The basics of offline marketing

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Offline, or traditional marketing, incorporates any of the channels and media that you’d use to market your business that are not online. Here’s a quick guide to the basis of offline marketing.

There is a big mix of offline tools available to you – some of them very targeted, others much more a mass marketing tool, which can still bring in the results you need, but are less measurable and perhaps less cost effective, depending upon the objectives of your campaign.

The channels you may wish to tap into include:

  • Advertising – print (papers and magazines), broadcast (radio and TV), outdoor (mass media)
  • Direct mail
  • PR


Where could I advertise?

Advertising can take many forms and, on the whole, many people tend to think of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV as the traditional forms of advertising. Outdoor advertising, which includes billboards, bus sides, taxis and posters in cinemas, gyms and other public venues, is another great way of promoting your brand.

With any of these media in order to get the best results for your money you’ll need to try out your negotiating skills and good research is important. Make sure you get media packs for each publication, station or type and ask the reps for their advice on how best to achieve the results you need (although be careful to remember that they need their numbers too).



If you read it in the paper it must be true! Well perhaps not many people actually believe this anymore, but newspapers are still a tried and trusted place for advertising. Almost everyone reads a newspaper at least once a week and generally more than one person will read any one newspaper. So your reach is quite wide.

Choosing a local paper you can also be quite geographically targeted and with most newspapers sectioned out into news, sport, business, etc. you can further refine your targeting. However, newspaper advertising can be quite expensive for what is generally quite a saturated medium – you’ll be fighting with many other advertisers for recall. And while it’s a fairly quick to organise channel, it’s also got quite a short shelf life – you can expect a newspaper to stay on someone’s table for no longer than a week and mostly they’re discarded within a day.

When looking at newspapers consider:

  • Circulation
  • Readership
  • Geographical and demographic profile
  • Number of pages
  • General quality
  • Cost of ad



Whether you’re choosing a lifestyle magazine or a trade publication there’s a wide range for you to choose from. Magazines these days are well targeted so you can hone in on your target audience profile and pick a publication that really suits them.

Magazines offer a much higher quality print option than newspapers and you can be more creative in your approach. They are a more considered read, so you need to make sure you stand out.

They also have a longer shelf life, although conversely have longer lead times, so you need to be much more planned in your approach. All of this is, of course, reflected in the cost of magazine advertising and so you need to be very targeted to ensure a good return on investment.

When looking at advertising in magazines consider:

  • Circulation
  • Readership
  • Geographical and demographic profile
  • Number of pages
  • General quality
  • Cost of ad



Radio can be an engaging form of advertising and, while many discount it as ineffective, with a good number of ‘spots’ you can achieve good levels of brand recall.

Targeting your radio advertising at specific times of the day, for instance at drive time, before the news or weather, or within a certain programme can give you better targeting. Radio is really a mass media tool and there can be a lot of wastage. However, radio reps will usually negotiate on prices and you should be able to get a good deal.

When looking at advertising on the radio consider:

  • Number of listeners
  • OTH (opportunity to hear)
  • Geographical and demographic profile
  • Spot length and number of spots
  • Cost of campaign



While television seems to be almost always on in people’s homes (Ofcom’s figures last year suggest 4 hours per day) TV advertising can be quite well targeted if you have a reasonably large geographical target, but it can also be very expensive.

Advertising can be chosen to tie in with specific shows, which will be targeted towards different individuals, and if your product is directly related to that genre all the better!

Television also offers great potential to be creative – although do be aware that in the UK you’ll need to pass your ad through Clearcast  before broadcasting.

When looking at TV advertising consider:

  • Number of viewers
  • Type and time of programmes you can advertise around
  • OTS (opportunity to see)
  • Geographical and demographic profile
  • Commercial length and air time
  • Cost of campaign


Outdoor and ambient media

Outdoor advertising is often thought to just be large format posters and billboards, but the channel includes much more. From bus backs and sides, taxi wraps and receipts and advertising in cinemas, gyms, train stations and subways.

Ambient media is a relatively new term – it’s been around since 1999 – for alternative media. This sits hand in hand with outdoor media, including the backs of receipts, petrol pump and trolley handles and the likes of hot air balloons and wall hangings.

Outdoor and ambient advertising can both be impactful at getting a brand noticed and it certainly can’t be turned off, although it should be limited to short messages with little or no immediate call to action (especially for large format media) as people will have passed it fairly quickly. While it’s not restricted to any one profile demographically it can be very targeted in terms of geography.

When looking at outdoor and ambient advertising consider:

  • Number of viewers
  • Type and time of programmes you can advertise around
  • OTS (opportunity to see)
  • Geographical and demographic profile
  • Commercial length and air time
  • Cost of campaign


What is direct mail?

Direct mail is highly targeted and, with the right messaging, price and promotion, delivers great response rates. According to Royal Mail, 92 per cent of direct mail is opened and 48 per cent of people take action as a result of receiving it.

Yet while recent DMA research suggests that direct mail may be on the decline, when it comes to gaining stand out from the crowd, competition is fierce as the number of items – catalogues, flyers, etc. that people receive through their letter box each day remains high at 6.5 million across the UK in 2013.

The great targeting opportunities available from direct mail can also come at a high price, as paid for lists and the cost of creative printed items and their fulfilment add up.

Testing means of postage as well as creative treatments can offer long term savings and using media codes to ensure ease of measuring results are all key to ensuring success.

When looking at direct mail consider:

  • Quality of list
  • Timing of mailing (which day / date and around seasonal occasions)
  • Messaging
  • Pack contents
  • Cost of campaign


Adding PR into the mix

Public relations is an amazing tool for start ups and getting your story out there with a personal angle can be easily targeted to the right publications for your audience, as long as its relevant. You’ll also find it easier to achieve successful PR opportunities when you’re also taking advertising with the publication, and taking the time to create personal relationships with key journalists can really help.

PR can be time consuming as getting the attention you need can also take some persistence. Using a PR agency can help to minimise the time that PR takes out of your business.


Buying offline media – our top tips

Once you’ve formed your business choosing your offline media forms a part of your wider marketing strategy. In order to do it effectively you’ll need to:

  • Plan your objectives
  • Research your audience
  • Set your budget
  • Negotiate your costs
  • Create compelling design
  • Write engaging messaging
  • Work out your measures
  • Test and learn.


For more information head to our help centre.

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