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How to Get the Most Out of Old School Marketing with New Tech
July 13, 2021

How to Get the Most Out of Old School Marketing with New Tech

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Mark Pinard

Social media advertising has taken center stage in recent years, with advertising spend growing over 24% from 2018 to 2019 alone. And yet “old school” marketing techniques such as print, direct mail, and billboards are trusted by consumers more than social media advertising.

On their own, print, direct mail, and similar tactics would not be as effective or scalable in today’s digital age. Use new technology and automation tools to breathe new life into these old-school marketing techniques.

Choose the Right Old School Marketing Techniques

There are plenty of old-school marketing techniques to revive, but not all will work for your business.

For example, Verizon might see the most success sending direct mail to thousands of people, while a B2B SaaS company like Salesforce might see the most success from calling a few decision-makers at their target companies as part of an ABM campaign. Consider your audience and your goals to determine what tactic will work best alongside your digital marketing strategy.

Direct Mail

While our email inboxes are increasingly full, our physical mailboxes are increasingly empty. Companies, especially at an enterprise level, can take advantage of this to break through the digital noise.

Breaking through the digital noise isn’t the only benefit of direct mail. It also has a response rate 4% higher than email, and 60% of survey respondents say direct mail has the highest ROI of any channel.

Direct mail hasn’t always received these kinds of results, largely because it just wasn’t scalable. Direct mail was used by the local pizza shop to send out coupons, not by enterprise-level companies.

Now, AT&T could send direct mail with a sign-on deal to households that use another internet provider. Priceline could send direct mail advertising a weekend getaway at a specific hotel or resort close to their target areas. With new technology, direct mail can benefit just about any industry.

Trade Shows and Conferences

Trade shows and conferences happen across dozens of industries every year.

Charles Schwab hosts Impact, a conference dedicated to educating finance professionals on improving client service.

Hundreds of universities host industry-specific career fairs and invite businesses to connect with soon-to-be graduates. For example, OU hosts a career fair with the College of Allied Health. It’s often attended by large organizations such as Integris and St. Francis Health System.

These types of conferences prevailed (digitally) even in the midst of COVID. And the way you participate can be adjusted depending on your goal.

  • Want to attract future customers in your target industry? Send one of your brightest minds to speak at a thought leadership conference.
  • Looking for new talent? Set up a booth at a career fair.
  • Want to build authority or brand recognition? Host a conference of your own and bring in speakers from across the industry.
  • Want to nurture the leads you find at these conferences? Pull direct mail back into the mix by sending “thank you” cards or gifts after the event.

Cold Calling

Cold calling can still be effective as long as you target the right people. If you’re a local pizza restaurant, cold calling people in your area is probably a bad idea. But if you’re a B2B enterprise trying to start a relationship with execs at your target companies, cold calling could work.

In fact, almost 60% of C-level and VP buyers prefer to be contacted by phone.

That number goes down as you go down the organizational hierarchy, which is actually good news for you. Cold calling isn’t the most scalable marketing tactic, but this stat shows it doesn’t need to be. Focus your cold calling efforts on a few dozen execs at your target accounts rather than hundreds in middle management.

Signs and Billboards

In 2010, the CEO of LifeLock put his social security number on a billboard to prove his product worked and had his identity stolen 13 times. With so many bad billboards out there like this one, it’s no wonder billboards have gotten a bad rep.

But some companies are proving billboards can be creative, eye-catching, and even clever, like Ikea.

It’s not just eye-catching and clever. It’s effective. The Out-of-Home Advertising Association of America (OAAA) estimates billboards drove over $5 billion in revenue in 2019. Transit and street furniture ads add another $2 billion.

Print Ads

A survey by Inside Radio showed people trust print advertising more than every other kind of advertising (it is tied with TV), proving it’s still a useful form of advertising.

The main thing to consider when pursuing print advertising is your audience. The specificity of magazines, in particular, can be beneficial for some companies in the same way hyper-targeted digital ads are: they target a smaller group with higher buying intent.

Publications, even the large ones, often cater to specific things: political groups, hobbies, age groups, interests, etc. So while Coca-Cola might benefit from putting print ads in the largest newspapers in the country, Lowe’s might benefit from ads in Better Homes & Gardens.

Modernize the Process

While you can’t modernize every step of some of these marketing tactics—the New York Times has a process for printing ads, and there’s nothing you can do to change it—you can modernize other aspects.


Marketers are expected to show tangible results to their execs and stakeholders, which steers them away from old school marketing techniques like billboards and print ads. But there are ways to track the results of these marketing techniques, such as QR codes.

QR codes have been around since the early 90s, but they were mainly used by businesses to track their products. It wasn’t until the 2010s that smartphones gained traction among the general public. Now they’re widely used by companies to offer discounts, send people to certain web pages, and more.

There are plenty of ways to apply these tracking methods to old school marketing techniques, too.

  • Print & signage: use QR codes, phone numbers, and URLs to track the results of any kind of print/signage marketing such as billboards, signs, print ads, and flyers.
  • Direct mail: use these tracking methods to not only ensure your mail gets delivered but also send recipients to landing pages or websites to increase conversions or digital engagement.
  • Cold calling: use tracking technology like CallRail to track your leads.
  • Conferences: use a QR code to send people to a survey they can fill out during your presentation. It makes the conference interactive and is a good way to collect leads. Or, if you’re hosting a booth, add one of these tracking methods to cards or swag that you’re giving out.


Because some of these methods rely so heavily on external factors such as publication or advertising company requirements and guidelines, not all of them can be automated. Luckily, these essential old school marketing tactics can:

  • Cold-calling: a platform such as CallRail help you track leads, but it also helps you qualify those leads in real-time by capturing lead data, automatically updating your contact database, transcribing and annotating conversations in real-time, and more.
  • Direct mail: platforms such as Lob can integrate with your current technology so you can trigger specific sends based on digital behavior. Not only are you not sending mail by hand anymore, but you also don’t have to worry whether or not your digital and direct marketing are working in tandem.

This kind of automation makes both these old school tactics far more scalable. With this tech, you can also get specific insights into what is and isn’t working so you can continuously optimize your campaigns.

Combine Your Old School Marketing with Your Digital Marketing

To be effective, your old school marketing tactics will need to integrate both with your current technology and your digital marketing strategies. For some of these tactics, like a conference, this may be as simple as adding a QR code to swag to send your audience to a specific landing page to push them into your funnel. For others, such as direct mail, you’ll see the ROI when your marketing tactics and your technology are fully integrated to create an omnichannel marketing strategy. Read more about combining your digital and direct marketing strategies here.

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