Marketing Like the Good Ol’ Days

Companies and organizations have long been encouraged to use a “mix” of media to advertise their business, products, and services. The same is true today, but as much as electronic marketing is supposed to help, things sure are getting complicated…

In the 1990s a good “media mix” for a businesses always included television, radio, and newspapers. Alternatives included Outdoor Billboards, the Yellow Pages, and Direct Mail.

In the 2000s, as newspapers began to lose readership, cable television became a threat to traditional TV. It was more targeted and often more cost-effective to reach a target demographic.

When's the last time you received a real, honest-to-goodness letter in the mail?
When’s the last time you received a real, honest-to-goodness letter in the mail?

With the growth of the internet and convenience of email accounts, Email Marketing became a great opportunity for businesses, especially those that that collected customers’ email addresses.

It also meant that companies could cut back, way back, on sending direct mail to existing customers. After all, why pay for printing and postage when you can send a virtually free email message?

But email got cluttered with spam. And even though services like Gmail are amazing at blocking spam, they’re also working hard to categorize valid promotional messages. They’re categorizing them so well that many customers are now not seeing them at all.

Since 2010, we’ve seen massive growth in the Social Media space, as more customers spend less time with traditional television and radio, and more time on their computers, phones, and tablets. The time they tend to spend on these smaller screens is with social media, email, amateur videos, and texting.

By “liking” or “following” a business’ social media page, customers can gather commercial messages from brands they like, and ignore many of the rest. However, we’ve all become so good at ignoring display ads and “suggested posts.”

Perhaps the most important aspect of social media, is the social sharing part… when “Customer A” lovingly shares to “Prospect 1” and “Prospect 2” about a great product or service she enjoyed at “Business A” and how the experience was so much better than at “Business B.” Today, these emotional comments can make and break businesses.

In 2013-2015, customers and prospects are busy, multi-tasking, interacting, and using a VERY wide variety of media, 24/7. Our “standard media” includes layers like:

  1. Small Screens: Mobile & Tablet > Facebook > Twitter > Texting > Instagram > Vine > Google+ > Pinterest > Email > Phone Calls > etc.
  2. Large Screens: Living Room TV > Cable TV > Streaming (Netflix & Hulu) > YouTube > DVR > etc.
  3. Mid-Sized Screens: Desktop & Laptop Computers > Email > Web Surfing > Actual Work Getting Done
  4. Print: Newspapers & Magazines > Direct Mail

As consumers, how on earth do we keep it all under control and pay attention to ANY of it? As marketers, how do we break through this consistently thickening layer of media goo? How do we get that one-on-one interaction that we so desire?

I’m convinced that the electronic traffic jam is going to lead us back to simpler times, with quality, personalized, targeted direct mail… printed… and sent to mailboxes.

When you stop and think about it, try to list out the current, reasonable ways to reach a person directly:

  • Send an email
  • Send a text message
  • Call them on the phone
  • Send a private message on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Go to their house and knock on their door
  • Send a card or letter in the mail

There are pros, cons, and limitations to each of these methods. But basically…

  • Text Messages: Do you like to get promotional text messages? I don’t either. It feels intrusive. And it can cost the recipient money. You’ll upset the customer.
  • Call them on the Phone: This has worked well for many years, but thanks to Caller ID and Do-Not-Call Lists, you’re stuck leaving a message that has a high chance of just getting deleted if heard at all.
  • Social Media Private Message: One word…. stalking.
  • Knock on their door! Costly, time consuming, and creepy.
  • Email: Still not a bad option, but marketers report that open rates are shrinking, and you’re doing very well to get a 10-25% open rate. Actual clicks are much less.
  • Direct Mail: Sure, people hate junk mail. BUT, we’re getting less of it these days, and we never get a card from Grandma anymore. So, if we can design and print a personalized & interesting piece that actually has value, then it will be appreciated!

While some traditional high-cost marketing might still be in order, consider the following action items:

  1. Make sure your website is fresh, looks contemporary, and is kept up with new content every few days. Add quality articles to your website’s blog frequently.
  2. Participate in the major social media that makes sense for your company. Maybe you need LinkedIn and YouTube, but not Vine or Pinterest. Add interesting links that go back to your website blog posts and articles. On social media, try not to be too salesy or pushy.
  3. Collect your customers’ and prospects’ email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and snail-mail addresses wherever and whenever possible.
  4. Send monthly email campaigns to relevant groups within your database. Make sure your email content is 1) brief, 2) valuable, 3) attractive, and 4) sources from your website and social media pages. All links must go back to your website.
  5. Use printed direct mail at least once per quarter to stay in touch with your actual, money-spending customers. They will enjoy hearing from you, especially if what you’re sending is valuable and interesting. You are maintaining top-of-mind-awareness with them.
  6. Call your very best customers on the phone, and see them in person when you can, just to say hello and maintain the great, personal relationship you’ve worked so hard to develop.
  7. Always THANK your customers for their business. ASK for their honest feedback. And let them know you APPRECIATE any referrals.

Long ago, people wrote letters, made phone calls, and talked with each other in person. Maybe it’s time to get back to some of that, and leave the tweeting to duck-faced selfies.