Home > branding, marketing, personal marketing > Is “Old School” Marketing Kicking Social Media’s Butt?

Is “Old School” Marketing Kicking Social Media’s Butt?

Social media is everywhere. It’s in the pages we read, the shows we watch, and the discussions we have at the watercooler.

People are tweeting, blogging, posting, friending, connecting, and sharing everything. For some, it’s working. For others, it’s not.

Enter “old school marketing.” I want to share two different “old school” marketing tactics that are kicking social media’s butt in many sectors.

When email entered the picture, people shouted “Hallelujah” over the fact that they could cut print bills and postage costs. Unfortunately many also cut their response rates. And their sales. And their profits.

I’ve spoken to a dozen friends, clients, and associates in the past week about their mail habits, and everyone (about half of them) who has returned to snail mail or never abandoned it is glad they did.

Why? Despite the cost, these companies are getting measurable ROI results. Something that can’t be said of MANY social media campaigns.

Now I’m not saying social media isn’t necessary. Quite the contrary. What I am saying is that social networking, for many business sectors, has not delivered on its promise for tangible monetary results.

The above examples include law firms, sporting goods manufacturers, non-profits, and even investment brokers.

Another series of discussions I’ve had lately focused on what business professionals are doing in their “personal selling”. While my sampling is small, about 30 conversations, the results are unmistakable. Those who meeting, face to face, chatting, pressing the flesh, and spreading their own gospel, are winning new business.

The most successful technique we’ve seen…small, intimate, yet informal gatherings. We know one financial professional who gathers about 6-8 people once a month. He buys lunch, brings one or two of his associates in, and mixes up the group with attorneys, insurance reps, wealth managers, etc. It’s just lunch and chit chat. And it’s working. The firm is getting business out of it, and the invited guests are, too.

The takeaway here is not to abandon social media. And it’s not to start mail or meetings, per se. It’s to see how you can connect with your audience (clients, prospects, referral sources, etc.) in a meaningful, accountable way that truly drives business to your bottom line.

When everybody is going left, try going right. Try simple, yet proven forms of communication. Try talking and conversing, not virtually, but literally.

Hmmm…real mail, real meetings, real people? They deliver real results. Really. What a concept.

  1. March 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I would agree with all of this, but add that radio, TV and even newspapers offer great CPM and that results in much better ROI for our clients!

  2. March 18, 2010 at 12:00 am

    I definitely think you’re right Brian:

    >People are tweeting, blogging, posting, friending, connecting, and sharing >everything.

    >social networking, for many business sectors, has not delivered on its promise >for tangible monetary results

    I’ve been very active in social media and I’ve spoken to a lot of people. It seems to work for a few sectors (e.g. Dell computers has done well). Mail, face to face, websites, and even telemarketing seem to generate better results for many sectors. Social media seems to be a good way to stay in touch with former colleagues, former classmates and friends who have moved away. It’s also a good way to let people know about your blog articles and it’s lead to some opportunities to guest blog and write articles.

    For most sectors, social media isn’t living up to its hype. I’m not sure why thati is the case and it really is too bad as it did seem promising. It’s simlar to Internet dating in that way. It works for the few but not the many.

  3. Craig Staley
    March 18, 2010 at 5:31 am

    Your article is very misleading. I expected to click on the article and read some fantastic results. To the contrary, your “case #1” and “case #2” are nothing more than generalizations and conjecture. You really need to brush up on your skills, read a bit, and learn what makes a case study or case history. There’s nothing compelling in what you’ve written.

    • March 18, 2010 at 6:29 am

      Craig – I’m sorry my post didn’t live up to your expectations. As an MBA and a marketing research professional, I know a lot about case studies. And no, I chose not to write classic case studies. What I chose to do was touch on a subject most are unwilling to: social media has NOT proven effective for most people when measured with objective ROI. Sorry if that was misleading.

  4. March 18, 2010 at 8:21 am


    I read a lot about social media not working for folks, and what I usually find some common themes that run through their communications. Those who tend to struggle the most are the individuals and companies who push their product or service without even attempting to build trust, engender confidence, demonstrate credibility, or build real relationships.

    It is difficult to monetize “contacts” (at least in any meaningful fashion)regardless of the medium used to facilitate communications. However it is not difficult at all to generate revenue from relationships where credibility has been established, trust has been built and needs are being met.

    Something else to consider…not everyone uses social media with the intent of generating revenue. I use social media to learn, to share & communicate, to help others, to extend our brand, and a variety of other things. That said, we have generated substantial revenue both for our firm and for our clients using social media. My experience is that the brands that are not satisfied with ROI on social media are brands new to the space that are still learning, or are the brands that tend to struggle in other mediums as well.

    In terms of direct comparisons, Social Media is infinitely more effective than direct mail could ever possibly be if you understand the medium. With regard to face-to-face, Social Media doesn’t replace face-to-face, but if used properly serves as a catalyst for face-to-face.

    Bottom line in my book…it’s not being afraid of the discussion that is the key point, rather it’s having the right discussion.

    Best wishes Brian…

    • March 18, 2010 at 9:57 am

      Mike –

      Thanks for the comment…and great points. I agree 100%…well, maybe a little disagreement on the social media being infinitely more effective than snail mail, but the point is well taken.

      What I’m hearing is a lot of chatter from small to mid sized businesses who have been sold snake oil. Tweet, blog, and find fans, and you’ll make a lot of money. Social networking has both measurable and non-measurable results, both of which can benefit a company. They also can add to the bottom line or not. I’ve been doing research for the past 90 days on this topic, and here’s what I find. The majority of people using social media get something out of it. The vast majority of people using social media do not get much financially tangible out of it. The majority of people investing time and money in both traditional and new media marketing see significantly better returns on traditional marketing.

