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Back to Basics: 9 Offline Marketing Tactics That Still Work Today's Digital World

Ryan Stewart
Ryan Stewart

There’s no denying that online marketing is red hot.  Social media, email marketing, and the big G have made targeting a breeze.

Intuitive interfaces coupled with complex algorithms allow you to narrow in on your ideal prospects with just a few clicks of the mouse.  

However, for many marketers that convenience comes at a steep price.

Competition is incredibly fierce online, leaving most advertisers priced out in the bidding war for prospective customer eyeballs. Without deep pockets and a whole lot of time on their hands to continually make adjustments, it’s a tough road for most to get breakeven, let alone net a profit.

Sorry for the buzzkill, but don’t despair, there is good news. Whenever there’s a rush to a new channel of media it creates an opportunity for the savvy marketer who isn’t afraid to move into the void left behind.

With less competition, a dollar will stretch much further, and there’s less of a struggle to beat messaging in order to grab your prospect’s attention.

The fact is, there are “old school” marketing tactics delivering strong ROI to those taking the time to learn and use them. It’s easier than you think to get started with them. 

Related Article: Is Boring Better? The Case for Plain Jane Online Marketing

Direct Mail  

In a world where technology is changing in what seems to be by the hour, it may come as a shock to hear one of the most consistent methods of marketing is still a good old fashioned letter delivered by the Post Office. That’s right, snail mail still works. The biggest objection I’ve heard with using physical letters is the perceived cost of implementation. Closer examination of the data reveals the investment is well worth it. 

Direct Mail

A 2015 study showed response rates from direct mail were 20 times that of email. There’s no spam filter to get through, and no one clicks delete or “send to spam” button either. Lists can be procured from a broker, or you can just mail geographically. If the offer has any interest at all, it will be placed on the refrigerator, cork board, or review pile and has a good chance of continually being seen.

This gives your offer more exposure, without being invasive, as multiple emails can quickly turn into. With email, unless there is a specific folder that is reviewed daily (highly unlikely), the offer will get lost in the vast, rough sea known as the inbox. Don’t forget the tried and true saying: out of sight, out of mind.  

  • Tip: Remember the first goal of direct mail is to get your piece read. Test envelope color, size, writing copy on the outside or sending it in a plain white envelope. Add a handwritten address and a real stamp (no meters) for a more personal touch as well.    


Piggybacking off the sales letter, postcard marketing is an effective way to get your advertisement directly blasted into a targeted market, and at a low cost to boot. With the Post Office’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) service, you can take advantage of a bulk rate without a permit, while picking out the areas that you want to target.  Whether its affluent neighborhoods, the bad part of town or anywhere in between, EDDM lets you target specific ZIP codes you want to hit. 

Predator Nutrition, a UK-based supplement company, ran a campaign by sending out holiday cards with exclusive discount codes. They leveraged their existing customer base and drove a 3x return on their investment with this tactic.

  • Tip: If you go the EDDM route, do it the co-op way by using a big 9 x 12 oversized card while sharing the love (and costs) with other businesses.  Mailing rates are the same, and the cost to produce will easily be offset if enough business owners get involved. You can easily share a card with 9 other businesses, and still, have plenty of room to make your business stand out.


Billboards are still prime real estate. They are also one of the most misused forms of media by most advertisers, which is why you see constant turnover on the majority of them. Unless you’re Nike, Coke, or hate your money, don’t use billboards for branding purposes. And for gosh sakes, don’t confuse the reader with cutesy slogans or phrases that don’t make any sense.

Instead, use it to make a no-brainer offer. Buy one get one oil change, two for $10 pizza, free teeth whitening, whatever it is, make an offer. Even the most recognizable brand in the world, McDonald's uses billboards to make offers. Keep it simple.

McDonald's did it with $1 sweet tea last summer. Grab attention, and then state your name, offer (which may be the attention grabber itself), phone number, and website URL if applicable. Compel them so they have to take advantage of the offer as soon as possible or fear they’ll miss out on a great deal.   

  • Tip: For the love and safety of the driver, get a vanity URL and phone number that are easy to remember. For example, instead of DrBraunsteinDDS.com get BestDentistInCleveland.com.     


There are roughly 4,000 telemarketing firms in the United States alone. Why? Even with 72 percent of phone numbers in the U.S. registered for the do not call list (as of 2009), it’s still effective. There are plenty of ways around it, and when it comes to B2B, it doesn’t exist. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants, though. The most critical step for making telemarketing work is getting trained on how to do it correctly, or outsource it to a group who knows what they are doing. 

Related Article: The Write Stuff: The What, Why and How of Content Marketing

  • Tip: Be sure to insist on reviewing random calls that the group you hired are making to be sure they aren’t misrepresenting your company. Oh yeah, listen to the recordings! It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many business owners don’t listen to how their company is being pitched and wonder why the complaints are piling up and their reputation is in the gutter, or worse, they aren’t making any sales.


