Digital MarketingEmail MarketingUsing E-Mail to Drive Traffic Offline

Using E-Mail to Drive Traffic Offline

How to drive consumers to an offline event or promotion.

Increasingly, clients are coming to me with requests for email campaigns to drive traffic offline rather than on-. Though driving email recipients online is more traditional, offline calls to action can work in email if you think them through. Today, we’ll look at when an offline call to action may be appropriate and discuss what to consider as you develop your email campaign.

Successful Offline Calls to Action

  • Promotion of an offline competitive customer-participation event, where no advance registration was required. The event took place at a few hundred retail stores around the country on a set day and time.
  • Announcement of an exclusive collectible product. The item was only available in the retailer’s stores, not on its Web site.
  • Invitations to business-to-business (B2B) events, with no advance registration required. Regional offline events took place at a given date and time.

As with all email campaigns, I start by determining what information the reader will need to make a decision. This includes the key need-to-know data (where, when, etc.) as well as any objections (How do I get there? Will I be able to park? etc.). Below is a short list of key things I typically include.

Need-to-Know Information

The need-to-know information is really an invitation. I like to include it in the email’s prime real estate: the area above the fold, which most define as the top four inches. What recipients need to know:

  • What. Clearly let recipients know what the event or offer is. If you have a Web page with more details, you can link to it here — or not. I often don’t, preferring to keep them focused and minimize links. People tend to click on the first link they see, and at this point I don’t want to distract them from the rest of the key message.
  • When. If it’s an event, date and time (start and end) are key; for a promotion, a start and an end date are key. Don’t send people to the store too early — or too late — to get what they’re looking for.For a promotion that lasts a week or longer, I recommend sending the email at the beginning or during the first half of the promotion period. Although mailing in advance may seem logical, people tend to read and respond to email in a timely manner. Too much advance notice, and they may forget about it.

    For an event, you want to give more advance notice (a week or more, depending on the event), then do a reminder email about 24 hours prior.

  • Where. Include the name of the store or building and either an address for a single location or a link to find a nearby store if it’s at multiple locations.I’ve talked a lot about multiple locations with clients. Some feel if it’s a recognized retailer or location, people will know where it is or easily be able to find out. You want the email to be a complete package. The reader shouldn’t need to go anywhere else to take advantage of the offer. So I always include this. If no one clicks on it, we remove it next time. It’s a small cost for a potentially huge benefit to a reader who needs it.

    The location link will be the only one in this area by design. If people are sold, the next logical step is to find out where they can take advantage of it.

  • How much. This is mostly for events. If it’s free, say so. If there’s a charge, let people know up front. For events that don’t require advance registration (which is what we’re talking about here), the fee is typically nominal, so it won’t scare anyone away. This differs from an email for a large conference requiring pre-registration, where you might want to sell people on the value before disclosing the price.
  • Who. Is it an event for B2B marketing professionals? Publishing industry executives? Serious collectors? “Who” will help people immediately know if this event or promotion is for them.

Often we’ll take the invitation analogy one step further and include this information in a block format, just like on a regular invitation, including the “what,” “when,” “where,” and “who” prefixes. Yes, it’s basic, straightforward, and not too glamorous. It’s also a clean presentation, very easy to read, and effective.

Overcoming Obstacles

The next thing I strive to do is overcome obstacles. Things like:

  • Additional detail on the product, event, or speakers. You can include a little bit in the email, with a link to a Web page to learn more. Don’t overlook using videos and online demos, as well as more written information. These resources are for people who weren’t initially sold. Be sure to reiterate the details of the event or promotion on any pages or online areas you send them to.
  • Travel information. Directions, parking, public transportation, and so on can alleviate concerns and encourage more people to attend. A brief note about each with a link to online resources can go a long way toward allaying readers’ concerns.


It’s critical to track the conversion — the number of people who attended the event or took part in the promotion because of this email. Coupons can be a great way to do this (and give an added incentive). Some people are weary of email coupons because they are easily shared. That said, the more viral marketing you get out of it, the more potential sales. Sharing is good.

You can also ask people as they attend an event how they heard about it. Or use some kind of mail-in offer where they need the email and a proof of purchase.

I’m looking forward to doing many more offline calls to action in the coming year. If you do one, be sure to let me know how it goes.

Until next time,


Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Strategies is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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