      I have social media clients, so don’t think I’m an opponent of social media. I’ve gotten business from it. But I’m a marketing guy at heart, and that means I test, I monitor and I measure. And right now, the dollars in many businesses (and mine) are coming mostly from old school marketing.

      Thanks Mike!

  5. March 18, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Hi Brian:

    Thanks for your response. I understand your sentiments and appreciate that we are on the same page in some regards. However, I would also suggest that measurement is only as good as the quality of the metrics being examined. When you say that most of your revenue and your clients revenue is being driven by through traditional mediums, I would suggest that on a top line basis they are likely seeing a more significant impact because they are spending a significantly greater amount of money in those mediums. I would also suspect that on an actual ROI basis the picture isn’t as pretty as they want to believe. Since you’re into measurement you might enjoy the following post as it sheds some light on the topic at hand: http://www.n2growth.com/blog/measuring-success/

    • March 18, 2010 at 12:55 pm

      Mike –

      Your blog post on the different ways of measuring success (http://www.n2growth.com/blog/measuring-success/) is a great piece and I highly recommend it as reading to all of my blog readers. Qualitative performance measurements are certainly on the rise, and are critical in the Web 2.0 era, but at a certain time we still need the conversion of engagement, circles of influence and team deployment to turn into sales and revenue. I’m just seeing a lot of people who have given social media and Web 2.0 a year-plus who have not seen the financial return, who at the same time are getting tangible, measurable results from TV, radio, direct mail, personal marketing, etc. Granted, the dollars expended are probably not the same. Then again, neither is the time. Also, they might be pulling the plug early, but most businesses ultimately need to bring dollars in the door.

      I will plan a posting soon that directs readers to your Measuring Success piece, as I know not everyone reads comments. You’ve got a great blog!

      And thanks again for your keen insight.

  6. n2growthmyatt
    March 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Hi Brian:

    Thanks for your kind words and your observations. I suspect we are not as far apart on this topic as the text may lead readers to conclude. I’ve enjoyed the dialog and look forward to reading more of your work. Thanks Brian.

  7. March 19, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Brian (and Mike),

    It’s always great to read what others think is going on. Most of your observations are spot-on. No matter how easy, fast and spontaneous communication gets (and, parenthetically, the new iPad is absolutely amazing), nothing will replace face-time with like-minded people (irrespective of profession) from wanting to do business–exclusively–with each other.

    LOCAL people enjoy doing business with other local people…who they know and trust. TRUST is the linchpin of networking…and effective marketing. Steve Covey (the son) has written volumes about this and most senior marketing folks will tell you that all the tweeting/etc. in the world doesn’t mean much without the predisposition of TRUST. Seth Godin is also right on this topic.

    It’s my observation that most [members of] associations seldom reach out as well as they might to “outsiders.” There’s a mentality of “we’re special” and “better” than others not in our own profession. To illustrate this point: almost every Code of Conduct or Rules & Regulations prohibit making referrals (compensated or not) to unlicensed people, i.e. those that somehow are not good enough and, by extension, “unwashed” since they could never reach the prescribed level of competence. Yeah, right! Happily, attitudes & rules are changing–ever so slowly–thanks to the internet brings transparency to the fore…

    Sorry, there isn’t enough room to pontificate here–but going back to Brian’s original idea: Old School marketing is far from dead or being replaced >>> it’s still more effective than all the new Social Media combined is true…especially if one is smart enough to use it correctly…in the local marketplace where it’s always more (cost-)effective.

    Bob Veris, PM Community

  8. March 21, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Hi Brian

    Very interesting piece – thank you. However, there are a couple of points that I would like to mention here.

    Social media is not at fault – the campaigns and unrealistic company expectations are. Social media is merely a means to transmission – much like the paper involved with traditional DM is. If companies are not getting the response rates they expect, either the campaign is wrong (either in execution or in targeting) or they haven’t understood the limitations (and freedoms) that social media brings.

    It depends very much on what ROI position you’re (not you, specifically, rather ‘one’) taking. Do you want to monetise into direct sales transactions or do you want to build loyalty with real people for increased sales in the longer term?

    Also, social media isn’t the attractor to your campaign – the campaign message and marketing is. Social media is merely a channel to allow the consumer to interact.

    Furthermore, social media is brilliant in times of crisis when used well. Facebook, Twitter et al can get your ‘We’re sorry, we know there’s a problem and we’re doing our best to fix it’ message out in a matter of moments to affected customers and help build their confidence that you actually care about the contract you have with them and that you are big enough to admit there’s an issue.

    To go back to the e. vs ‘real’ direct mail issue, once again I suspect that either the expectation is over-high or the campaigns aren’t properly executed. Using a good mass mailer, you should be able to see who has opened what, what links they clicked through and where they went from there. This is an amazingly useful insight into the customers’ habits and allows you to personalise the next communication to the next level, which should increase your activation and do wonders for the ROI.

    There are, in my mind, very few real differences between e- and paper DM. If either is badly designed, badly executed, it’ll hit the bin. If either arrives at the wrong time, it’ll hit the bin. And if either doesn’t talk to me in the way I like to be spoken to about products/services I’m likely to be interested in, it’ll hit the bin.

    That’s the crux of the matter, to my mind. I think that when e-marketing and social media came along, so many people simply thought that the technology would do all of the work for them. But a car doesn’t drive itself, does it?!

    And there’s no doubt that face-to-face is one of the best money-makers you can have. People buy from people and people buy because of trust. Pieces of paper or pretty streams of binary in your inbox will never have the same effect…

    Just a few thoughts for a Sunday afternoon to add to the debate!


  1. April 30, 2010 at 4:20 pm

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