5 Outdated Marketing Techniques Still Used

By Madison Taylor
July 30, 2021
black and white photo of a child with a bike

The landscape of marketing is constantly shifting. New platforms or even entire fields of marketing spring up seemingly overnight, and marketers have to learn to adapt to them. We’ve seen significant revolutions in the last 20 years with the advent of the internet, the rise of social media, and the ubiquity of mobile devices, but there are still some old techniques that some marketers are clinging to. Here are our top six techniques that you need to let go of immediately.

1. Fabrication and Deception

In the public eye, marketing and advertising are practically synonymous with bending the truth (or outright lying). For decades, companies told falsehoods or significantly misled consumers about the capabilities of their products. Recently, Kim Kardashian saw a bit of controversy when a video promoting her new shapewear line appeared to show significant retouching.

Why It Doesn’t Work

There are two main reasons that honestly is your best policy. The first is that with unparalleled access to information, customers are more able than ever to call your bluff. If you claim that your software can handle 10,000 user accounts and it can’t, it’s the work of a moment to find a blog post or tweet from an angry user accusing you of lying. In the case of the Kardashian shapewear line mentioned above, one user’s brutally honest review of the product has gone viral for pointing out how unrealistic the product’s claims are.

The second reason you can’t lie is that your existing customers are your most valuable resource, and making them angry is extremely counterproductive. New prospects trust your existing customers more than they trust you — most people won’t buy anything of value without reading reviews or testimonials — and if your existing customers think they’ve been misled, they won’t speak well of you.

Instead, focus on honesty, openness, and genuine usefulness. Yes, there are people who have no interest in what you have to offer, and that’s ok. But deceiving them into thinking that you have the right solution to their problem isn’t a winning proposition.

2. Telemarketing

In today’s day and age, telemarketing simply doesn’t work. It’s dirt cheap, which is why it remains so prevalent, but since so many are either shady companies or outright scams, it’s not an area you want your company to associate with.

Why It Doesn’t Work

Today’s consumers already don’t like talking on the phone, and they like talking to someone unexpectedly even less.

Worse still, virtually every major carrier and several phone operating systems automatically filter calls that are marked as spam, so the chances that anyone will pick up the phone at all are slim at best. Your company and reputation have nothing to gain from unsolicited sales calls

3. Direct Mailing (Usually)

Direct mail is still an enormous business, with more than 450 pieces of marketing mail delivered to every household every year. But when’s the last time you saw a mailer in your mailbox and got excited? The truth is that for most businesses, direct mail isn’t an effective method of bringing in leads.

Why It Doesn’t Work

First, direct mail tends to be pretty poorly targeted. Obtaining a particular person’s home address is difficult, so most direct mailers tend to send their mailings based purely on location — grocery stores send coupons to people who live near the store, for example.

The second issue relates to the buyer’s journey — the series of steps between the moment a customer realizes they have a problem and the moment they make a purchase. Direct mail tends to target the end of this journey, offering low prices and encouraging people to buy immediately. But most people aren’t on the verge of a new purchase at all times, so they brush off the messaging.

When Direct Mailing Works

There is a circumstance under which direct mailing has proven very effective: when you’re talking to people you already know. Retailers like Target, for example, gather enormous amounts of data about their customers. Target knows your interests, your purchase history, what your household looks like, and more, allowing them to send you mailers that directly pertain to your needs.

If you can obtain your existing customers’ home addresses, direct mail can be an excellent way to call their attention to new products or remind them to renew their subscription. A physical piece of mail stands out much more effectively than an email that might get lost in the shuffle. Just remember to use direct mail judiciously.

4. Email Spam

Email spam suffers from the same problem as telemarketing: it’s too easy to filter out. Moreover, it may well be illegal — with new regulations including the GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, your company is in violation of the law if you email people who didn’t specifically opt in.

Why It Doesn’t Work

Even though mass emailing costs virtually nothing, people can also ignore, block, or delete it with almost no effort. The average office worker receives more than 100 email messages a day — if you send them an email that they weren’t expecting and weren’t asking for, chances are good that they’ll never see it.

5. Bad SEO

Google loves to change its methodology without warning, making SEO a moving target, but some marketers are still using SEO techniques from the early days of digital marketing that aren’t helping them at all. For example:

  • Keyword stuffing: cramming as many instances of a keyword onto your page as possible isn’t fooling anyone, Google included. Focus on relevance and readability
  • Hidden text: some people attempt to rank highly for keywords by adding them in invisible text or hidden behind other page elements. Google can see through this tactic.
  • Backlink spamming: you can pay to have your page backlinked by shady websites, but Google knows the difference between a quality link that people actually use and an arbitrary link from an obscure source
  • Duplicate content: Google claims to crawl and index 80 billion pages a day — if you’re trying to pad your word counts by using the same conclusion on every blog, they’ll notice it.

Stay Flexible in Your Marketing Techniques

Marketing changes on a nearly monthly basis — techniques change, consumer mentalities shift, and new tools arise. The strategies that might have been your primary moneymakers a year or two ago might suddenly become obsolete, and you’ll need to adapt. Marketing isn’t about finding a technique and sticking to it — it’s about meeting your target audience where they are and learning how they think. You can’t be afraid to leave the old ways behind.