If You’re Marketing Like It’s 1999, You Need to Get With the Times -- OutboundEngine
outdated marketing

If You’re Marketing Like It’s 1999, You Need to Get With the Times

For kids of the 90s, the fashion, music and pop culture references of that time period can inspire feelings of nostalgia. But not everything that was cool in the 90s plays so well in 2016, especially when you’re talking about small business marketing strategies.

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The tried-and-true tactics of yesteryear have become outdated, expensive and, above all, ineffective. If you’re not willing to get with the times, you’re going to get left behind. Let’s look at 10 outdated marketing tactics that you need to update in a hurry.

1. Excessive flyers
Back in the 90s, flyers were a common promotional tool. Everyone from small business owners to local bands got into the act. If someone wasn’t stuffing a flyer into your hand, they were likely leaving one on the windshield of your car, in addition to plastering them on every available window, wall and lamp post.

But times have changed. Sure, people still print flyers, but how effective are they, really? There’s just no way to ensure you reach your target audience.

Instead of putting money into flyers that provide no measurable return, focus on building your email list and making connections on social media. Unlike a flyer, email and social media campaigns can be targeted and delivered directly to the people most likely to respond — and you can track the results. Plus, fresh, valuable content is a much more effective means of staying top of mind than another flyer that will likely end up forgotten in the household junk drawer.


2. Paying for Phone Book Placement
In the 90s, phone book placement mattered. If someone wanted to find your business, they’d pick up a copy of the Yellow Pages and let their fingers do the walking.


But today, the only place people are letting their fingers do the walking is across their touchscreen smartphones and tablets. Instead of wasting your money on phone book placement, you should focus on establishing your presence online. That means optimizing your website, claiming and updating business listings and social profiles, and monitoring your online reviews.

3. Billboards and TV Ads
In the 90s, a huge billboard or a quirky TV spot could get you noticed. But the game has changed.

Drivers aren’t paying attention to billboards anymore; many are fumbling with their smartphones. It’s so bad that we’ve had to enact distracted driving laws to curb texting and driving.

And TV ads? Well, thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, you don’t really have to watch commercials anymore. Even if you do watch network and cable television, DVRs make it easy to record shows and simply fast-forward through the commercials. And in those rare instances where you can’t fast-forward, you still have your smartphone to pass the time.


4. Telemarketing or Cold Calling
You can’t have a discussion of outdated marketing tactics without mentioning telemarketing. Maybe this worked in the days before Caller ID, but those days are long gone. How many people do you know will pick up for an unknown caller?

Cold calling is pretty much off the table, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make use of the phones. Instead of bothering people who don’t know you, try following up with customers who want to hear from you.

5. Purchased Email Lists
Purchasing an email list may sound like a good idea, but it’s really not. Even if you take dirty data and spam traps out of the equation, you’re still dealing with a list that’s been bought, sold and passed around numerous times. If there were any solid leads on the lists, they’d likely be exhausted. So you’re not only wasting your time and effort on a dead list, but you’re also putting your sender reputation at risk.

It makes much more sense to build a permission-based email list from scratch and send directly to subscribers who want to hear from you. Plus, as you get to know your subscribers, you can segment your list and reach prospects with more targeted and personalized content. That way, no one’s time is wasted.

6. Mass Mailings
Let’s face it — mass mailings were considered junk mail back in the 90s. Today, most of this stuff ends up going directly into the garbage or recycling. Even if that wasn’t the case, how effective can a mass mailing really be? It lacks the personalization of a targeted email campaign.

But that’s not to say direct mail can’t be put to good use. You just have to figure out how to target your mailings and offer actual value. Promotional discounts and coupons are always a winner.

Keep in mind, however, that 72 percent of consumers actually prefer business communications to come via email.

7. Email Blasts
When email marketing was getting started, people weren’t accustomed to thoughtful content like they are today. It’s no longer enough to send a traditional, business-focused email. You have to provide something of value to your audience.

To do this right, you have to think about the content your audience is most interested in. The more you can offer value, the more likely you’ll be able to connect with your audience. Just remember to always make it about the customer.

8. Keyword Stuffing Content
There was a time when you could trick search engines into featuring your content by stuffing it with relevant keywords. Those days are long past. Search engines today, much like your prospects, are only interested in content that adds value. Instead of trying to trick search engines into ranking your content, focus on providing useful information.

9. Faking Testimonials
Unfortunately, fake testimonials are still commonplace today. What’s even more unfortunate is that most consumers can spot them a mile away, so businesses that use this outdated marketing tactic really aren’t doing themselves any favors. Especially when you consider how easy it is to get online reviews in 2016.

Instead of faking it, make it easy for your customers to review your products and services. Send a quick email directing them to Yelp, Facebook and other relevant review sites and ask them to leave an honest review — the good, the bad and the ugly.


10. Doing It All Yourself
Running a small business isn’t easy. But when you’re trying to do everything yourself, it can seem nearly impossible. You end up spreading yourself too thin and small details go unnoticed. Even if you’re getting things done, you’re probably not doing them to the best of your ability. Plus, you can’t be an expert in everything; no one can.

Instead of using the jack-of-all-trades approach, consider calling in a team of experts. Automate the processes you can to keep the machine running smoothly. And these days, a great deal of your online marketing can be assisted by automation — email, social media and content being prime examples.

Everything old is new again — except outdated marketing tactics. If your marketing is still living in the 90s, it’s high time you came back to the future. And if you’re tired of doing everything yourself, let us introduce you to the world of custom automated campaigns.


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Erin Myers