How would a 30% increase in sales in one year feel? You may be leaving money on the table by forgetting about some important marketing techniques. Here’s how offline marketing can impact your bottom line.
Online retailers hire website designers/developers, marketing strategists, content marketers, and CRM specialists. They establish a large social media presence and pump out content all over the web – establishing relationships, solving problems, providing value and benefit. These are all excellent marketing strategies, confirmed by research.
What these retailers fail to realize, however, is that there are offline sources for marketing that, if not being used, are leaving money on the table. Small, medium, and large companies can learn from retailers that have used offline marketing techniques. One such retailer is Toms Shoes.
History of Toms Shoes – a Cause
Toms Shoes was founded in 2006 in founder Blake Mycoskie’s apartment. From the very beginning, Mycoskie had a cause in mind. He had traveled to Argentina twice, once as a contestant in The Amazing Race and again as a tourist. Two experiences came together.
He noticed that polo players wore a shoe they called alpargatas – a canvas slip-on. He like them. He also noticed that many poor Argentine children ran the streets barefoot. He returned home determined to start an online shoe company selling alpargatas and donate one pair to an Argentine child for every pair sold. With $500,000 from the sale of his online driver education school, he launched his online startup.
Originally, he commissioned an Argentinian company to produce 650 pairs, but when a story about his business ran in the Los Angeles Times, orders poured in. This was his first experience with offline marketing. 10,000 pairs were sold between launch in May and October, 2006. The rest has been an amazing story, with additional products, additional causes (eye health and prenatal care) and a company that by 2010 was generating millions in sales every year.
Despite a great deal of online publicity and its annual “One Day Without Shoes” event, with corporate sponsors such as Flickr, AOL and others, sales were down in 2010. Other than continuing its online social media presence, continued updating of its site with new products, and participating in charitable events all over the world, Toms marketing strategies had not changed much since 2006. It was then that the decision was made to pursue offline marketing and sales strategies to see if they could get a boost.
1. Print Advertising
There are a number of publications that are still hand-held. The marketing staff at Toms had already, of course, developed personas of their target audiences, so it was easy to find those magazines that served those targets. Full page ads were placed in magazines such as Seventeen and Rolling stone.
2. Press Releases Related to Events/New Product Launches
Not only does Toms hold its own events, such as “One Day Without Shoes,” the owner and other staff are continually invited to participate in charitable events sponsored by non-profit organizations. The marketing staff realized that getting out more press releases about these events would spread the brand faster. They began to contact major newspapers that still had print publications every time they were participating in a major events, nationally or internationally.
And because each new product launch has been tied to a new cause, it was easy to get great press. It launched its line of eyewear with a goal of contributing to eye care for people in underdeveloped countries. Other product launches support clean water efforts and prenatal care. Here are just a few of the articles published by the LA Times as Toms launched new products.
3. Use of Email and Online Subscription Efforts to Develop Catalogue Lists
Mailboxes all over the country are filled with catalogues. Why? Because lots of people still like to look through the pages and develop their wish lists or shop for gifts. They may ultimately order those products on line or by telephone, but it begins with a catalogue.
Toms decided to offer a print catalogue through its email list and on its site and social media pages. The quarterly catalogue was also offered during the checkout process. Consumers had to give their physical addresses, but many did and still do, because they have developed trust in Toms.
4. Billboards, Bus and Subway Stops
Very cool things are being done with billboard designs today, for those who can afford it of course. There are smaller types of billboard advertising that can be utilized too. Advertising is now placed on the back of bathroom stall doors and on walls in front of urinals; ads are placed in frames and installed in elevators. Toms chose bus stops for some of its ads:
Small promotional items are mailed with shoe purchases at times, and they are also handed out whenever the company participates in an event. Just one more way to keep the name, logo, and slogan, “One for One” out there. Items range from flags to drawstring bags.
6. Partnership With Brick and Mortar Retailers
This was perhaps the biggest leap in offline marketing. By 2012, retailers such as Target, Macy’s and Nordstrom were carrying Toms Shoes in their stores.
Sales in 2011 for Toms were $32 million. By the end of 2012, they had jumped to $42 million – a 30% increase. And at the end of 2015? Sales were a whopping $82 million. This figure was somewhat the result of a large investment that Bain Capital put into Toms which was then used for expansion into other product lines. These figures are estimates because, as a private corporation, Toms does not publicly report its revenue. However, based upon shoes sold and average price, these estimates are pretty close. The continued partnership with Bain Capital could push sales as far as $300 million in the next several years, based upon current growth rates.
Implications for Smaller Businesses
You may not be a Toms Shoes, but there are lessons from this case study on the importance of offline marketing and advertising. Smaller companies have plenty of options too:
- Attending trade shows is always a benefit – set up a booth and give out swag.
- Buy smaller billboard ad space
- Take out ads in local newspapers, flyers and mailers
- Develop a 30-second elevator presentation and make certain to always have plenty of business cards available
- Engage in some guerilla marketing techniques
- Get a cause and use your support of that cause to spread your brand at events and activities.
The point is this: As much as online marketing has taken over cyberspace, it is still tough to strike a great chord among all of the noise out there and get promising leads. And certainly no one is suggesting that any of the online marketing strategies that clearly work should be reduced in any way. However, it is always a good idea to think of ways to engage in offline marketing too, as Toms Shoes found out.
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