When it comes to making purchasing decisions, personal recommendations from a trusted source are one of the most influential factors. This is especially true with millennials, of whom 92% ask friends and family for their opinions on products and services. Word of mouth still drives 13% of all consumer sales, and offline conversations have twice the impact of their online counterparts, according to an Engagement Labs survey, so this is still the kind of offline marketing you need to be focusing on.

While online presence and social media have increasing parts to play in the marketing efforts of small businesses, the art of offline cannot be forgotten and neglected just yet.

The challenge for these companies is how to got people out there talking about them. With this aim in mind, we’ve pulled together some of the best offline marketing tactics for small businesses.

Sponsor or host a local event

If your business relies on local customers, this is one of the most effective ways to get yourself noticed. You don’t need to go over the top with your presence, but if possible, give your target market a chance to learn about, or even try, your products or services. Of purchase decisions driven by sampling or promotions at an event, 78% were attributed to having a “try before you buy” opportunity.

If you'd like some more guidance on providing free products, here's some advice about giving away freebies.

At the very least, talk to them, find out what problems you can solve for them, and give them a business card or leaflet so they don’t forget your name and can keep your contact details on file. B2B companies can find particular success in making personal connections within a company that can be leveraged for a way in before a formal pitch.

If you’re hosting your own event, this is a great chance to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your area. Whether you’re a bar ( and can offer a cocktail mixing class) or a security firm (and can present on a best practice review of security measures), there’s bound to be a way you can offer something of value to potential customers while also showing them that you know what you’re doing.

Seek publicity from traditional media

The rise of real-time news on the internet means that newspapers, radio, and TV are on the lookout for different angles. Insightful, personal, or local stories can provide a great angle to pitch to these outlets, giving them material and you the exposure.

Whether it’s the story of a local businessperson making something for themselves, or a community you’ve served, be sure to demonstrate your business’s value and make it easy to find you from the piece, so you can reap the rewards of the coverage.

For more help with this, check out parts one and parts two of our guide to PR for small businesses.

Send direct mail or "snail mail"!

Many marketers will tell you that email is unrivaled when it comes to generating sales or leads. It offers a return on investment that is hard to match for many businesses, but it’s not without its weaknesses either.

Unlike the hordes of unread emails clogging up inboxes across the world, direct mail still gets opened. An impressive 77% of people open mail straight after receiving it, and even in these modern times nearly two thirds of consumers say they have made a purchase because of a direct mail piece.

Direct mail gives a sense of personalisation and professionalism that isn’t always easy to replicate, and as such, can be extremely effective in certain sectors. Having a physical reminder of your business can be useful within specific niches, with people inclined to hold onto direct mail for when they need it, pinning it to a noticeboard or placing it somewhere else they can see it regularly. While this is rarely truer than with takeaway menus, it can work for a host of other products and services, especially if you're a local business with a special offer.

A piece of direct mail carries higher costs than an email, which can be close to nothing when done at scale, but the open, response, and retention rates can easily make up for that. If you are going to send out mail, be sure to make it, and your offer, eye-catching.

With these methods at your disposal, you can broaden your brand’s exposure, get customers talking, and ultimately drive more sales.

If you'd like some more advice about marketing, here are some tips for keeping your customers loyal.

About the author

Jake Waller is a wordsmith who plies his trade here at Findmyshift. He uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. When not writing for Findmyshift he blogs under a pseudonym at My Name is Skylance and has a passion for creative writing and editing, about which he's always talking on Twitter.