How I Grew My Business With “Foolish” Old School Tactics (and Why You Should Do the Same)

by Craig McBreen · 24 comments · Content Marketing


How-I-Grew-My-Business-With-Foolish-Old-School-TacticsRecently while looking to expand my services I did something that would make some internet gurus blind with rage.

I partook in something from another era that goes against every fiber of their being.

In fact, I combined a horse and buggy form of media with an age-old practice that according to some, went out of style around 1998.

Before I tell you, let me just warn you this could induce a fainting spell, so you might have to sit down and take three deep breaths.

Okay. Are you ready?

Really, ready?

Here goes …

1. I created and sent (via snail mail) a sales letter.

You know, that one page thingy directed at the type of client you really want to work with, printed on paper, inserted into an envelope and delivered by the U-S-P-S.

2. And about a week after these letters where delivered – by the guys in blue shorts and funny hats – I picked up the phone, and called those I addressed the letters to.

In fact, I’ve gone on a sales letter, cold-calling spree.

Why?

It’s strangely euphoric, but I’m weird that way.

But really, it was because I wanted to see if old media still works.

Plus I thought I was becoming a bit too absorbed into the internet/web/blogging bubble.

I also wanted to get back to my roots. This is how I’ve found my best clients over the years and damn if I didn’t want to try it again.

Guess what?

The practices above work as well as they did for me in 1998.

Now before you go and call me a luddite and tell me I’m 98.5 percent full of shit, step back and think about your own branding, marketing, and sales.

Maybe going a bit old school could be good for your business and your sanity. (I’ll tell you why below).

And fair warning: I’m no sales trainer, but I am a business owner and I know certain rules haven’t changed since guys wore gray flannel suits to work.

In fact, I would advise any business owner or marketing director to at least consider the practices in this post.

You’re probably wondering, “why in the hell even consider such foolishness?”

Many online marketing wunderkinds might say I’m crazy, but I beg to differ.

I’m a pragmatic guy and a subtle shift in operations is always good, for your business, your soul, and your sanity.

And approaching your day like an old school marketer might be the best thing ever, for several reasons …

1. Your Inner-Copywriter Comes Out.

The technology, tools and delivery systems have changed dramatically over the years, BUT what you construct in the form of words hasn’t, really.

Crafting a good letter is like a copywriting primer. If you want to sell a specific service, product or new offering and you have only that one page to make your point; you focus, and then focus some more.

You think you’ve said all you can say about your business? I betcha haven’t and your inner-copywriter will agree.

Letter writing is an art, really.

2. New Practices Spur Change.

And focused writing generates better ideas.

A letter, or a call script, or a direct mail piece could …

morph into a lead page for your website;

become the driver of an email series;

or be the catalyst for a social media campaign, and so much more.

3. Your Marketing Will Be That Much Better.

A direct, clear, highly-targeted letter makes you think; about you business, what you have to offer and WHY people should work with you. (What can I say … sometimes we forget).

It clears the cobwebs and clutter and helps you fine-tune your marketing and mission.

4. You Polish Your Presentation Skills.

Sales calls? Most dread and avoid this practice. I tag it as a form of healthful stress that helps your company grow and hones your speaking skills in the process.

The elevator pitch becomes rote.

You’ll start to laugh at rejection, and …

You will become a better speaker and communicator.

All good.

When a company or organization approaches me about design and marketing, I often step back and ask them about positioning, naming, and crafting a tagline.

One new practice I’ve just started implementing?

Asking if they can craft a sales letter.

What can it do for you?

This little practice could provide the impetus for you to bust some major league moves and help you work up the courage to make “that” call.

All good for you and your business, and all the more reason to get busy writing your own little letter today.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric Walker May 1, 2014 at 9:57 am

I 100% agree with everything here. Kudos!

I bet most don’t know how to write a sales letter and that’s another opportunity for you to service these people.

