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Driving Online Traffic Offline

posted by Matt Ward on Aug 5, 2010.

In many ways, a website is only as good as the amount of traffic it generates. The truth of this statement probably varies from site to site, but in this article, we will look at four different offline techniques that you can use to drive more traffic to your site.

We talk a lot about the various intricacies of designing and building websites here on the Echo Enduring Blog, but today I would like to look at a somewhat different topic – the concept of actually getting people to visit your website(s). After all, we put a lot of work into creating beautiful, intelligent and usable designs, but it doesn’t really accomplish all that much if nobody ever visits the site right?

Driving Online Traffic Offline

Driving Online Traffic Offline

Of course, we frequently read about the benefits of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), and there’s no doubt that if you can hit it big with the right keywords on Google, you’ll see a ton of traffic coming in. But, unless you are specifically crafting your content to appeal to Google rather than your readers (not something I really recommend), it can also take a good amount of time to really get the search engine juices flowing.

I’ve been blogging her for over a year now, and it’s only recently that I’ve started to see a bit of a rise in search engine traffic. I’m still not anywhere close to where I’d like to be either. Granted, some people have done it quicker than I, but it’s still a difficult and competitive process.

We can also talk about the benefits of social media, which are many. While I haven’t hit it big on Digg yet, I’ve had a lot of success on niche sites like DesignFloat, DesignBump and The Web Blend, as well as more general sites like StumbleUpon and Reddit and Delicious – and to all of you whose votes have helped with that success, I am very grateful!

Again, however, as great as social media it is, it also has its limitations, and is somewhat reliant on a thriving online community. While this certainly exists for design, it is not always present in every niche or area of business, and some website will invariably struggle more than others to catch the social media wave and ride it to success.

Fortunately, while the online world is becoming an increasing part of our everyday lives, we do still live in an offline world, and there are still opportunities to market advertise here too. Today, I would like to discuss some of these opportunities for driving online traffic with offline techniques.

Collateral

Most businesses have a variety of real-world materials that are distributed to clients, prospects, associates and so forth. These would include business cards, letterheads, brochures, pamphlets, catalogs, reports and so on.

Your web address should already be on all of this material, anyhow, but if you really want to push your website, you might consider trying to make that address stand out a bit more. Here are some interesting and creative examples of business cards that do just that:

This one works by placing the website address on one side of the card, along with the logo. Everything else on the other side. This really isolates the website, thus increasing its visibility.

This interactive, sliding business card places the focus on the website address by making it a part of the interaction. As you slide the moving part, it reveals and hides the website, directing attention to it directly.

These days, a lot of businesses are websites, and the basic URL is built right into the logo. This example isn’t quite the same thing, since six-speed is actually a creative agency, but the positioning of the domain certainly draws attention to itself!

You can use similar and analogous techniques on all kinds of different collateral and company literature, drawing attention to your address, and hopefully driving more traffic to your website.

Postcards

A more direct and immediate technique for driving traffic to a website might be to use some form of a web driver postcard. Postcards have always been a simple and affordable form of direct marketing that allow you to deliver a short, simple message. That makes them a perfect medium for driving web traffic.

Recently, I had the chance to work on a web driver card for Highland Marketing. I did all the design work on this spider-web-shaped card (based on ideas of my colleagues). Be sure to check it out!

Here's the front of the finished web driver card

Here's the front of the finished web driver card

Postcards can don’t have to be this elaborate though, and their messages can take many forms. If your website is primarily an online store, then you could advertise a sale or promotion to encourage people to do their shopping on your site. Though not necessarily in postcard format, I get this kind of direct mail all the time from Chapters Indigo, usually along with some sort of discount coupon as added incentive.

If you’re working on more of an agency, consultant or manufacturer type site, then a postcard letting people know about a free ebook or white paper available on the site could do the trick. People love getting free stuff – especially if it’s something that can help them become more productive, knowledgeable, efficient or successful in a particular area.

Postcards are also great for launching new products, services or a whole new site, or for letting people know about contests or giveaways running on your site. Whatever technique you decide to use to entice people to visit your site, a postcard is a great way of getting the message across.

Offline Advertising

Businesses like iStockPhoto obviously rely on web traffic for their business, since virtually everything they sell comes right off their website. They do not, however, rely exclusively on web-based forms of marketing. I am a member of NAPP, and as such am also subscribed to their Photoshop User magazine. In every issue I have ever received, iStock has placed a two page ad on the inside front cover. The exact ad varies from book to book, but it’s always there. It’s gotten to the point where I actually look for the ad when I get the magazine, just to see what the design is like.

