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March 16, 2016

How to run Offline Performance Marketing

There’s a few reasons why online marketing no longer is considered the silver bullet in customer acquisition (or was it ever?) - mostly it’s about significantly increased CPMs & CPCs (it’s getting crowded out there), the rise of Ad Blockers (25% of Germans and over 15% of Americans use those) and the fact that many advertisers are realizing that not every audience is efficiently targeted online (we’re not just talking about B2B marketing).

Offline marketing in comparison however does not fare too well either: Booking is intransparent and still very manual (isn’t it annoying to email back and forth with a bunch of service providers?), supplier quality is hard to (if at all) monitor and, last but not least, performance optimization is difficult (due to the lack of established methodologies and proper tools).

In the following, when we talk about offline marketing we’re not talking about stuff like ads in publications or out-of-home advertising. While these have their place and use, we’re more excited about offline channels that can be measured and optimized more comprehensively. Direct mail, maildrops, package inserts and flyering are some of those channels that we believe are often highly underrated, since they’re not only some of the most old-fashioned advertising techniques, but also still widely used. Why? Because they still work extremely well. While these channels face the same challenges any outbound channel does, i.e. that some perceive it as annoying (just like hardly anyone I know likes ads in social media or banners on websites), they remain very effective and are actually growing in volume.

Having said all that - how does one benefit from the good while reducing the bad? It’s about bringing the best of online and offline marketing together: By implementing comprehensive tracking and then taking a data-driven analytics approach, one can optimize offline marketing just like one improves the efficiency of online marketing campaigns. Systematically driving down customer acquisition costs thus makes offline marketing a viable addition to online channels - which may be worthwhile bringing into your marketing mix.

So here’s what you need to do: The times of running campaigns and hoping for an impact or simply attributing them to “branding” are (or should be) over. Online marketing has taught us how data-driven one can be and it’s time to put these learnings into action in offline marketing as well.

1. Define goals

Offline activities should systematically strive for clear goals, such as raising awareness, educating customers, building a brand or generating conversions. The times of disconnected campaigns are over - the upcoming era is about continuous and gradual optimization, to achieve clearly defined goals.

2. Leverage what you already know

While what works online does not necessarily work offline - it’s certainly a useful indication which direction to go into. It’s important to leverage all available data to set up high-performance campaigns. Looking at the visuals, taglines and incentives that worked in online marketing is usually a great starting point.

3. Figure out your targeting

The best campaign is useless if it doesn’t reach the proper audience. Put in the necessary (hard) work to ensure you minimize scattering loss. You should for example generate insights from current customers, like assessing who they are and where they live. Other data sources include demographics and the like.

4. Use conversion-driven design

When you create a new website, you know what conversion drivers are crucial (such as trust seals). The same is true for offline marketing: any flyer that is not designed in a conversion-driven manner will underperform. When you set up an offline marketing campaign you need to leverage those insights.

5. Consider statistical significance

Only testing one visual is not what one would do online. Also, in online marketing a campaign will always be set up in a manner where volumes are large enough to achieve statistical significance. The same has to apply for offline channels. Just testing one visual for instance will not enable performance optimization.

6. Track everything

Online marketing derives its power from data - which is generated via comprehensive tracking. Do the same in your offline campaigns: you should know exactly what design, with which tagline and which incentive was distributed where and when. Remember that “no data” always means “no optimization”.

7. Iterate and optimize

You are never “done” optimizing. Constantly assess your data and figure out what works best. Just like online marketing this requires a proper tool (rather than just an Excel file). If you want online marketing-like performance, it’s essential to also put in the same kind of effort and obsession about constantly improving.


Final remark: We’re not saying that offline marketing is for everyone. There is no such thing as a universally useful channel. It’s crucial that one carefully assesses the up- and downsides in order to figure out whether it makes sense per se and how optimization can take place. Direct mail will also rarely be the only channel that advertisers use - in the end, it’s about figuring out the marketing mix that ensures that customer acquisition takes place in a scalable, cost-effective and systematic manner.