You'll hear it a million times: scale. Can you build an epic audience? Does your platform have reach? Only do things that are replicable and *scalable.* And in that constant push, that repeated tech-startup infused, online platform- anchored sentiment, a massively important strategy for your brand gets overlooked: offline engagement. Real world activation. Human-to-human love. Game changer.
I spent the most crucial time of my career to date immersed in creating and growing the offline communities at Levo - a network of 30 cities averaging 7 professional development events a week globally. As an organization, we saw the way this brand came to life in rooms of a hundred or in circles of 5. We were able to be an ingredient and a catalyst in the professional success of these connections. And I got to be the woman leading the offline charge.
As my life and career transitioned away from being the chief guerrilla love fare officer at Levo and into building my own digital brand of inspiration at Maxie, I thought long and hard about why and how the same offline love I'd created at Levo should be integrated into my personal brand strategy. Here's why:
Never underestimate the power of a mighty few
Call them brand ambassadors. Call them groupies. Call them fierce supporters. Whatever you call them, they matter. And when you engage with them past the tweets and emails, you create a tether of energy that will carry your message and brand far and wide.
This can look different for any company.
At Levo it was a formalized (and kick ass) Local Leader program. For me, it's getting myself on the road and speaking as much as possible– so I can do what I do best with live audiences. For fashion lines, think creative pop up shops. And for bloggers, take a page out of my girl The College Prepster’s book who always amazes me with the time she spends with loyal fans in any city she goes - hello group coffee dates!
It's a virtuous cycle
Feel free to laugh at this sketch (TK), which was originally created on a train from the Silicon Valley to San Francisco sitting alongside a genius mentor and personal sage, Gina Bianchini of Mightybell. She was the first to demonstrate to me how what we do offline feeds into our online platforms and vice versa. When you're able to connect the two and allow them to continuously support each other, the entire brand gets bigger and bigger.
What does that look like for you?
Making sure that your engagement offline has a way of funneling back to your site. And creating a unique digital experience for them there. My oh so bunk, solopreneur way of doing this is emails from all of my speaking events and handouts of beautifully designed collateral with special codes and unique links (and love-infused follow up emails). With a more robust tech team you can look into NFC technology, and other cool ways of tracking humans engaging with your brand.
Whatever “how” you come up with the goal is simple: nurture the connections you made in person with love, humanness, and support online.
Immediate, examinable feedback
Want to know what is resonating and what is not? Interested in knowing which of your stories affect people and which fall flat? Which products people can't keep their hands off and why? Get in a room. Ask the question. Watch their faces. Take note of their energy.
Yes, Facebook analytics, GA, counted pins and open rates are killer data to drive your business. Data, however, means shit unless paired alongside anecdotal feedback. Figure out what resonated what doesn't by getting real humans in the room and engaging with them around your business.
For me this happens in the conversations during the mentor sessions I host at Create + Cultivate (who's joining mine in Dallas??) I get to see what people are asking. What advice they write down. What their blocks are. It’s fodder, insight, and material for months of business planning.
But for you it can be as simple as having five of your most recent customers joining a google hangout with you. It could be taking your spring purse line to the table at a beach and see who stops and why. Or hosting a thank you for following me party in your backyard. It doesn't always have to be a crazy strategic business busting soirée. It can be casual. It can be accessible. It just requires your presence and obsessive curiosity into the human nature behind your market.
Cold. Hard. Cash. Bigger brands have a hard time accessing audiences - especially of young professional women like many of us cater to. If you can prove that your audience is large enough, and you're tapped into them so much so that they will show up. To a dinner party. To a store opening. To a workshop. You've hit a gold mine.
There are so many businesses out there who would kill to be involved in your offline strategy. Big and small. Engage them and discover for yourself an entire revenue stream that can open for you through offline activation and events (ahem, no one does this better than C+C queen goddess herself, Jaclyn).
Whatever you're doing, big or small, fashion or law, don't keep your business only in the digital sphere. Get out there. Talk to your readers and your customers. The best marketing strategy is simply an obsessive focus on being human.