How to Leverage Offline Relationships in a Digital World

I recently had a conversation with a client that made me realize that in our digital world it’s often easy to forget one of the most basic human desires: connection.

Of course, people do make “connections” online every day, but there is nothing like the power of a real, face-to-face human connection.

That’s true whether you sell a consumer product that people can touch and feel, or a B2B digital service.

Think about it: everyday people are bombarded with messages on screens. The constant stream of information that technology provides has dramatically reduced our attention spans, making it increasingly difficult for companies to capture and keep people’s interest online.

So how do you cut through the noise? Face-to-face, it’s much harder for people to just walk away from a conversation or immediately forget you — and if it’s a really good conversation, they might just leave wanting more!

And yet, integrating offline into your communications strategy can sometimes feel tricky. So today, I’d like to share a few strategies that any company can use to meet people in the real world, and bring those relationships online to create real, lasting value.

Four Ways to Connect with Customers Offline

The number of possible ways you could connect with your target customers in real life is truly limited only by your imagination, so have some fun and get creative. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

Host a Pop-Up

  • How: Rent a space for a day, a night, or even several weeks, where people can come and experience your product and your brand in person.
  • Works best for: Physical products and consumer brands
  • Tip: Consider partnering with like-minded brands to share costs, cross-market to broader audiences, and add value to the consumer experience.

Host an Event at Your Office

  • How: Invite a speaker, a panel or a practitioner in your industry to share their expertise or share your own content on a topic that will be interesting to your target audience.
  • Works best for: Disruptive companies, brands with a strong message to share, thought leaders, and businesses tackling complex problems
  • Tip: If you don’t have a lot of space or a particularly nice office, try hosting an event at coworking space. I personally host workshops at WeWork and it works super well.

Do a Live Demo

  • How: Offer free samples or do a short demonstration of your product or service to give people a chance to experience it in person.
  • Works best for: Consumer products that can be sampled individually, or services that can be experienced in groups.
  • Tip: Choose a location for your demo that already attracts your target audience. For example, an author selling books about meditation might offer a free guided meditation at a yoga studio.

Attend Conferences and Networking Events

  • How: Set up a booth or apply to be a speaker at an industry event that attracts your target customer.
  • Works best for: B2B companies or consumer brands that sell their products wholesale
  • Tip: If you don’t have the budget to purchase a booth and you don’t get accepted as a speaker, you can still make connections by attending industry events. The important thing is that you find a way to talk to people and be memorable.

Get More Out of Your Offline Relationships

Once you’ve committed to getting out there and meeting your customer face-to-face, make a plan to convert those connections into leads, and ultimately sales.

The first key is to choose the right person to represent your brand. If you’re a founder and you dread the idea of public speaking, or you’re not confident in your ability to pitch to customers in a crowd, don’t force it. Instead, be resourceful and think about who would really be the best person to put forward. You may choose yourself or an employee, or you might consider hiring a sales professional to do the selling for you.

Whoever you choose to represent your company, make sure they’re well trained and deeply familiar with your product, your brand, and your marketing goals.

The next step is to figure out how to keep the people you meet at an event engaged. Here are a few ways you can use technology to do that:

  • Can people order your products online? Have a laptop or iPad ready to share your website with people at your pop-up.
  • Better yet, for both B2B and B2C, have that iPad ready to let them sign up for your newsletter and keep them updated with your latest news and offers — even after the event.
  • Encourage people to follow you on your social media channels by hosting a giveaway or contest in conjunction with the event.
  • Create a hashtag to make it easy for people to keep the conversation going and share your brand with their networks.
  • Set up a photo booth with branded props (make sure to send the images digitally!) or create a fun backdrop for people to take share-worthy photos with their own smartphones.
  • If you have an app, ask people to download it on the spot. You could try having a QR code for people to scan, or giving a reward for downloading right away.

Why these tactics? How often have you been to an event where you bought something and really liked it but when you wanted to buy it again, you couldn’t find that company or product again? Exactly! All of these tactics will help you bridge the divide between the offline brand experience and your online presence to continue the relationship with your customer.

Furthermore, what you do during an event is important, but what you do before and after can make a big difference as well.

Use your marketing channels (email, social, paid etc.) to make people aware of your event in advance, and whenever possible, encourage people to RSVP and share their attendance with friends.

If you’re giving a talk, record it! You can capture the raw, tangible experience of an in-person event on video in order to share it with a broader audience. Depending on your goals, you could upload the video to YouTube or Vimeo and make it public, or keep it exclusive and send it out to specific followers who opt-in to view it during a webinar or receive it via email.

These are just a few ways through which online and offline marketing can feed one another to create an ongoing relationship with your customers. Have you tried other creative ways to connect in real life or bring in-person connections online? If so, let me know what’s worked for you in the comments.