chapter 10

Offline Marketing | Creating Brand Experiences in the Real World

While being a freelancer may seem like the most genius idea you have had in years, it’s also extremely competitive. Although this book focuses on ecommerce, one of the ways you can set yourself apart is by offering to help your clients in the physical world, with their offline marketing strategy.

Very little can replace the power of human interaction such as touching and feeling a product and delivering an experience. Delivering the right offline experience can allow your client to set themselves apart from the competition.

Not all offline activations will make sense for your client. You first want to remember that their brand is their identity. Every touchpoint should clearly communicate their unique value proposition—what makes them special; different; a must-have. Before deciding the right strategy, start with a few questions for your client:

  • What does your brand (or company) stand for? What is the brand message?
  • Describe your customer. Who are they? Who do they want to be? What are the barriers between these two states that I can
  • help remove? 
  • Are there required elements that need to be worked in for your brand? Does your brand have established logos or service marks that need to be represented? 
  • What is the environment that best suits your brand message? Ultramodern? Traditional? Rustic? 
  • What action would you like every visitor to take? Share on social networks? Make a purchase? Join a mailing list?

Depending on their target market, you will need to develop marketing efforts accordingly. Being everywhere is time consuming, so identifying the best channels early on will be much more rewarding. Is their target B2B, B2C, or both? Below are four effective offline marketing channels, and the criteria, benefits, and strategy to keep in mind for each:

1. Trunk shows

A trunk show is an event in which designers or vendors present merchandise directly to customers at a physical space such as a standing retail location, a home, or a hotel room. In some cases, it’s an exclusive event where an invite-only list can get preview access to a new line, or it may be a sample sale event discounting prototypes and imperfect cuts.

The right time: If your client has one collection or a limited offering and a small budget.

Benefit: A trunk show is a great solution if your client is looking to gain feedback from a controlled group. This is a very low-cost way to test the market.

Approach: Regardless of the activation, proper alignment is always critical. Determine if this is exclusive or open to the public. Have a marketing communications strategy, and use it as an opportunity for your client to engage one-on-one with customers.

2. Pop-in shop

While pop-in shop is a new(er) term, the concept has been used for some time. Probably one of the most documented retailers using pop-in shops is Nordstrom. Think store-within-a-store, or, at the highest level, renting retail space inside of an established retail store or boutique.

The right time: A pop-in shop is a great way for your client to dip their toes into the brick-and-mortar retail world, with a minimal capital investment. If taking on an entire store alone seems insurmountable or if your client has yet to build a mailing list and social following, a pop-in makes sense.

Benefits: Leverage the existing foot traffic, awareness, and marketing muscle of the current retailer.

Approach: While it’s not a full-on pop-up shop, a pop-in does call for a more branded experience than a trunk show. Do your research to be sure you are helping your client target locations that are on-brand, have similar target customers, and yet don’t compete for wallet share. Invest time to curate the offering and add in little touches to your display that tell the brand’s story.

3. Trade shows

A trade show is an industry-specific B2B exhibit or marketplace. For retail and apparel, some of the large shows include Magic, ENK, and MRket.

The right time: Although presenting at a trade show can seem exciting, they often involve a considerable investment including booth or space rental, design, build-out of displays, marketing collateral, and potential additional fees including electric, WiFi, and premier placement on the floor and in catalogues. Given the larger investment, your client should pursue this route only when they have a comprehensive collection to present and are ready to operate in the wholesale buying and logistics market.

Benefit: A trade show is an opportunity for your client to showcase their brand to new distribution channels. Most trade shows have a specific market or niche they focus on, which could put them in front of a very targeted audience. 

Approach: Do your research and ensure you are guiding your client to present at the right show(s). Trade shows can create a lasting impression and new relationships if done well, but they are also costly, so ensuring you are being selective about where to present is imperative. Once the wheels are in motion, be sure to invest time to design a space with a clear point of view that draws attention. You should also consider a few promotional items (ones that are on-brand but may enhance their long day at the show) and perhaps a contest opportunity with giveaways in exchange for interaction. Sales collateral and email capture are also important.

