Foreword Online

Ideas, information and industry news for collegiate retailers

Promote Your Website Off-line

Posted by Dean Asher on 8/1/16 5:00 AM
Topics: eCommerce, MBS Monthly Marketing Plans, Marketing to Students

"If you build it, [they] will come."

The classic adage comes from a modified famous line in "Field of Dreams." The phrase often gets applied to the idea of a self-promoting venture that draws visitors simply by existing.

It’s easy to believe that applies to your store’s website or social media profiles. After all, your customers are frequently online and using their mobile devices, so they’re naturally finding your site and understanding its value, right? Unfortunately that’s not the case — there’s a lot of online competition today, and in fact platforms like Facebook and Twitter can change their algorithms to actually make it harder for your store to show up in your customers’ feeds.

August 2016: Promote Your Web Store Offline

Don’t worry, it’s not impossible to get the word out without paying for Google or Facebook ad space. In fact, your brick-and-mortar operations and your eCommerce presence can work together to drive sales and traffic at both locations. You simply need to look to an unlikely venue to promote your web presence: the “real” world. Here are three easy steps to do it:

Tip 1: Plan giveaways

Everyone loves free stuff. Your students get something practical they could use in their daily lives, and if you take the time to order customizable swag, you get to hand out practical items that simultaneously promote your store while helping students.

First, you’ll need to consider what you’re giving away. Free T-shirts and polyester drawstring bags featuring your store’s logo and URL are always very popular, especially on college campuses. Those can cost more to produce and will net you fewer items to give away from most vendors, but they’ll definitely get used and catch your students’ eyes. Plus, the benefit with apparel that’s been branded with your url is two-fold: not only are the students who receive the item now more aware of your online presence, but anyone who sees someone wearing that shirt out on campus or to the gym has a chance to learn about what you’re offering as well. If you want to go for a more cost-effective route, lots of sites let you order bulk purchases of pens and pencils, chip clips and other handy little items on which you can print your store url.

Now, determine how you’ll be giving them away. Smaller items can be freebies handed out at the register with any purchase. Larger items like shirts are great to hand out at on- and off-campus events, such as orientation meetings and athletic games. Plus they can be a promotional item to draw traffic to your store, by offering a free T-shirt with purchases over a certain amount. It can help someone who’s had an eye on that hoodie or sweatshirt make a decision if they’ve been on the fence about actually buying.

And if you would like to give something practical away without placing an order for merchandise, don’t worry. We’ve designed these convenient bookmarks you can print out on card stock and include with students’ purchases.

Download: Website promotional materials marketing kit
Download the Kit
Download Marketing Kit

Tip 2: Update your existing promotional materials

You likely have your go-to promotional materials, from posters to hang up in-store to flyers you can hand out or insert into orientation materials. Is your website’s url on there? How about your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat? Thankfully these social media giants provide brand assets your store can use for free both in print and online, so long as you follow their required terms of use. Simply click each link to go to that social media platform’s business page to download brand assets and review usage standards. Now you have handy logos you can insert next to your urls that naturally catch your social media savvy customers’ eyes!

Adding these to the bottom of your existing print materials is a great way to raise awareness about your web presence without distracting from the original message you’re trying to share.

Tip 3: Create new print materials

While making your online presence a subtle ubiquitous presence in all of your marketing can go a long way in reinforcing awareness among your students, a poster or handout campaign across campus that is specifically focused on promoting your site will be more targeted.

Don’t have time or designers on hand to help you make unique materials to hang up and display in your store or around campus? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with these templates you can easily edit to add the urls to your websites — they're included in the materials above.

Tip 4: Simply tell people

Word of mouth is easy, free and gives you an opportunity for immediate feedback. When you or your staff answer the phone, do they mention the website? When you check a customer out, do you tell them about the opportunity to get the first look at deals and promotions by following you on Facebook or Twitter? If you have an automated phone system, is it part of the recording? If you made T-shirts to give out, why not order a few for your staff to wear in the store? Don’t be afraid to find little ways to pass along word about your website. You’d be surprised at how well it can pay off!

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