Interestingly, it was through those ads that I was first introduced to iStock! I received my first Photoshop Usermagazine a couple years before becoming a NAPP member, as part of a promotion that was running when I first got Creative Suite 2. At that time, I was just entering into the design world and it was all very new to me, so when I saw the ad I checked out the website.

Since then, I’ve even purchased some imaged from them.

Offline advertising for websites definitely works. In fact, if I read, see or hear an advertisement for something that I’m interested in, the vast majority of the time I will head out and check out the website. Since getting my iPhone, I might even check it out right away (further suggesting it might be time for sites to start thinking about their mobile presence).

Granted, not everyone is like me (thank goodness), but I do think that my tendencies are reflective of a particular demographic of young (reasonably), tech-savvy professionals. If this is your market then good, well-targeted offline advertising can potentially yield significant increases in overall traffic.

Word of Mouth

Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. After all, it is the original form of social networking. In fact it’s the very reason I’m on Facebook. Before signing up, I had ignored tons of emails requesting me to join. It wasn’t until a friend that I trusted actually told me about it in a face to face conversation that I actually decided to go give it a try (and subsequently became addicted like everyone else).

Most people trust their friends and family, and if they receive a recommendation from one of these people, they are always more likely to take it seriously and maybe even check it out. If you can get your existing customers or users talking about your site to their friends and family, you can see significant returns in terms of traffic.

Of course, that’s the hardest part of all. There’s no way for you to actually control what people are saying to each other. All you can really do is operate under some basic assumptions – that people are going to talk about things that they find to be unique, interesting, meaningful, funny and entertaining. They are much less likely to talk about things that are mundane, boring and generally uninteresting.

So, while it may seem trite and cliched to say, look at providing the type of content that will get people excited and talking to each other. There’s really no guarantee when it comes to this type of marketing, but if you can hit it big in this area, the resulting traffic surge can be huge.

When I think of this kind of marketing, my mind always goes back to the story of Half.com, as told by Mark Huges in his book Buzzmarketing. Basically, the story is that they actually managed to change the name of Halfway, Oregon to Half.com for an entire year. The whole process caused a huge media stir, and Huges writes this of his results:

Before we spent a single dime in traditional marketing, we had captured the attention of the media and the Internet community…

And twenty days after our launch, eBay called.

Within six months, we sold the company to eBay. The price tag was $300 million…

In less than three years, I grew Half.com from zero to eight million registered users.

(Buzzmarketing, 23)

I don’t know about you, but to me that seems like a pretty successful venture. I certainly wouldn’t mind having eight million users here on the Echo Enduring Blog, and though I don’t have any intention of selling it, $300 million would probably start me considering.

Obviously, this kind of thing doesn’t happen all the time, and trying to replicate that level of success would likely be a long, difficult and possibly fruitless exercise (though you never know). Still, it shows the enormous potential that exists in word-of-mouth marketing.

Conclusion

So there you have it. I know it’s a different sort of article from what you’d normally see here, but that’s okay right? It’s good to shake it up every once in a while. I think it’s an important subject though, as we are all looking for different means of increasing traffic to our websites, or perhaps to the websites of our clients.

If nothing else, I hope it at least works as a reminder that marketing is often a multi-faceted exercise, and that all of our online efforts can be complemented by simultaneous offline activities.

What about you? Do you ever use offline forms of marketing and advertising, or is all of your website’s traffic driven by your online activities? Is there another effective way of marketing websites offline that I didn’t touch on here?

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Also from Echo Enduring Media:

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About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Comments

Aug 6, 2010

Aidan says:

Great tips! Offline marketing is a very important source of traffic and usually convert.

Thanks for sharing.

Aug 6, 2010

Shumel Lais says:

Great article Matt. Having unique business cards on the highest quality stock works better than most people think.

Aug 7, 2010

leaflette says:

nice round up there fella :)
thanks for the advice.

Aug 8, 2010

rod rodriguez says:

Wow some really interesting and brilliant design concepts for offline promotions. Very good article too. I haven’t really been going out much so networking offline hasn’t been an option for me, but I would like to try this out soon. Thanks.

Aug 12, 2010

Christopher says:

Great post. Creating connections between your communication materials is an integral part of successful brand building.

Aug 21, 2010

Connie Lewallen says:

I’m glad I bumped into your site doing research on Google. It helped me a lot. Thanks

Jan 1, 2011

Brett Widmann says:

Word of mouth is very important because people will talk about their experience which can gain you good or bad clientele based on their experience.

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