The online and offline worlds are no longer separate. The “user experience” with your brand crosses multiple platforms, devices and contexts, and takes place over dozens or even hundreds of interactions.
These days, most of us accept that it’s hard to succeed in business if you don’t have an online presence. But what about the other way around? Is it enough to only be present online?
As entrepreneurs, we can’t neglect the power of an in-person connection, even in our screen-dependent world. Not only do humans learn better in face-to-face situations, they also perceive more meaningful connections and enjoy the benefit of reading body language and facial expressions that are lost in translation through the airwaves.
Even the stereotypical “disengaged millennial” falls in line here; recent studies show the younger generation, too, prefers in-person interactions over digital ones when given a choice between the two.
So how can you get more (literal) face time with your target audience? Here are five ideas to take the connection offline and have more meaningful interactions with your buyers.
Be Where They Are
Not every interaction is about pushing the sale. In fact, some of the most worthwhile engagements a consumer can have with a brand happen when there’s no merchandise in sight.
People buy into brands that share the same values they hold near and dear. If I’m a baseball lover and I constantly see your logo every time I head to the ballpark to watch my favorite team play, a subconscious connection is happening there.
Whether it’s serving as the lead sponsor for a popular event, taking a visible role in a volunteer project, or serving as a committee chair for a group you support, getting involved with the same organizations and causes your target buyer cares about can earn you the kind of face time you can’t buy with a Facebook ad.
E-commerce made product sales effortless. Gone are the days of the traveling salesmen hustling from door to door for every sale.
Still, there’s no substitute for putting your physical product in the hands of potential buyers so they can see, touch and experience it firsthand. But brick and mortar stores are costly!
Enter: the pop-up shop. This is a miniature version of your store stocked with your merchandise that’s literally “popped up” in a bigger place, like a department store or the downtown district of your city. Especially if you’re a B2C entrepreneur, this is a great way to mimic the experience of a brick-and-mortar location without any of the overhead.
But once again, the focus shouldn’t be solely on the sale. It should be about forming a meaningful connection—sharing a laugh or providing a useful tip the customer will hold onto. That’s they kind of thing that keeps buyers coming back.
Hold An Event
From HubSpot’s annual Inbound marketing conference to the Vans Warped Tour, many prominent companies have cemented their status as a household name by launching proprietary events.
Sure, you could buy HubSpot software at the conference or a pair of shoes at Warped Tour, but the main goal isn’t to sell the brand’s merchandise. Instead, it’s to create an immersive experience that embodies everything the brand stands for—in other words, something the ideal customer will enjoy, learn from and remember.
What would that experience look like for your company? If you’re serious about bridging the gap between the digital and the physical world, you might use it to launch your own branded event.
Every entrepreneur knows his most valuable resource is his time. It stands to reason, then, that there’s no bigger show of your commitment to your customer than to give him a valuable slice of your daily 24 hour allocation.
An in-person visit to a loyal customer is a nice way, particularly for B2B operations, to build rapport and show how much you value the relationship. It also just plain helps the customer like you, which can have a positive impact on future purchases. The principle of liking states that consumers are more likely to buy something when they like the person who’s selling it.
Host A Retreat
We already discussed branded events, which aren’t centered around your product but around an experience the target audience will find valuable. At a retreat, on the other hand, your product or service can proudly take a starring role.
If you’re a business coach, you might hold a retreat to teach effective management techniques. If you run a hardware store, you might head into the woods for a retreat to fix up an old cabin.
The goal of a retreat is to cement a lasting relationship with your very best customers (i.e. the top 5% of your annual orders). It’s not only a chance for your expertise to shine, but an opportunity to make your most valuable buyers feel like the top dogs they are.
Whether you choose to charge for the experience is up to you, but again, like everything else on this list, it’s the experience itself that you’re seeking.
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