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NMOA Direct Marketing Article
Three Ways to Take the Conversation Offline
By Taylor Aldredge

Social media has lately dominated the conversation for marketing and how to best engage with your audience or customers. However, we forget that there once was life before Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all the other social platforms. Talking to a real human over the phone or in person has become "refreshing" for those seeking to figure out a problem or learn more about a business. Social media is a great tool for communicating and connecting with your audience, but it should be part of a larger strategy or goal and not the end-all-be-all of your marketing plan. The best thing any marketer can do is bring the online conversation offline. Doing this can build buzz for your company in a way that's more valuable than any other paid-advertisement out there. Here are three great examples to get more meaningful conversations going with your customers.

Thank-You Notes
I love receiving a hand-written note. I suspect you do too. It's better than any other form of messaging out there because it conveys time, thought, and effort all at once. The person took the time to write the note, thought enough about you to send it to you, and put some effort into making you feel good when you received it. At Grasshopper, we always send thank-you notes to our customers for referring us to their friends, for engaging with us on social media, or because they're awesome. We once sent a thank-you card to a customer who had written about us on her blog, and we then received this awesome piece of follow-up coverage. The blog post was a great shout-out for us, and she goes on to recommend our service to a handful of customers.

Phone Calls
Call me old-school at 24, but I still like to call people. I enjoy talking and keeping up with people, and I find email doesn't convey everything I'm looking to convey. Like thank-you notes, phone calls convey thought and effort because you're taking the time out of your day to speak to somebody. Take some time every morning or during the day, and call some customers you've been engaging with online. Simply, just listen to them, ask about their stories, and learn about what their goals are going forward. Just listening to them and connecting with them is more than most companies out there are doing, and you'll stand out for doing so. You'll stand out so much they'll probably talk about it later with their friends and online on their social media feeds. Then you have instant, free marketing for your business.

In-Person meetings
Whether it's in your city, or when you're traveling, meet with your customers as your schedule allows. They are your business, and you should put in some face-time with them as much as possible. Like a phone call and a thank-you note, you convey effort, time, and thought when you schedule a quick meeting, lunch, or dinner with a customer. Like a phone call, you have a great opportunity to learn more about their story and what they want to do with their business.

One great example comes from FreshBooks. When they went to Las Vegas to visit Zappos, they saw an opportunity to meet one-on-one with their customers in the area. They met up at their respective offices in Las Vegas then hosted a big dinner for all of their customers as well. Talk about building brand advocates and buzz for your company!

Buzz is more powerful than any advertisement out there because it comes from all of us. It comes from us telling our friends about a great product or awesome movie we just read about. Building that buzz is how you build a successful brand that's authentic to its core. Traditional forms of marketing are not dead; you just have to get creative when you use them. Social media is one great tool in your arsenal, and you can use it to build relationships with your customers. But, push that conversation further and take it offline where it will become even more meaningful in the long-run. Hopefully, it will build some buzz and brand advocates in the process.

About the Author:
My name is Taylor Aldredge, and I'm the Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, a virtual phone system for entrepreneurs and small businesses. I'm always available on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or by email at taldredge@grasshopper.com.

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