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Market Like Its 1999 In 2015 – 9 Marketing Strategies That Worked Back Then & Still Work Now


By Victoria Treyger, CMO of Kabbage

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It seems like every day there’s a new app, search engine update, or upgrade that marketers simply “must” incorporate into their marketing plan, often at the expense of other tactics. While it is important to keep pace with technological and tactical advances, it’s also important to hang on to marketing tools that continue to prove their worth.

Though some of these classic marketing tactics have evolved, the fact of the matter is that they have been working – and working well – for the past twenty-five-plus years. What’s more, there’s no reason to doubt that they will continue to provide marketing results for the next twenty-five years, too.


Once upon a time marketers would print up 100 or more flyers and post them on grocery store bulletin boards, power poles, deliver them door-to-door, or distribute them from the cash register. And guess what? Smart marketers are still using flyers and circulars today, particularly because they provide a tangible take-away customers may be more likely to hold on to as a reminder or memento.

Though paper flyers are an option for today’s marketer, technology has also made it possible for you to avail yourself of digital distribution options and opened the door for platforms like evite, where anyone with a computer can quickly draw up an event or occasion announcement and distribute it to thousands of email and social media contacts.

Yellow Page Ads.

When it came to ROI in 1999, the bigger, brighter, and more noticeable your yellow pages’ ad was, the better. But that yellow pages ad also came with a hefty price tag. While *Ma Bell’s book has largely been abandoned by today’s marketing pros, directory listings still play an important role in helping to attract new customers who “let their fingers do the walking” online, using search engines instead of the phone book. (*For those too young to remember, “Ma Bell” was a term commonly used by the general public to refer to the one-and-only phone company that existed before the Bell Telephone Company, a.k.a. AT&T, was found to be a monopoly, and broken up into independents by U.S. Justice Department mandate.)


Telemarketing is alive and well; however, since most consumers now have smartphones and caller ID, those dinner time interruptions are not the way to go. Today’s telemarketing can be more effectively accomplished via email marketing. (Yes, we know there was email marketing in 1999, but it was in its infancy. We’re also choosing this as the ‘new telemarketing’ given that a majority of consumers now open most of their emails on their smartphones, first!)

Though not a perfect substitute, email marketing is a better option. It’s not an interruption; it’s easier for consumers to remove themselves from prospect lists, and it produces a much higher return on investment for marketers.


Every day consumers see dozens – if not hundreds – of billboards as they drive to work, take their kids to soccer practice, head out for dinner, complete shopping errands, and so on. Placed strategically, advertising on billboards can put your business, brand, or campaign directly in the path of your target audience.

Today’s marketing pros can place their ads on traditional billboards and get their messages featured on digital billboards and signs about town. They can also capture the attention of their target audience as part of internet traffic with display ads, banner ads, and paid search ad placement.


Print catalogs worked in 1999, and they still work today. In fact, mega-retailer JCPenney just announced that they’re bringing their print catalogs back. Not only do catalogs help generate direct sales, they also help drive people into stores and online in order to make purchases.

As part of an omni-channel marketing strategy, catalogs (print or digital) can be used to drive brand awareness and impact consumers’ brand perception. Distributing catalogs on a periodic basis reminds the customer that you’re there, stimulates desire, and gives them something they can hang onto until they are ready to buy.

Paid Media Placements.

Full color newspaper and magazine ads, television ads, and radio spots took up a large chunk of the marketing budget for those that could afford them in 1999, and that hasn’t changed. Though pricey, paid media may be an effective way to impact brand awareness, consumer perceptions, and drive web and store traffic.

The good news for those on a smaller budget is that there are paid advertising opportunities available to today’s marketers that were not available back then, many with much smaller price tags. From social media ads to AdSense and a much bigger playing field when it comes to trade and editorial magazines, even a small investment in paid advertising can provide a sizeable return.

Corporate Brochures.

In 1999, business buyers had stacks of corporate brochures and folders on hand. Whether they had picked them up at tradeshows, received them in the mail, or had been left there by a cold-calling salesman, the corporate brochure was once an essential tool in nearly every marketing plan.

The corporate brochure can still be an effective tool today, but probably not in the 1999 format. Then, a corporate brochure sang the praises of the business. Today, the corporate brochure should convey the successes of its customers.

Given that consumers and B2B buyers alike nearly always begin the buying journey online, it’s critical for today’s marketers to recognize that today’s corporate brochure is their business website, and design it accordingly. Rather than thinking of your website as a brand brag-book, think of it as ground zero when it comes to connecting with buyers at the beginning of their journey, or the tool that will make or break your chance to win the buyer’s final decision.


Networking has been an effective marketing tactic from the very beginning. People have always preferred to do business with those they knew, felt they could trust, identified, or sympathized with. In fact, for most marketers, the problem isn’t finding people to network with, it’s figuring out which of the many options will be most effective at helping them build business.

For local businesses that serve local customers, these networking groups are often found right in their own community – in civic (Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, etc.) or business-owner groups. For organizations that reach farther afield, it could be a combination of local groups, tradeshows, conferences, and digital networking tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and other platforms that help them connect with buyers and marketing partners.

Tradeshows and Conferences.

Tradeshows and conferences remain one of the tactics that marketers employ not only to connect with buyers, but also to leverage as educational tools. These gatherings have – and continue to – provide marketing professionals with the ability to speak directly to members of their target audience when the time is right to begin, continue, or complete the buying journey.

In addition, technology now makes it possible for marketers to leverage the idea of the traditional tradeshow and conference in online venues. Since connecting with prospects digitally via webinars, podcasts, live blogging events, and other virtual conferences means everyone saves on travel costs, it can also open up options for connecting with a larger number of people for a lower cost, and recorded sessions can be used over and over again.

With new apps, platforms, and marketing options becoming available day after day, don’t overlook the power of tried and true, proven marketing tactics. After all, these “old school” marketing tactics continue to provide new streams of revenue, holding their own as foundational elements of nearly any omni-channel marketing plan.


victoria treyger

Victoria Treyger is an innovative marketing leader focused on driving growth for revolutionary companies. She’s the CMO of Kabbage, which pioneered the first financial services data and technology platform to provide fully automated small business loans. Kabbage has grown to become the #1 online provider of business working capital and is a Forbes Top 100 Most Promising Company. 



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