Old-School Marketing Tactics that Still Work

5 of your father’s marketing strategies that are ripe again for picking.
Some old-fashioned marketing strategies, like door-to-door flyers, still work, (Photo: Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock)

Everything today is digital, or so its seems. And chances are you have, or you’re working on, a digital marketing strategy [CROSS LINK] for your small business. But if you’re putting all your marketing efforts in the digital egg basket, you’re missing out.

Some old-fashioned marketing strategies still work — and a few are especially effective again. Here are five that have stood the test of time, and how to give them a modern twist.

Door to door flyers

Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, was launching his lawn service app in the middle of the summer in Nashville and needed to generate customers faster than grass grows.

“So, taking a page out my former playbook of building a landscaping company, we started hanging door hangers all over Nashville,” Clayton said. After distributing more than 10,000 flyers, they had a few stories to tell — and the customers they needed.

What’s makes it new again: The chance to connect with consumers face to face.

“It’s a good thing we implemented this old-school marketing approach,” Clayton said. “We quickly began to understand through talking with our customers, trial and error, rapid prototyping and experimentation how ultimately our product needed to look and feel to our customers and vendors.”

Promotional items

Promotional items can be powerful tools for building customer loyalty. If customers feel appreciated, they are more likely to return to your business. One survey found 88 percent of customers who received a promotional item remembered the name of the company 12 months later.

“Going out of the way for your customers by sending them a gift is old fashioned but still works,”  said Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal.

Caballero said signing homeowners up for their service was the easy part. “The hard part was getting them to talk about our company after their lawn was cut.”

They arrived at the idea of small gifts for customers’ pets. “After buying $100 worth of dog bones and catnip, we started sending these out to our customers, thanking them for their business and giving them our Yelp link, of course,” he said.

What’s makes it new again: Driving customers to leave positive online reviews.

After a few trips to the post office, they saw their email traffic and Yelp reviews skyrocket. “People were thanking us for going the extra mile and saying how they couldn’t wait to tell their friends about our service. Mission accomplished,” Caballero said.

Sandwich boards and costume characters

Never underestimate the lure of a spectacle. Spinning signs, sandwich boards and people in costume are all relatively inexpensive ways to drive foot traffic to your establishment.

““These are old-school marketing techniques, and they really work,” said Colin Matthes, content marketing manager for SpinGo, an events management company. “One thing that remains quite effective are sandwich boards, as long as you place them in heavy foot traffic areas.”

What’s makes it new again: A physical coupon.

After the spinning sign or sandwich board catches a customer’s attention, hand them a coupon. “It is nice for people to have something physical in their hands offering them a discount when they come into your store the first time, instead of simply listing a promo code,” he said.

Live events

Live events can help you win new customers and create a personal experience that lets you connect with your target market.

The Content Marketing Institute reported that 60 percent of its members use live events and 78 percent feel they are the most effective content marketing they have used.

What’s makes it new again: “cause” marketing.

Karen Taylor Roane, owner of New Destiny Marketing, helps her clients use live events in innovative and economical ways. “One of my favorite ways to help a client is to create ‘cause marketing’ events, meaning newsworthy events that help others and that the local press is interest in writing about,” she said.

One example is creating community service classes or events you can invite business owners or potential customers to. “I created a ‘Marketing 101’ class that was only supposed to run for six weeks, but the demand was so great it lasted two years and garnered me many new clients,” she said.


Radio advertising makes sense for some small businesses because of the hyperlocal nature of local radio. Spring and summer may be good times to advertise because radio listenership increases in these seasons, according to the Small Business Administration.

If cost is an issue, there are other ways to get your business’ name on the air, such as volunteering to be guest expert on a local radio show or offering free products or services for a radio contest.

What’s makes it new again: reach.

According to a February 2016 Nielsen report, 265 million Americans listen to radio every week, and radio reaches more American adults each week than any other platform. The vast majority of listeners are in the workforce and listen while they are out of the home and more likely to make purchases.

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