Marketers aren't working in the same environment they used to. Words like omnichannel, click-through, and globalization are the way of the industry, sprinkled liberally with a dose of artificial intelligence. But for as lucrative as all these new methods are, old-school or traditional marketing isn't something to turn your back on.
A case study in relationships and business growth
Peelu Shivaraju, owner and operator of a Money Mailer franchise in Grand Rapids, Michigan, knows the power of traditional methods from experience. He's forced into more traditional marketing by the very nature of his business, which focuses on providing printed materials like coupons and fliers for local companies to distribute right in their own community.
Since buying his franchise in 2014, Shivaraju has seen growth every year, building his client base 1,000 percent from just 20 to more than 200 in 3 years. He has a simple explanation for why the direct mail approach gets results: Because the companies personally know the customers they're sending to and interact with them for everything from school football games to jogging in the park, the direct mailings are able to cut through the noise of technology-based approaches that flood inboxes and websites.
"It's all about relationship building," Shivaraju says. "When a client sees you stopping by on a periodic basis and they realize that you not only understand their needs, but you truly want to help their busiensses grow, they respond positively! Everyone appreciates someone that treats them like a human being and not just a sale. Prove to clients that you'll be around for the good and the bad, and you'll build loyalty naturally."
Shivaraju stresses that people love talking about their businesses, and that, if you can strike up an in-person conversation about what they do and why, they'll expose some of their needs without you having to ask direct sales-related questions. You then can pitch what you have that can help them without the offer feeling forced. Ultimately, though, you have to believe in what you're doing and really want to help. It's your authenticity, the customer's feeling that you actually care, that ends up actually closing the sale. You need to find ways to communicate that authenticity to many different personalities to be successful.
4 old-school rules to work by
Understanding that traditional marketing techniques can offer outstanding results, Shivaraju has a few basic guidelines he follows to keep everything humming.
1. Show your customers you're human--like them!
Personal elements within your business interactions facilitate bonding between you and your customers. How you share yourself and your brand is entirely up to you, as you're unique. But as an example, Shivaraju puts pictures of himself and his family in the thank-you mailings he sends.
2. Make face-to-face a priority.
Face-to-face interaction gives you all kinds of clues about your customer's needs, personality and preferences that you won't get through an email. It helps you feel empathetic to them and vice versa, which is the foundation for excellent trust. A lunch or golf outing certainly works, but do what feels natural. If that means meeting up at the farmer's market, going hiking, going for a manicure together or even stopping by their company as a legitimate patron, that's just fine.
3. Grow according to the limits of your customer service.
Every professional wants their business to grow. But the experience has to stay central to everything you do. If you have so many customers that you no longer can give them personalized attention, the experience will suffer, the relationships will become strained and, over time, you'll lose stability.
4. Say thank you.
It doesn't matter if you make a call, offer a discount, send a note or pat them on the back in person. The customer desire to feel seen and heard is universal. Saying thank you makes your customers feel valued, secure and happy.
In Shivaraju's view, there's simply no substitute for humanizing back and forth in the business-customer relationship. In fact, he asserts that getting to know his clients accounts for as much as 90 percent of his success.
"People are always looking for quick fixes to everything," he says, "and shiny and new marketing techniques are a dime a dozen. Face-to-face contact and cold calling may be difficult or uncomfortable for some, but it is what I consider to be the best way to grow your customer base. People gravitate towards the new because they're hoping it'll be less work on their end, but to ensure long-term success with clients you need to focus on the critical process of establishing familiarity and trust."