Why You Shouldn’t Dismiss “Old School” Marketing Tactics

A little over a year ago, my husband launched his new law firm. As we were discussing ways to market his business, we decided to invest in advertising on the cover of the local yellow pages.

Crazy move?

Not even close.

In fact, in looking at where Garth’s business came from this past year, the yellow pages is the second most driver of business to his firm (referrals are number one).

So, why did this work?

We paid attention to his audience.

Sure, we could have invested a lot of time and energy into online marketing tactics (and we still will). But, the county Garth works in is fairly rural and it has a lower rate of Internet usage compared to other areas. Since the yellow pages is delivered locally to every household, it made sense to invest in this approach.

Traditional Marketing Still Works

In the today’s business world, we spend a lot of time talking about social media and other digital marketing tactics. However, shouldn’t be the only marketing strategy you consider.

Even though traditional marketing tactics might not be sexy, it is still valuable for businesses — especially when you combine it with online marketing. The trick is to think about your business goals and where your audience is looking for information.

So, what kinds of traditional marketing should you consider? Here are some ideas:

  • Advertising. You don’t have to buy expensive TV ads to get attention. For local businesses, there are plenty of other ways to build awareness through advertising. Billboards, event sponsorships, newspaper and radio, indoor ads (restroom ads!), transportation advertising (bus stops, busses, benches, etc.) and so much more. Depending on your desired audience and budget, this can be a great way to go.
  • Media relations. Even though the media landscape has shifted, getting news coverage still holds value — whether it’s on TV, in the newspaper or now, on a blog. Not only does news/blog coverage help raise awareness for your brand, but it can help position you as a thought leader and a trusted source of information. Positive media coverage is still a great way to build brand credibility.
  • Email. As I’ve discussed recently on the blog, email is not dead. Even though email marketing has been around for a number of years, it’s an incredibly effective way to communicate with clients and engage with prospects. And, not to mention, it’s a cost effective approach for small businesses as many email providers offer freemium models with little-to-no-cost for smaller lists.
  • Tradeshows / Conferences. Participating in targeted tradeshows or can be an excellent way to get your brand in front of your target audience and capture leads for your business. Depending on your goals and budget, you can choose to attend, sponsor, exhibit or speak at the events.
  • Printed materials. I think as our world becomes more and more digital, developing gorgeous printed materials is a great way to stand out. Perhaps I just have a love affair with print, but I think people are craving tactile items — especially if they are beautifully designed. Look around your business and see if there are ways you can amplify your message through brochures, posters, business cards, signs, etc.
  • Direct mail. Although I rarely advocate for a direct mail campaign because it can be quite expensive, well-targeted mailings — especially if they are personalized — can be an impressive way to get attention. After all, who doesn’t like getting REAL mail amidst a mailbox full of junk?

What else?

There are plenty of other non-digital ways to promote your business, but this should give you some ideas of what tactics to consider as you move into your marketing plans for 2013.

What traditional marketing tactics would you add to the list? What traditional marketing tactics have worked best for you?

Image credit: 90s Child

Share This Post

Picture of Laura Click

Laura Click

Laura Click is brand strategist, speaker, podcaster and the founder of Blue Kite. Learn more about Laura and her work at Blue Kite.

13 replies on “Why You Shouldn’t Dismiss “Old School” Marketing Tactics”

I think the difference between old school and stubborn is really the principles behind it. You saw that the Yellow Pages were the best medium to reach your audience. Rather than disregarding it and starting a Facebook page because they are all the rage, you went with the first principle in marketing which is to find your audience and meet them there! Great illustration.

Thanks for stopping by, Joel!

You’re right – I think stubbornness can definitely get in the way of smart marketing. It’s got to be about reaching your audience, not the sexiest or newest tactic on the block!

I think that’s 100% true. And it’s not always about location, but also about approach. Sometimes an “old school” location might work when combined with a “new school” approach (aka. using technology/social media in a new way at a trade show).

As the economy improves, I’ve noticed an uptick in the amount direct mail pieces I receive. In fact, I’d say small businesses are now thinking more about integrated campaigns or branding across the board, from ID to brochures to web, and now content marketing and social.

Oh really? That’s awesome.

The printer I use sent out a targeted Halloween campaign to a select number of people they want to work with. It was really clever (“RIP Deadlines” with a tombstone) and a friend saw it and showed me and I also saw a picture online. Talk about content that spreads!

Someone I know (not me! really!) recently got a speeding ticket, and a week later got letters from four different law firms in that county. He didn’t use any of them (a speeding ticket!), but I had to think, they wouldn’t possibly spend that much on it unless it was effective.

As a former marketing manager in the promotional industry, one can’t disregard the value of a leave-behind. Even though promotional items sometimes are called “Trinkets and Trash”, promotional items do leave a lasting impact. Mugs, t-shirts make an impression, but lovely gift baskets or useful desk items can be the ticket to being there when your customer needs you. I wrote a blog post on it last year. And yes, I still have the little promo mirror that I got from my ex-boyfriend, 21 years ago. If I ever calculated out the cost per impression on that one…


I was going to go in this direction, too.

These sorts of items are big in the insurance industry… the logo-emblazoned calendars, pens, fridge-magnets, etc.

I once used a product in the kitchen called a “gripper”– I loved it! It advertises itself as having 100 uses, and it really does. You can open a tight jar with it, or hold something hot, or use it in your workshop. It’s a thin, round rubber disk. I figured our senior clients might be arthritic and would love to keep this in their kitchen drawers (like I do). So we ordered a few hundred of these with our logo, phone number, and slogan “We love referrals”.

I like to think they sit in kitchens all across America as a “permanent” advertisement for our agency…

Likewise, I think anytime you put your logo on the back of a T-shirt (eg sponsoring a marathon), then those runners and gym-rats (I can say that cause I’m one of them) will continue to “wear” your advertisement all over town until the shirt wears out. I love ideas like this.

YES! You can’t underestimate the power of an excellent printed piece!

I think giveaways CAN be a great thing if done well. But, the reason they are so often called trinkets (I call them tchotchkes) is that most businesses do a poor job of selecting something that A) represents their brand and B) is something that people want to keep. It has to be valuable, useful and memorable. Otherwise, it IS just trash!

The best giveaway I’ve seen recently is from Jay Baer. He has stainless steel business cards with a bottle opener in it! It’s super classy and is something people will never throw away. Yes, it’s more expensive, but really valuable too!

Steve – I actually have one of those grippers in my drawer! Though, I can’t remember what brand is on it even though I use it all of the time.

Great points, Sarah and Steve!

Good post! I do believe too, that traditional marketing shouldn’t be disregarded in a marketing campaign. What’s good to have is to integrate your online marketing strategies with your traditional marketing campaign (QR Codes, coupons used online as thanks for subscribing in their direct mail, etc.) since if it was me, personally I would like a company to contact and build relationships with me in a personal level as well.

John!!! NOt sure how I missed your comment – especially since it’s such a good one. You’re right – the best idea is to integrate online marketing with the offline world. Companies that do that will strike marketing gold. Thanks for the comment! I just apologize for the slow response.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

We thought you might like these