While offline advertising is a good way to drive people to your site, it serves another purpose as well: It lets you compete for customers for a relatively small cost-at least when compared to the millions of dollars large, publicly owned Internet sites spend. "Mom-and-pop shops are competing with all these established brands that have name-recognition and awareness," says Washer, "but they can get more bang for their buck with targeted tactics like direct marketing." By the end of 1999, Washer says, dotcoms spent more than $3 billion on offline advertising. And research suggests they'll continue to spend: A recent study by Jupiter Communications predicts Net companies may invest as much as $7.4 billion by the end of this year in offline radio and TV advertising.
The good news: Direct-marketing campaigns can easily be prepared in-house. With help from an in-house designer for the catalog, Daniels put his campaign together himself. If you want to follow Daniels' lead and create a direct-mail campaign, Web sites like ELetter.com can help. The San Jose, California, company prints, folds, stuffs, addresses and mails postcards or letters for customers using customers' very own computer-designed mailings, thus eliminating the days, sometimes weeks, it can take to complete the process.
Of course, you can launch an off-line direct-mail campaign with the help of a small direct-marketing agency or marketing consultant for a relatively low price. To locate an agency, check out the Web sites of the Direct Marketing Association or the American Marketing Association. Or try local Internet or technology organizations, such as the New York New Media Association or the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Some of the groups sponsor direct-marketing and other inexpensive workshops. Assuming you glean enough information from them, you should be able to launch your own campaign in no time.
Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at email@example.com.