4. Pop-up shop

A pop-up shop is a short-term retail location, ideally in a street-level storefront, where a brand or retailer can present their offering for an isolated period of time. A pop-up shop allows you to achieve multiple goals in a temporary setting. This is a relatively low-cost alternative to investing large sums of capital in order to sign multi-year leases and make other long-term commitments.

The right time: When your client has a clear goal, understands their target customer, and has a budget to cover rent, insurance, fixtures and build-out, staffing, and marketing.

Benefit: The benefits of a pop-up can vary with your client’s actual goals. While sales are often one of the inherent benefits, others include brand awareness, testing new markets and/or demographics, collecting data, education, and beyond.

Approach: Here are some questions to ask when identifying the goals of your client’s pop-up:

  • Are you launching a new brand or category within an existing brand? 
  • Are you growing brand awareness for a specific product line?
  • Are you testing a new market? 
  • Are you experimenting with what works and what doesn’t? 
  • Are you educating customers? 
  • How will you immerse them in the lifestyle experience of your brand? 
  • Are you testing the launch of a new partnership or collaboration? 
  • Are you flushing out inventory with a sample sale? 
  • Are you leveraging a highly seasonal business?

The answers to these questions will inform you and your client as to what your strategy should be for your pop-up shop. They’ll allow you to hone in on the overall purpose and what customers’ expectations might be. By having clearly defined goals and expectations, you’ll be able to focus on helping your client build out a true experience for your customers.

Understand how to assess a project

In the beginning, this will be a moving target, but the most important thing is to access each project and client along the way and continue to learn and adapt as needed. A check list to consider:

  • What will the project entail? Try to be as detailed as possible from the start. For example, when signing a new pop-up client, it’s important for us to understand if they have a location or if we need to find one (as this tends to be one of the most time-consuming elements of the entire process). 
  • At what point in a client’s process are you starting? Are they new? Do they have useable assets or is everything starting from scratch? Do they have past experiences you can learn from? 
  • How many people from your team will be needed to successfully complete the project, and how many hours will each person need to commit?

Be sure to keep client logs with hours worked, and be as detailed as possible about how time was spent on each project. Survey each client and ask for feedback so you can continue to grow and evolve.

Create cushion for negotiation in your proposal

Everyone likes to feel like they are getting a deal. While you want to begin at a professional point, always leave cushion for negotiation, especially if you really want to close the deal with a new client.
Be conscious of the pros and cons of signing, know your room of negotiation ahead of the conversation, and if you are going to agree to a lower fee then how can you compensate for that in an intangible way? Can you add their logo to your website? Will they give a client testimonial?

Know your worth

Businesses that use freelancers are essentially paying for the convenience of having a plug-and-play expert, whom they don’t have to train, pay for benefits, etc. They are likely saving money by having your services versus bringing in a team in-house to fulfill the task at hand. Some questions to ask to determine your rates:

  • How competitive is your field? 
  • What are your competitors charging? 
  • How much experience do you have in your area of expertise? 
  • Are there additional benefits to working with this client (as described earlier)? 
  • Do a “temperature check” on the client. Are they organized? Will they be super high maintenance?

I believe that it’s always better to charge on a project-by-project basis instead of an hourly rate, as it’s often hard to determine the number of hours and most pre-estimates tend to be wrong.

Use client logs of past projects as a point of reference and a constant learning opportunity to better charge going forward.

As you continue to grow, learn, and evolve, remember to utilize your body of work to continue to grow your brand and eventually land the “bigger fish.” Ultimately, it’s crucial that you maintain a clear perspective on your worth. While landing every project may seem enticing, being locked in with the wrong clients can have opportunity cost in hindering your growth strategy. Instead, use the time to write thought-leadership pieces or attend classes to sharpen your skills.

Remember: success is a journey, not a race! I hope this helps you to fuel the journey.


About the author

Melissa Gonzalez is the founder of the Lionesque Group, specializing in brand activation and pop-up retail experiences.

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11. Working with Shopify | How to Become Part of the Shopify Partner Ecosystem

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