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Retro Marketing Tactics That Work Better Than Ever

Date published: May 14, 2015
Last updated: May 14, 2015

They say we must learn from our past in order to succeed and grow. If your latest promotional efforts have you wondering if you need a little history lesson, look no further. The retro marketing tactics discussed below may seem old, but marketers are rediscovering their value in an increasingly connected world. Check out the methods below to see what old-school techniques might just give your promotional campaign the edge it needs.

Seemingly Antiquated Marketing Tactics Making a Comeback

It had been thought that these approaches to marketing had outlived their usefulness; but, just like Prince, they came back.

  • Sign spinning. Paying people to wear costumes, dance around on street corners, perform tricks, and do similar things to get motorists’ attention. Since this practice fell out of use for a time, it can be sufficiently unique to draw people’s eye, depending on the area.
  • Having a tidy stack on a corner or in a stand by the door gives people a convenient way to take your information with them, instead of having to find a Wi-Fi network if they want to know your hours or services.
  • Direct mail. Targeting specific mailing addresses through carriers like UPS, who help marketers find their demographic, can also be effective. It allows you to send your promotions straight to the customers who are already in your market, letting them know that you want to bring solutions directly to them. This approach often feels more personal than email, which is why direct mail sees such success in attracting new patrons. Including coupons in this strategy only increases its effectiveness!
  • Branded gifts. Tap into people’s eternal love of free goods with branded gifts. When you provide them with high-quality promotional items that they will use frequently, they’re more likely to remember you when they have a need you can meet.
  • Business cards. Condensing your most essential information into a convenient package that presents your brand as creatively as you like is a tried and true practice that may never truly go out of style. Physical cards can be held, archived and later retrieved – which makes connecting seem like a more personal and memorable process.

These techniques have been pushed to the back burner and come back reinvigorated because they were adaptable. They don’t resist technological improvements; they work with them. Print gets the word out about your web presence through a tangible medium; gifts create a positive connection with your brand that often spurs tweets or Instagram posts in gratitude, and the list goes on.

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Why the Comebacks Are Working

Marketing strategies are like micro-evolution. The ones that draw the most people will survive the longest, spawning new versions of themselves, while the ones that consumers find annoying or ineffective will gradually fade into disrepute. All the technologically advanced sales methods that we see today got their start in traditional marketing. YouTube ads exist because of the success of TV commercials, which in turn were inspired by the ads at the end of fifties-era radio programs. People send out email updates because mailed newsletters worked so well for previous generations.

However, just because a technique is adaptable doesn’t mean you can pull it off without much thought. In the push to digitize, some believe that you should embrace only the newer online cousins of yesterday’s marketing strategies, but there’s no reason why you can’t have the best of both worlds. For example, you don’t have to throw direct mail out the window just because email is more convenient.

No matter what you decide, you actually shouldn’t invest too much into a medium until you know which style your audience prefers. Once you know this, use both new and old methods: personalizing them as much as you can, alternating between each medium and keeping promotions rare so neither method becomes bothersome. Likewise, don’t withdraw from the community coupon booklet just because Groupon and LivingSocial exist; double your reach by adopting both print and digital distribution.

Trade shows, billboards (which have gotten a nice LED upgrade), seminars (updated as webinars) and other methods still have a place in today’s market. The quality of the effort you put into making your message applicable, and the element of genuine human connection you inject through story, are what has made marketing in any age successful. The medium is just how you get people to see it.

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Using These Tactics In Your Campaigns

With a new coat of imaginative paint, a lot of old marketing tactics will serve you well. For example, look into renting a billboard near your workplace. Social media may have taken over people’s personal screens, but they still need to keep their eyes on the road when driving (or should). Your board doesn’t necessarily have to be on the busiest road around; as long as you’ve researched where your target demographic most often drives and placed an easy-to-read sign there, you’ll raise quite a bit of awareness.

Another strategy is to host a fun event that will attract the attention of local news and social media power users. You don’t even have to have your name prominently displayed on every flat surface for this to work. Just mention at the end that you sponsored the location or provided supplies and let the buzz take off from there. The crazier an idea you can come up with (as long as it’s safe), the better for your brand recognition.

Friendly conversations with people in the grocery store line (or at local community or networking events) are, believe it or not, an excellent form of marketing. Your local community is one of your best resources for the survival of your business. Your best chance at word-of-mouth advertising, which still reigns supreme as the most trusted form of marketing, will come from the people you chat with face to face.

Don’t be that irritating person who can’t meet anyone without pulling out a business card and sales pitch, but remember that having an affable chat and mentioning what you do if it comes up can go a long way. Person-to-person connection never goes out of style and becomes more valuable as our digitally saturated culture craves human affirmation.

Even radio is still going strong. Purchasing a 30-second spot or arranging for a DJ to mention you two or three times during his segment can do wonders for your exposure. If you do go the radio or television route, go ahead and hire a production company to put together a professional ad for you. Amateur ads are cringe-worthy and likely to drive people away.

History has a tendency to repeat itself, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see tactics like sign spinners and direct mail making a resurgence. At the root of all marketing is the desire to be seen and noticed by current and potential customers. When that target market experiences daily digital bombardment in all facets of their life, it’s easy to understand how these seemingly old school methods might stand out as novel to them. You certainly can’t avoid digital marketing, but you don’t have to put all your eggs in that basket, either.

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