I believe in snail mail. There’s certainly a time and place for it. And since it’s somewhat costly, and the turn around takes often times a little longer, it forces the marketer to really hone the piece.

In your case, I think picking up the phone after a week was crucial in the process. Yes?

Glad to be on your email list. Enjoy your content.

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Craig McBreen May 1, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Hey Eric,

Thanks and glad to see you agree.

The letter (and thank you card) is kind of a lost art, isn’t it? Good old snail mail works brilliantly, if done correctly. And yes, the call is a crucial part of that.

Thank you, so glad you signed up and really appreciate you coming by today.

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Stephen Lahey May 1, 2014 at 10:50 am

What do most successful sales and marketing folks have in common? Flexibility and the willingness to test and innovate. The fact that you tried this approach yourself just makes me respect you that much more, Craig. (Btw, based on personal / client experience I can also confirm that a well-written sales letter combined with follow-up by phone can be highly effective.)
Stephen Lahey recently posted..Ian Altman on ‘Same Side Selling: A Radical Approach to Break Through Sales Barriers’My Profile

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Craig McBreen May 1, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Hi Stephen,

Indeed :) I thought you might like this approach.

Thanks for the kind words, and for confirming this approach does indeed work!

Cheers.

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Ashley Faulkes May 2, 2014 at 12:33 am

Great read Craig
I was thinking of trying something old school recently, to try to get my fledgling business off the ground.
Unfortunately I am not in a position to try this. My German is not good enough (alas I am a native English speaker living in the German speaking part of Switzerland).
But I was thinking perhaps of dropping some postcards or similar with some reasonable copy in local businesses post boxes.
So few businesses have websites or good websites here, I might get something out of it.

have you had any experience with postcard drops?
ashley
Ashley Faulkes recently posted..MLP009: How Relationships and Branding Lead to Blogging Success w/ John Paul AguiarMy Profile

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Craig McBreen May 2, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Hi Ashley,

Thanks! I kinda wish I was living in the German speaking part of Switzerland ;) It’s on my list.

I think postcards are a great idea. I think a series works best, and not sure about there, but in the states high-end, low qty and low cost color printing is readily available.

Direct mail works very well now, because there’s so much less than there was 5-10 years ago.

Thanks for popping in!

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Danny Brown May 2, 2014 at 4:02 am

Boom! In one eloquent post, you’ve shown it’s not you that’s full of shit but the digital marketing over everything asshats that can’t see the wood from the trees.

Of course snail mail and the telephone will work – because you’re simply thinking from a sales and marketing viewpoint, and not how many tweetable moments you can craft in the first paragraph.

Kudos, mate, here’s to the folks with real business acumen like you.
Danny Brown recently posted..How Ryan Cox Is Stepping Up to the Childhood Hunger Plate and How You Can HelpMy Profile

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Craig McBreen May 2, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Hey Danny,

Thanks for the kind words, and telling me I’m not full of shit ;)

I was worried I was getting too lost in the online jungle, thus the test and the brilliant results.

Great to see you here and hope you enjoy the weekend in Greater Toronto :)

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Ryan Hanley May 2, 2014 at 4:36 am

Craig,

I write out scripts for most of my videos and then use a teleprompter to deliver the message. The process of writing these videos out is focused and must b concise to fit in the 2-4 minute I want my videos.

Great copywriting practice… just like with your one-page letters. I actually use snail mail intros to events I’d like to speak at.

Hanley
Ryan Hanley recently posted..Building Remarkable Professional Networks with Derek Coburn | #74 Content Warfare TVMy Profile

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Craig McBreen May 2, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Hey Ryan,

Glad you mentioned that, because I think you’re a great example of someone doing this right. Love the vids so far.

And thanks for the tip … I’m trying to secure 5-10 speaking gigs over the summer.

