Do Old School Marketing Tools Still Work?
Many years ago, before the rise of the Internet and its latest be-all end-all, social media, business people used marketing and sales tools that we may not recognize.
For example, a lot of consumer goods were sold door to door. Your older family members may have stories to tell about the Fuller Brush man. Yes, you read that right. People used to buy brushes from people who knocked on their front doors. I don’t know about your neighborhood, but when people come knocking around here, this freelancer’s the only who’s home. Seems like everyone else is off at work.
Here’s another example: I know a lady who’s been selling real estate for almost 40 years. When she started out, she joined all sorts of service clubs and worked hard on their community betterment projects. That’s what you had to do in order to gain respect as an ethical, civic-minded professional. Once you had that respect, business would come your way.
These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find many acquaintances who are involved in any service clubs. And, chances are, those Lions, Tigers, Bears, and Kiwanis members are decades older than you are.
Speaking of business coming your way, there was a time when doctors and lawyers couldn’t advertise. That’s where the expression “hang out your shingle” came from. You had to get your name on said shingle, hang it where people could see it, and hope that the ones who came into your office would think your work was good enough to merit referrals.
Then there’s direct mail. When I was growing up, my family lived down the street from a man who made a fortune as a direct mail consultant.
I can remember my chemical engineer father marveling at the fact that our neighbor made so much money from writing sales letters. My schoolteacher mother handled the mail that came into our house, and she was very efficient at tossing the junk mail into the trash. (This was before the advent of recycling.) In short, direct mail didn’t have much effect on the Retallick household.
Which points to a larger issue, and that is that sales and marketing techniques have life cycles. Since many households are now two income-earner households, going door to door during daylight hours doesn’t work as well as it did during the 1960s.
I’ve heard of freelancers having some success canvassing local businesses, and this could work for you. However, when I worked in a bicycle shop, I was witness to my boss saying some choice words while tossing a door-to-door salesman out of the store. So, use this technique with care.
As for the service clubs, they’re still around. And, even though their membership base is getting on in years, have you noticed that they’re a lot more vocal about wanting new recruits who’d like to give back to their communities? It seems that the service clubs have been busy fending off the people who view them as a source of sales leads.
These days, it would be hard to find a doctor or lawyer who doesn’t use some form of advertising. Those codes of ethics that used to forbid such behavior are long gone. But that notion of doing work that’s good enough to earn referrals, oh, is that still in fashion. Do your business – and your clients – a favor by being that kind of worker.
Back to direct mail. Just a few years ago, I was so into postcard marketing that I published a how-to e-book and called myself The Passionate Postcarder.
But times have changed.
The green movement has given rise to businesses that promise to rid you of unwanted mail. One of them is called Mailstopper. On its website, Mailstopper says, “Junk mail reduction offers a host of positive side effects. Less mail means less paper is produced, and fewer trees are sacrificed. For you, a smaller recycling pile means a smaller waste footprint for your household. And, less junk mail means you save time and effort, sorting through mail you don’t want.”
These days, it might not be wise to be known as a junk mailer.
In some parts of the freelancing world, direct mailings are still quite popular. Photographers are advised to send regular promotions to editors and art directors, but even that model’s breaking down.
It seems that the editors and art directors are inundated with promotional mailings. One editor even stacked them up, took a picture of the pile, and posted it on his blog.
But does this mean that you should give up on postcards? Nope. Just change how you use them.
I’ve found that in face to face encounters, people really enjoy getting postcards. Especially when you bestow your cards on them by saying something clever. As in, “Do you have a refrigerator door that’s looking a little plain? Here’s something to dress it up.”
I also use my postcards to send short handwritten notes to people. “Looking forward to working with you.” “Enjoyed seeing you at the monthly lunch.” That sort of thing. Anything longer should be put into an e-mail or a letter.
In addition to giving people postcards, I also keep a stash of business cards handy. Although the visual effect of the postcard is a positive, there are times when people do want to slide your card into their Rolodex.
In short, use a variety of tools to do your marketing, including the oldies. Some of them are still goodies.
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