Use Offline Methods to Drive Website Traffic

Publishers that are product-driven sometimes forget that they, themselves, are retailers; publishers do sell subscriptions, memberships, books, ancillary products, events, etc.

It’s smart for a product-driven publisher to think like a retailer: Get people into your store, where they can become your customers. And when they become your customers, get them to come back for more. The “store,” of course, is your website, your hub.

To drive website traffic via retail distribution:

  • Find a third-party retail message channel and ride along on that medium with a product containing a great offer.
  • Include a response mechanism on the product itself or in the packaging that entices readers, users, viewers, listeners, or buyers to visit your website and register for additional useful information or a free download.
  • Install appropriate conversion architecture on your website to capture the registration data and also offer a free email newsletter or other regular contact device that allows you to begin a relationship with each new site visitor.

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To build a successful retail distribution channel, however, you’ll want to team up with a retail marketing partner that will allow you to place your product in its store either for free or for a fee. The retail marketing partner might be a retail store, a wholesaler, an e-commerce site, a mail-order catalog, a trade association — there are a lot of ways to distribute products. For example:

  • Sell consumer and business books, as well as videos and audiotapes, through brick and mortar and/or online bookstores.
  • Offer special reports and white papers through affiliations with business groups and trade associations—at their events and expos and through their online stores.
  • Market business tools such as kits, plans, software, CD-ROMs, and DVDs through brick and mortar and/or online office supply stores, computer stores, and stationers.
  • Sell consumer merchandise—sports items, clothing, games, calendars, pet equipment, etc.—through retail shops or e-commerce sites that market similar or compatible products.
  • Promote events through related but non-competitive websites.

The economics of retail distribution are quite different when the publisher assumes that the primary goal of selling products via the retail channel is to support a marketing strategy and build a robust customer database rather than turning a profit. For publishers—for anyone—that is often a tricky sell! Publishers might, for example, sell the product at a slightly lower price point, to lessen the blow to the bottom line, or push more units onto the market, or compromise product quality—paperback, say, instead of a hardcover book.

Using retail distribution channels for the purpose of driving traffic to your website is not much different from selling a product for profit through a brick and mortar retailer or selling it through a mail-order company or an online retail site. In any case, a physical product ends up in the hands of a user. The important element to recognize, however, is that the physical product also presents a unique opportunity to send an additional message directly to the customer: “Visit our website!”

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