Later :)
Craig McBreen recently posted..How I Grew My Business With “Foolish” Old School Tactics (and Why You Should Do the Same)My Profile

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Josh May 2, 2014 at 9:38 am

Swap out the gray flannel slacks for flannel pajamas and all you have done is proven you live in the Pacific Northwest. ;)

I haven’t tried snail mail in a while but I have never given up on the telephone. I am surprised by how many people don’t use it any more. Five minutes on the phone can be exceptionally effective and make it much easier to craft an email that you know will be read.
Josh recently posted..Public Relations & The World’s Deadliest AnimalsMy Profile

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Craig McBreen May 2, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Hey Josh,

Well there is very little dress code here, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone wore flannel pajamas to a meeting ;)

Well, snail mail is working very well for me right now :) And yes, a telephone call at the right time will get you places.

Thanks for the visit and hope you enjoy the weekend, Sir.

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Gini Dietrich May 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I know you think I’m going to disagree with you, but I don’t! I have a friend who, once a quarter, sends a gift card for a cup of coffee to his prospects. It’s just $5, but it works extraordinarily well. You know why? No one is doing it! I always say sales/marketing/communications hasn’t changed…we just have different tools. I love this approach!

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Craig McBreen May 6, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Hi Gini,

Well for some darn reason, you were top of mind when I wrote this ;)

I love your friend’s idea and I might just steal it.

“I always say sales/marketing/communications hasn’t changed…we just have different tools.”
– Indeed, and revisiting these old school methods has helped in other ways.

All good.

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Adrienne May 6, 2014 at 9:50 am

Gosh Craig, I think anyone who actually grew up in our era knows this stuff still works.

I think with the age of the internet as great as it is, the fact is that you can’t rule other things out. As some might say, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Then and only then can you scream from the rooftops my friends.

Bravo to you my friend and trust me, those thank you cards always work! ;-)

~Adrienne
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Craig McBreen May 6, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Hi Adrienne,

Makes us sound old ;)

I think more than a few out there set up their site for conversion and wonder why the heck it isn’t converting. This stuff will work, but you have to pound the pavement first. There are many ways to do this, including the 1-2 punch I’ve demonstrated here.

Oh, and I’ll keep sending thank you cards. Good habit to get into.

Thanks for the visit!

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LeslieZ May 6, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Hey Craig,
I love the snail mail approach! How funny that going backwards makes you take a leap forwards. Everything comes back around.

People that are younger think you came up with a brilliant new way to stand out in the crowd.

Birthday cards and thank yous hand written definitely make you stand out in the crowd.

LeslieZ
LeslieZ recently posted..Challenge Ending…Bigger Challenge BeginningMy Profile

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Craig McBreen May 6, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Hi Leslie,

It is funny, but embracing these old school tactics has help me make a few leaps. Everything does indeed come back around.

I used to write 1-2 thank yous a day via email, now I’m back to the good old thank you card. Gets kinda pricey at .49 cents a pop ;)

Thanks for stopping in.
Craig McBreen recently posted..How I Grew My Business With “Foolish” Old School Tactics (and Why You Should Do the Same)My Profile

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Erica Holthausen May 18, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Ah, the little black dress of marketing. It never goes out of style.

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Craig McBreen May 18, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Nice way to put it ;)

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Catherine Marshall May 29, 2014 at 3:08 pm

I think that you definitely need to be the traditional way and the online way to do business. Just because people are spending more time online doesn’t mean that snail mail is dead. Direct mail still adds a personal touch to customers.

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Craig McBreen May 29, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Hi Catherine,

Agreed :) In fact, direct mail might be one of the best ways to run a small campaign (or at least be a major part of one) because there’s no much less junk mail in the mailbox these days.

Thanks for the visit!

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Kevin Davis @ Alphagraphics August 19, 2014 at 8:56 am

I love your view on the topic. One thing that might also encourage more traditional forms of marketing is that as more and more businesses go online, the mail box is more empty now. So, you are more likely to get seen through traditional forms of print than you were a couple years ago.

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