recommended him to one of my clients.
While it’s important to take advantage of everything digital marketing has to offer, keep in mind that traditional marketing ideas can help you reach a different client segment. Physical outreach can help you make the most out of in-person meetings, connect effectively with local businesses and show certain industries that you understand their business model.
Explore your marketing budget now, and find room to experiment with these different models. Often, it takes only a small investment and can be a strategic step toward differentiating your services from the competition.