When it comes to marketing tools, the rise of technology continues to inundate us with more options than we can keep up with.

But sometimes, effective marketing means going back to the basics. Let's look at 12 traditional marketing channels and strategies that still have surprisingly high ROI today.

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1. Phone Calls

When going back to the basics, it doesn’t get more traditional than a phone call. Despite the shift toward digital communication in recent years, studies show that consumers still prefer phone calls over emails and websites when discovering businesses.

A 2019 study by BrightLocal found that 60% of consumers preferred calling local businesses after finding them, a 28% increase from 2016.

Business owners also report revenue growth due to outbound calls. In a 2019 Forrester study, 84% of survey respondents said that it was a critical or important aspect of their communication strategy.

While all outbound channels – like emails, chat, social media – are important for businesses, phone calls remain one of the top ways businesses nurture their client relationships.

2. Face-to-Face Meetings

For sales and customer retention, face-to-face communication is highly effective. A survey by Management Events found that 79% of top-level executives use face-to-face meetings for lead generation.

Virtual meetings are becoming more popular these days and serve as great alternatives to in-person meetings. They offer many of the same benefits and can help build trust with leads and customers.

One theory on why face-to-face is so effective is because it allows you to read body language and adjust your approach accordingly. When communicating over phone or email, you only have words, tone, and at times emojis at your disposal to gauge a lead’s interest. This can lead to misinterpreting the direction of a conversation or even the person’s intent.

3. Direct Mail

Thought direct mail was out of the game? Think again.

It turns out direct mail is quite influential in consumers’ purchasing decisions. One 2019 study by Pebble Post found that consumers tend to consider direct mail items such as newsletters and postcards, when they are closer to making a purchase. It also reports that consumers prefer to receive promotional offers the most and newsletters the least, with brochures, postcards, and catalogs falling in the middle.

And since the pandemic, there’s been an increased interest in the mail. The United States Postal Service (USPS) reports that 67% of consumers have experienced feelings of isolation and close to half (42%) now rely on mail more due to social distancing guidelines.

Another key takeaway is that if your target audience includes millennials, direct mail may be worth your investment. A 2019 USPS study found that millennials are more likely than Gen X and Baby Boomers to take action based on marketing mail. In fact, 67% said they "frequently and occasionally use marketing mail as a prompt to go online."

Furthermore, direct mail may work best with existing customers or those with a proven interest in your brand. The Pebble Post study reported that 68% of consumers throw out direct mail that contains content they’re not interested in from brands they don’t know.

4. Print Advertisements

The saying "print is dead" has been around for a while. But for marketing, print may be the way to go.

A neuromarketing study conducted by the Office of Inspector General at the USPS and Temple University found that physical ads are better for brand recall and ad recognition. Not only that, but they’re also processed at a quicker rate across multiple age groups.

One theory is that consumers experience "digital fatigue" and thus are more receptive to print advertising. As of 2019, 33% of Millennials are using ad blockers. On the flip side, 62% will read print ads instead of discarding them.

Sure, the ROI will vary depending on the campaign, targeting measures, and more. But one thing that’s clear is that print ads can be as effective as digital ads.

5. Speaking Engagements

Speaking engagements can be a great way to get directly in front of your target audience and expand your brand awareness. Part of the reason why events can be an effective marketing tool is the face-to-face connection brands can make with consumers.

According to a 2018 Demand Generation Benchmark survey, 68% of brands said events were most effective for generating qualified leads, above webinars, white papers, and case studies.

One report from Hinge Marketing found that speaking engagements generated about the same amount of leads as recommendations and referrals. So, whether it’s virtual or in-person, don’t miss an opportunity to connect with consumers.

6. Networking

Typically, when we talk about networking, we mean connecting with your peers and those with more influence. However, networking for lead generation should take a slightly different approach.

In the marketing context, business networking requires moving toward your target audience. The goal is to connect with your audience for a deeper understanding of their needs, wants, and pain points. It’s also an opportunity for you to increase your brand awareness.

