These Old School Marketing Techniques Still Convert Customers for Local Businesses


Social media.

Sponsored content.

Lead funnels.

These are among the many buzz words of modern marketing in the Internet age. As more and more advertising agencies specialize in these tactics, and as more businesses invest heavily in them, the world of online marketing has turned into a wolves’ den of competition.

Saturation has made these methods less effective for new and growing businesses, and in particular, local businesses. As counterintuitive as it may seem, it often makes more sense to look to the past for ideas on how to grow a customer base for the future.

The following are five old school marketing strategies that not only still work, but may be a better investment for local businesses seeking to make a name for themselves in their local communities.

#1 TV and Radio Ads

With search engines at the core of how consumers interact with businesses today, it’s easy to surmise that traditional media, such as TV and radio, are no longer relevant. This could not be farther from the truth. Major corporations still spend millions upon millions of dollars on traditional advertising precisely because it still works, and it works well.

For small businesses serving a defined area, local stations are a great place to create and air commercials in specific markets. These are particularly popular among local political candidates during election season because local TV and radio ads can reach specific target audiences.

#2 Vanity Phone Numbers

You picked a unique business name. You reserved a unique URL. Yet when you reserved a new phone number through the local phone company, you probably took whatever they gave you. This does not have to be the case.

Custom or vanity phone numbers are a proven marketing technique that is especially effective with traditional marketing strategies.

Added to a TV or radio ad, they can increase marketing response rates by an average of 40 percent. That’s a lot more phone calls—and many more opportunities to make a sale.

#3 Direct Mail

Postcards and catalogs may have lived out their prime, but they are certainly not a dead medium. In 2016, over 100-million people made at least one catalog purchase in the U.S.

This is a staggering number that indicates direct mail is still an effective means of reaching a broader audience.

This is especially effective for local marketing campaigns where businesses want to promote themselves to the neighborhoods in their community.

There exist numerous outlets to set up direct mail campaigns, including local options. Campaigns target specific zip codes to reach the people in your market, and some services can target demographics outside of your local area.

#4 Billboards

There have been many changes on US roads over the decades, but one constant would be the billboards that line our highways and rise above our city streets.

It’s a cliché to say that size matters, yet that’s what billboards bring to the table in this distracted digital-first world of small screens and intrusive ads. Not to mention that the millions of people commuting to work can’t use those small devices while driving, so they have a higher chance of seeing your billboard.

Only the slightest glance is required for a well-designed billboard ad to grab the attention and communicate your marketing message in a visually striking way that few other channels can create.

Add to this the fact that the humble billboard can now detect and interact with individual consumers and you have a medium that, aptly enough, demands another look from your marketing team.

#5 Local Networking Events

Local networking events have been a staple of the business world since the dawn of small businesses.

Pressing palms with other local business owners not only improves a company’s visibility, it also opens the door to partnerships, cross-promotions, and wider exposure in the local community that would otherwise be unavailable through Internet marketing alone.

Joining local trade and business groups is a great way to grow a business’ professional network, develop a professional reputation, and participate in local events.

Bonus Item: E-mail Marketing

While it might be a stretch to call e-mail marketing old school per se, there’s no denying that it is now the elder statesman of digital outreach. Nonetheless, reaching out to customers via the relative privacy of their inbox remains one of the most effective online marketing strategies.

There’s something about reading an e-mail that makes it more of a one-to-one direct communication, compared to the crowded, distracting dynamic of search results and social networks.

According to Campaign Monitor, every $1 spend on e-mail marketing in the US returned $44 in 2016, up 16 percent on the previous year and is expected to rise again in 2018.

That’s an ROI metric that should make any business owner sit up and pay attention, even if the strategy itself has been around since the days of dial-up connections and free AOL discs. See? Old school.

If cutting-edge technology and the latest shiny promotional platforms are leaving you cold, it might be time to warm up with some tried-and-trusted channels. Reinvent these old school marketing strategies for the digital age and any local business will be in a position to benefit from the best of both worlds.

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