There are lots of ways to get the word out about your business. Advertising, content marketing, email campaigns and direct mail programs to name a few. But there’s one tactic that can be highly successful yet it is surprisingly underutilized: Outreach Marketing.
Outreach Marketing: What It Is & How It Works
Outreach marketing is about making contact. Face-to-face.
But it’s not cold calling. Rather, outreach marketing is different from cold calling in that you share a target audience with another non-competitive business. You give them a supply of promotional products imprinted with your logo for them to give out free to their clientele. In essence, they’re making a referral for you.
Here’s how it works.
For this example, let’s say you’re a property manager at an apartment community and you goal is to get prospective residents to your property to check it out and take a tour (and hopefully lease). There’s a shopping center just down the block that has dry cleaners, a restaurant, bank and a doggie day care.
Next time you pick up your dry cleaning and the person behind the counter strikes up a conversation by asking “how are you today,” respond with something like this:
“I’m doin’ great, thanks! Was just on my lunch break (or on my way in to work, or on my way home from work). I manage ABC Apartments just down the street. We have some beautiful units available if you know of anyone looking for a new home.”
Now how hard was that!
With the first conversation, you may just want to leave it at an introduction and not give any marketing materials unless requested. But you could ask if they would be interested in some cool free swag that they could give out to their customers.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you’re the manager of the bank in that shopping center, and you’re always looking for new customers to open checking accounts. While eating lunch at the restaurant next door, you’re chatting casually with the server. Use it as a chance to introduce yourself.
In many restaurants, servers are responsible for bringing their own pens for customers to use when signing credit card receipts because pens have a habit of walking out the door. Which is exactly what you want when the pen has your bank’s logo on it.
When the server brings the check, ask him or her if they need some extra pens. Chances are the answer will be a resounding “Yes!” If the manager stops by your table to ask how everything is, as they often do, you could introduce yourself and say something like this:
“I’m the manager at ABC Bank next door. I know pens are often in short supply around restaurants because people inadvertently take them upon leaving. If you’re interested, I’d love to donate some pens for your staff to use and patrons to take with them.”
This same bank manager could also make an introduction at the doggy day care just down from the restaurant. If there isn’t a candy basket or dog treat jar on the counter, perhaps they would like one. And you could return every month with candy or dog treats to refill the jar to continue building the relationship.
And these are just a few examples. Keep in mind that this kind of referral network is a two-way street. You can also make a reciprocal offer of referring your residents (in the case of the apartment manager) or customers (in the case of the bank manager) to businesses who respond in kind.
By establishing connections with local businesses that are not direct competitors with but whom you share a target audience, you can create a rapport and relationship that will in turn boost prospective referrals.
3 Hot Products To Ignite Your Outreach Marketing Efforts
When designing your outreach marketing program, selecting the right products is paramount to success. The items must be high quality because you want your brand to be properly represented and positioned. And you want those in your referral network to feel good about offering the items to their customers.
Additionally, the swag must align properly with your referral network’s businesses. Sure, there are some universal items such as pens that work in just about any situation. But you can also tailor the items so they make sense for the type of companies you seek out.
While pens are universal and can be incorporated into just about any kind of outreach marketing program, we love using them for restaurants as described above. Since most people pay with plastic these days, you can be sure your brand will be seen repeatedly as the pens are used.
The Macaw is our new fave pen. It has a sleek modern style with a translucent barrel—accented with a sculpted rubber grip for writing comfort and control—and is customized via one-color imprint. It’s offered in six colors (black, blue, green, orange, pink, red) and has super-smooth writing blue ink that you’ll love. And for a mere 64-cent price tag, you’ll get an instrument that writes like a much more expensive pen—and it will be one recipients won’t want to lose.
Chamber Of Commerce
Functions at the Chamber of Commerce are great places to introduce yourself in a more meaningful way than simply handing out business cards.
Get creative—and be memorable—by using a full-color microfiber cleaning cloth packaged in a vinyl pouch as a way to deliver your business card. An effective tool at cleaning eyeglasses, mobile devices, tablets, laptops, LCDs, goggles, jewelry, navigation systems and so much more, the cloth’s usefulness ensures it will be kept and used often.
Vets, Dog Groomer & Pet Daycare Centers
If your target audience includes pet lovers, then vets, dog groomers and pet daycare centers would be a perfect place for a counter mat that includes a calendar and your company info. You could also supply dog food scoops they could give out to their clientele.
And as mentioned in the examples above, you could create an on-going program of refilling an apothecary jar with candy (for humans) or treats (for dogs). Check out the principle of how to create this kind of referral program in this post.
In order for outreach programs to be successful, they must be consistent. To stay on top of it, create a calendar so that you have the structure and schedule to ensure you visit your referral network enough…but not too much.
In the article Outreach Marketing…Tell One Person, author Lori Hammond, regional operations manager for Management Resources Development, shares her outreach marketing calendar that incorporates weekly themes:
Week One: Municipal Offices, Chamber of Commerce, Schools
Week Two: Churches, Social Service Agencies, Community Support Organizations
Week Three: Hospitality and Restaurants
Week Four: Local Businesses, Hardware, Hair Salons, Veterinary, Physician & Healthcare Offices
Week Five: Insurance Providers, Realtors
“A rotation where return visits are scheduled every other month allows for reasonable followup,” she says. “Unfortunately, most businesses experience a high volume of staff turnover, and you’ll find the need to introduce yourself over again to create a new contact. When you are fortunate enough to talk to a friendly face who remembers you, you’ve created a relationship!”
While the above article and calendar targets apartment managers and property management companies, the technique can be used in any industry. Just tailor the types of companies you want to target.
Making Meaningful Connections
In the past, business was always done in person. But in today’s digital world, it’s easy to hide behind the screen. In virtual anonymity.
As people, we crave connections. Authentic connections. And that often gets lost electronically because of the inherent nature of how impersonal digital can be.
Between email, texts and tweets, it’s almost to a point that we rely so heavily on technology and digital communication that we’ve forgotten how to simply talk to people about what we do. But outreach marketing can change that—and using promotional products as a tool can help get the conversation started.
In a world that is so connected electronically, people are surprisingly disconnected personally. So why not stand out from the digital crowd and create buzz in person.
Interested in how you can incorporate outreach marketing programs into your growth plans? We can help. Book an appointment by clicking here or call us now at 248-538-4700. Mention the blog, and we’ll send you some SMART Swag to get the outreach conversation started!