Stuff we all get (SWAG) is a tried and true way to get others to promote your business for you. Getting custom t-shirts, cups and pens are not only great for giveaways at conferences or events but are great to send to influencers. Last month, our agency created custom buttons with the phrase “Make America SEO Great Again” and gave them away at a conference. These buttons went viral on social media and drove a ton of traffic and leads through our business.

  • Tip: If you plan to give SWAG to influencers in your space, do your research first. Find out what they’re interested in and build it around them, not your business. This is the best way to get them to actually wear your gear out in public or promote it through their channels.

TV (Cable and Broadcast)

There was a way to watch a video before YouTube? You’re lying. I mean everyone watches video online now, don’t they? Well, not quite. According to a study done by MarketShare, Television had the highest efficiency at achieving key performance indicators such as sales and new accounts.

Despite the big online video push, TV isn’t going anywhere soon, and streaming choices will only solidify their hold of consumer eyeballs, especially in regards to sporting events. Television is definitely the most expensive option on this list, but can still be reasonable once you get past production costs and start turning a profit. 

  • Tip: With the affordability of equipment, the filming, editing, and producing of your own commercials is easier than ever. What’s even easier? Hiring someone else to do it. Due to the high level of competition out there for this kind of work, the investment will be reasonable, and you won’t require a learning curve to get something on the air with fast turnaround time.    


No one listens to radio anymore, do they? Sure they do. As a matter of fact, according to a study by Nielsen, radio advertising returned $6 for every $1 invested within 28 days. Fred Catona, who recently passed away, was the king of direct response radio, behind the explosive growth spurts in such companies as Priceline and FreeCreditreport.com.

He said to come up with a maximum of 10 words that will stick in the listener’s head, and repeat it over and over again so it sinks in. And of course, don’t forget the phone number and website URL multiple times as well. Like billboards, make the URL and number easy to remember.

Cloud 9 Living is a website that sells "experience gifts" for customers and even though they're solely web based, invests into radio spots around the holidays. During Christmas season and Father's day, they run ads prompting listeners to cash in on a coupon code. These spots perform particularly well and report four to one return on ad spends. 

  • Tip: Remnant space + a converting offer = goldmine. Unused inventory can be scooped up for a small fraction of the going rate. It’s not suggested for testing, but once you are tuned in (pun intended) it can boost your returns exponentially. Look for remnant time for TV advertising as well.  

Coupon Mailers

They go by different names, ValPak, Super Coupons, Mega Savings, Money Mailer but the premise is the same. You get an envelope stuffed full of offers and coupons. The pros are familiarity with the envelope, which puts it in the “A” pile of mail and gets it opened; a low-cost solution because it’s all done for you; and the advantage of most other businesses not having a clue when it comes to making offers. These companies also have a website and an app, so you get the benefit of digital advertising included in the deal.


The biggest con is depending on your business, there could be multiple competitors in the same mailer. I’ve received six Italian restaurant coupons in one mailing, and that’s not a good thing. This leads to “choice anxiety” and therefore more confusion than anything else. You don’t want that influencing your prospective customer when he’s trying to make a purchase. 

  • Tip: Go through the offers in a recent mailer to the areas you are going to target. Don’t be discouraged if there’s same industry rivalry, as long as it’s one or maybe two competitors. Differentiate and be sure to construct a no brainer offer so you acquire the customer, and get a test rate or at least test commitment to judge the response. Tweak from there as needed.    

Networking Groups

There’s no better way for your potential clients, customers, patients, or patrons to be introduced to the product or service you provide than by way of personal introduction. A direct referral is the best social proof there is, and the fourth strongest category of lead you can get (current and previous clients being first and second with a referral from someone already doing/has done business with you third). The best referrals come from people that know, like, and trust you.

Related Article: Where the People Are: Modern Marketing Strategies for Multi-Channel Brands

When someone gets to shake your hand and speak with you in person, it goes much further than just a nice web page, video or LinkedIn profile.  People love to know they are dealing with a real, live person, especially one they’ve met. They also love to refer because it makes them feel good.

Networking groups also give you the opportunity to develop a list of people you can refer with confidence, which makes you even more valuable in your customer’s eyes.        

  • Tip: Nail your elevator pitch, and make it memorable so those you network with can repeat it to those who truly need your services or product.     

Even if you’re having success with your online marketing, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t looking to lower their cost of customer acquisition and make more money. Don’t paint yourself into a corner with the “online” brush. Paint yourself with the “get more” customers one instead. While these nine tactics may not all be applicable to your business, look for ways to test those that are. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Ryan Stewart
Ryan Stewart
business.com Member
Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing consultant and current owner of WEBRIS, a Miami based digital marketing agency.