Go old school

by | Jan 25, 2022

Back to the future

When you think of marketing these days most of you immediately think of Social Media Platforms or Advertising on Google at the cornerstone of your marketing program. And that’s the problem. Most business have become so accustomed and dependent on these platforms that they completely abandon other forms of marketing and simply take what they get without question. This void has left lots of opportunities for local business.

While many have achieved success in the past, these platforms have become so cluttered during and post pandemic most are seeing diminishing returns. Views may be up but clicks and engagement are certainly down as a percentage of total budget spent. 

While I would never recommend giving up on digital, I don’t advocate being a one trick pony either. Most business simply do it because it’s easy and to some extent can be measured perhaps more effectively than other forms of marketing. So if you’re realizing diminishing returns on your digital platforms, what else can you do?

There are lots of things you can do and you may even consider going back to some “Old School” tactics that have for the most part been abandoned by most, leaving you a less cluttered playing field for some of your marketing initiatives.

Here is a short list of some good strategies:

old school marketing tactics

Create Cable or Local/Regional TV Ads

You might think TV commercials are too expensive but that’s not the case any more. For small businesses, you don’t even need a big budget motion production as you can run a 10 second spot using a slide with your offer and voice over that the network will do for you. You can target an area as small as an individual housing community or an entire city or state.

Direct Mail Flyers

For local businesses, direct mail continues to be a viable advertising strategy. Create a small flyer or include your sales pitch in a letter format and mail it to past customers or everyone in a certain neighborhood. The U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct program is cost effective and partially automated, saving time. If you have a brick and mortar presence you can place it in the bags your customers leave with your food or product items. I really like 48HourPrint.com for high quality, fast turn around, and economical printing.

sarasota post card design

Send a Post Card

For local businesses, direct mail continues to be a viable advertising strategy. Create a small flyer or include your sales pitch in a letter format and mail it to past customers or everyone in a certain neighborhood. The U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct program is cost effective and partially automated, saving time.


Use a temporary sandwich board or flag outside your business to highlight a particular product or special you are running. The easier it is to read and more creative the offer, the better your return will be. This is micro advertising at it’s finest.

sarasota sports marketing

Promotional Products

The late, great Fred Lebow who was the race director of the New York City Marathon once told me “Perry, never underestimate the power of a T-Shirt…” and I’ve never forgotten that.

Advertise at Local Movie Theaters

People are coming back to theaters now, get your message across to hyper local customers when they’re likely to be paying attention: just when a movie is about to start!  Theaters offer advertising options to local businesses, to air before movie previews.

business card design

Use Business Cards… Repeat Use Business Cards

Total old school low budget advertising. I can’t tell you how many times I’m still asked for one already in 2022. Consider using a discount code on the back. Put a stack at reception or checkout. People will take them. Hand one out to every satisfied customer so they can hand them out to neighbors and friends. It’s a good way to encourage referrals.

Hand Out Brochures

Distribute stacks of physical brochures or postcards to visitors’ centers or local businesses such as coffee shops that allow it. Find the popular spots. This is one time when it’s good to be among competition. The more flyers or cards, the more likely consumers are conditioned to look for them there.

Sponsor Local Sports Teams

Make a donation in exchange for shirts with your business name and logo. Find a little league, middle school or other youth sports team. Some teams will allow signs for your business at the local field.

Referral Promotions

If you send regular bills to customers, include a small flyer or card offering a bonus to those who refer new customers. You can also include promotions in mailers and newsletters or on your website.

Try a Human Billboard

To call attention to your business from the street corner, hire a human billboard or a sign spinner service such as AArrow Sign Spinners .  Sign spinners are people who stands on the corner with a sign, usually paid hourly. Check local ordinances to see what is permissible.


To get your message in front of local customers, you can purchase space on a local billboard. This is especially relevant for drive-by businesses, like restaurants or convenience stores.

Wrap Your Vehicle

If your business has vehicles that take you to service appointments, like plumbing or HVAC trucks, you can buy vehicle wraps that turn your mode of transportation into a mobile advertisement.  Better yet, park your wrapped vehicle prominently in front of your place of business when it’s not in use.

Advertise in Unconventional Places

Finally, no collection of small business advertising ideas would be complete without something you might not typically think of. So consider physical ads in unusual spots. This could include ads inside elevators, bus stops, or even shopping carts at your community grocery store.

The problem with many of these Old School Marketing Tactics is that they require more effort than simply giving Facebook, Google, Twitter or LinkedIn your credit card number and washing your hands of the entire process.

Which one of these is best for you depends on your business and your offer. Remember that DATA IS KING. And things like your client list, prospects and alike are all part of your assets and how your business is valued. Why people turn all these precious assets to Google and Facebook is sometimes beyond me. 

So put your thinking cap on and pick just one or two of these things that appeal to your budget, clients and sense of humor and Go Old School

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About the author Perry Johnson
Perry is a classically trained commercial photographer and graphic designer with more than 30 years experience as a marketing strategist. He is a principle at Imagica, a boutique marketing agency based in Sarasota, Florida. Imagica is dedicated to developing fluid, distinct and highly effective branding solutions for your business. With all services in-house, Imagica delivers exceptional value and provides both realistic and sustainable solutions to thrive in today's new markets.