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3 “Old School” Marketing Tactics that Still Matter (+ Tips for Bringing Them Up-to-Date)

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3 “Old School” Marketing Tactics that Still Matter (+ Tips for Bringing Them Up-to-Date)

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: May 3, 2012 Updated: September 16, 2016

Social media, e-mail marketing, and search engine optimization are all important aspects of any businesses’ online marketing strategy. But what about more traditional marketing activities such as direct mail, trade shows, advertising and events?

It may surprise you that many “old school” tactics still have an important role to play in any small business marketing plan and can have a big impact on perception and purchasing decisions. Here’s why they matter and what you can do to dust them off and bring them up to date.

Direct Mail

There’s no doubt email marketing represents a great way for small business to stay in touch with prospects and customers. But email also has its downside – building an organic in-house list takes time and only about 19 percent of targeted customers open them, even on opt-in house lists, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).

Although response rates have held steady for four years, direct mail isn’t a guaranteed slam-dunk either. A direct mail campaign can be expensive and hard to measure, but for small businesses trying to reach a local market, flyers, postcards, letters, and even print newsletters it can be effective.

Who’s using direct mail and what for? According to the CMO Council, 35 percent of marketers are using direct mail to encourage sales, while 29 percent use it to drive traffic online. Surprisingly, only 14 percent use direct mail to promote offers or other content.

Which sectors fare best? According to the DMA, the business-to-business (B2B) space tends to fare better than the consumer market when it comes to response rates. For example, in the financial services industry, nearly 60 percent of direct mail campaigns are aimed at producing a direct sale!

How can you plan a successful direct mail campaign? Here are some tips: 

  • Segment your lists and send targeted messages – This could be as simple as breaking a list down between existing customers and prospects, or segmenting based on demographics, interests or location.
  • Use direct mail strategically and infrequently – Fewer, better quality mailings will earn you more bang for your buck.
  • Consider sending three dimensional mailers – A branded, low-cost giveaway (post-it notes, pens, fridge magnets) stuffed in an envelop with your mailer is a great way to invite curiosity and keep your business top of mind.
  • Content is king - Use compelling content; content that matters to that individual or appeals to their emotions tends to inform and promote action.
  • Integrate your direct mail with other marketing – Plan an approach that includes direct mail, plus follow-up emails, social media activity, promotions, perhaps an event, or a series of blogs.  

Trade Shows

If you are in the B2B space, trade shows are hard to ignore. In fact, according to Marketing Profs, trade shows represent 20 percent of a B2B company’s marketing budget. Why? Trade shows are a big investment for exhibitors and attendees alike, which means the folks who are there are serious about buying and selling! According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 72 percent of trade show attendees say these events influence their buying decisions.

Experiential Marketing

What is experiential marketing? Webinars, case studies, videos, events, and perhaps even your social media engagement strategy all constitute experiential marketing.

These tactics narrate a first-hand experience with your brand and have a huge impact on brand choice and purchasing decisions. They also have an important role to play in your content marketing strategy. A 2012 MarketingProfs content marketing survey found that case studies, in-person events, and webinars are some of the most effective content marketing tactics after articles, blogging and newsletters. Check out these guest blogs for ideas:

Other Tactics

Training and advertising are other traditional tactics that still have a valid place in your small business marketing toolkit. If you rely on third party channels to sell your products, your go-to market strategy wouldn’t be complete without a comprehensive channel training program. Another viable tactic is good old advertising. With planning and persistence, print, online, and mobile advertising are great long-term brand builders.

What ”old school” marketing tactics do you use? Have you overhauled them to deal with modern market realities?



About the Author:

Caron Beesley


Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


Informative Content with flash within your EDDM is essential; or it almost always ends up in the recycling. A short "how to save money" slogan on top is quite effective.
I would definitely agree with this article. A good marketing plan includes a variety of tactics that reach people at different venues. In today's market, I believe it is not only important to utilize the different medias, but to also drive a consistent message through each.
Great article. I believe that while most companies do spend 20% of their marketing budget on tradeshows, I believe in this modern age (and the fact most of the world is in recession) that tradeshows will begin to decline in number. The reason for this is there is often a lot of luck involved for a large investment. If you are next to the most interesting stand at an exhibition, you will have a higher footfall passing your stand, than if you were next to a number of boring unimaginative stands. These two outcomes can be different for the same investment, based entirely on external factors
For small businesses that customers use their products or services regularly, using the Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) from the U.S.P.S. is the way to go. You can get your offer seen by virtually every household in a specific area. It works best for restaurants, bakeries, pizza places, car washes and liquor stores to name a few. In some places, you can find a local marketing co-op which will makes them even cheaper.
Wonderful post ! Thanks
When I just started to get involved in online business, I focus too much on search engine marketing. You are right! I think the conventional advertising method still works very well nowadays.
With new technology emerging all the time and our society's focus on the latest and greatest ideas and tactics, you often forget about some of the traditional ways of marketing that could be effective for your marketing mix. Reminders like these are good.
Subscribing to local niche based mailing lists will also help. Generally, each community has a mailing list of its own which can be tapped into.
I'm hoping at some point that we'll stop looking at it as "old school" and "new media" and focus on what works for "my business." In other words, think strategy first -- what is my product/service, who are my customers, what's my positioning, etc., then choose the promotional mix that's right for "my business" -- the best combo of PR, advertising, trade shows, etc.
I think copy writing is an important aspect of direct mail initiatives that most small businesses under-estimate.

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