Peer networking, on the other hand, involves connecting with professionals within the same sector who can provide industry insight rather than consumer insight.

If you’re unable to network in person, go virtual. There are community groups, events and apps that help people connect online.

7. Email Marketing

Email marketing remains one of the most popular digital marketing tactics out there.

According to a 2018 study, 59 percent of marketers said email offered the best ROI. Additionally, Litmus, an email marketing company, reported that the average ROI for email marketing is 42 to one — this means that for every dollar spent on email marketing, brands earn $42.

B2B marketers also benefit from email marketing, naming email newsletters the leading tactic for lead nurturing in a 2020 Content Marketing Institute report.

Despite its popularity, many brands still haven’t used email marketing to its fullest potential. According to MyEmma, 39% of marketers don’t personalize their emails and more than half don’t A/B test their emails.

However, these practices can improve your conversion rates, namely open and click-through rates. One Litmus study found that brands that A/B test regularly have a much higher ROI than those that don’t.

1. Guest Posting

Guest posting is one of the most common and effective ways to build brand awareness. It’s also a favorite among SEO experts for link building – a tactic that can get you a higher ranking on the SERP and increase traffic to your site.

The caveat with guest posting is that the content should fall within the brand’s usual guidelines and appeal to its audience. In an Influence & Co report, 79% of editors said they rejected guest posts because the content was too promotional.

That’s why it’s important for brands to be selective about which websites they choose to guest post on. If that audience doesn’t fit your user persona, it will likely be a waste of time and resources.

2. Personalization

Whether it’s a handwritten note, an email, or a product recommendation, adding a personal touch to all client communications leads to higher ROI.

At HubSpot, we’ve found that personalized CTAs convert 202% better than standard CTAs.

Another study by Kibo suggests that personalization should be across the entire customer lifecycle. They found that companies who understood the value of implementing personalization across all touchpoints earned an ROI of 300% or more.

This suggests what many of us can already speak to from personal experience: When brands know what you’re looking for, you’re more likely to engage with them. KPMG called personalization one of the six pillars of excellent customer experience and reported that personalization accounts for 20 to 22% of customer loyalty and advocacy.

3. Retargeting

Think of retargeting ads as that friend who is always encouraging you to spend and "live a little." In the marketing world, it’s the process of re-engaging consumers who have interacted with your brand to lead them further down the sales funnel.

It can be controversial among consumers, with some finding it too intrusive. But when done right (and ethically), it can offer even better results than initial ads. One Harvard Business Review study found that transparency is usually best when it comes to retargeting. Respondents were 40% more likely to click on items if told the recommendations were based on information the responded provided to the brand.

4. Public Relations Efforts

Public relations (PR) is all about maintaining a favorable image with the public (your audience). The ROI from having a PR team may be harder to measure when things are positive, but it becomes more clear in times of crisis.

Customers rely on a variety of factors to determine if they will engage with a brand. According to a 2019 report from Synup, 83% of consumers find reviews and ratings critical when choosing a retail store. Respondents also reported that they trust word-of-mouth recommendations most, over social media recommendations and website content.

With this in mind, maintaining a positive public image will continue to be a top priority for businesses.

5. Targeted Advertising

Even with growing concerns surrounding data privacy, studies suggest that consumers still want targeted advertising. Most Gen Xers and Millennials expect a personalized offer when interacting with brands. One study by SmarterHQ reported that 72% of consumers will only engage with brands whose marketing messages are tailored to consumers’ interests.

However, there is an important balance to strike between personalization and privacy. According to the study, consumers find push notifications to be an intrusion, 74% more than other channels. They prefer personalization as it relates to products, such as recommendations, reminders, and offers.

Overall, consumers now require more transparency from brands on the information they collect and how they use it.

These traditional marketing tactics have proven to be effective and continue to be despite the societal shift toward web-based engagement. So, as Bert Lance once said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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Originally published Jan 11, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated January 12 2021

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Marketing Strategy