Online marketing is now synonymous with “marketing.”
It doesn’t matter if your budget is $100 or $100 million.
It doesn’t matter if your business is offline, online or both.
There isn’t (I hope) a marketer who has P&L responsibility and is leading the allocation of their marketing budgets without considering online marketing and its potential effect on the business.
More than a third of CMOs say that at least 75% of their budget will go toward digital advertising in the next 5 years, if they aren’t there already.
And why shouldn’t they? Online marketing offers clearer attribution, a wealth of first party data and it’s evolving at an exponential rate every year (and month).
However, this trend didn’t come out of nowhere.
There are millions of online marketing practitioners out there now who call online marketing their career. There is a multitude of specializations ranging from paid search gurus to social media marketing ninjas to search engine optimization analysts…but if we were to boil down the discipline of online marketing into its simplest form, all of these individuals are driving qualified pieces of traffic and driving it through a conversion funnel.
Yeah, that’s it.
If you think about, this has been around far longer than the Internet has.
- Email marketing > born from direct mail marketing
- Facebook marketing > born from in-person networking groups
- Youtube ads > born from TV ads
- Podcasts > born from syndicated radio shows
- Blogs > born from magazines
- Conversion rate optimization > born from infomericals
- Paid search ads > born from classified ads
I invite you to take a trip down memory lane for two of the above channels and examine how the “growth hackers” in the days before the Internet made their millions. See how you can apply it to your digital marketing strategies now.
Email marketing (and direct mail techniques)
Direct mail is one of the original manifestations of the database marketing. If you had an offer or something to sell, direct mail was how you would do it. Sending out mail in bulk, though, is prohibitively expensive and difficult to scale. What was an old school marketer to do?
Savvy direct mail marketers would utilize techniques that would ensure that their dollars are spent as effectively as possible:
- The design of the envelope and the written text (“ad copy”) is key. If someone were to throw it away, that “impression” would be wasted. Tricks include looking like an official government letter, writing urgency phrases like “URGENT,” scenting envelopes with something pleasant and including a compelling offer on the front. You had to go above and beyond in order to prevent the end user from throwing the piece of mail away as “junk mail.”
- Utilize list segmentation. Direct mail marketers would utilize complex models to determine if certain zip codes had attributes that were more likely to convert. This is still used to this day with political mail campaigns and how “red” or “blue” a certain zip code area was. If you are selling high end furniture, you likely should marry up average household income data points and only send the mailers to certain geolocations for maximum effectiveness.
- A/B testing. The best direct mail marketers would be testing copy all the time. They measured results by recording “sends” and “responses.” Responses were measured with codes:
- A: the mailing address would be 123 Main St. Offer 10001
- B: the mailing address would be 123 Main St. Offer 10002
- Responses would still be delivered to the same physical address, but depending on what people wrote they would learn about what to do next
- If you aren’t using the above techniques for email marketing at scale, I would recommend you start 😉
Paid Search Ads (and Classified Ads)
Newspapers used to dominate media share in the country as nearly every one read a newspaper on a daily basis. Smart marketers with something to sell would post in newspapers and wait for the customers to roll in.
However, the ads were expensive and charged by the character. If you wrote a verbose, ineffective ad, it would cost you an exorbitant amount of ad spend for little return. In order to counteract this, classified ad marketers would do the following:
- Forge a compelling offer. Sell the shit out of it. Make it short and powerful. The below stands out among a sea of bland, boring ads.
- Example: “The hottest thing in years. This is a household wonder you’ll cherish for years.”
- Ask for action. Demand the money! When writing a classified ad, you want a certain action from the prospective customer. Be clear with your call to action!
- Example: “This will sell out soon, so buy now by calling this number.”
- Value propositions: why should they care about your offer and not others?
- Example: “You get 100% of your money back if you’re not satisfied. No strings attached.”
- Resonate with your audience. If you’re targeting a newspaper that is distributed to middle aged women and your product is aimed to the same demographic, relate to their needs as vividly as possible.
- Example: “Save hours on household chores with our groundbreaking news invention. Kick back and relax on the couch.”
Sound familiar? All of these techniques are critical for attracting the highest CTR % in paid search and for getting the highest quality score possible. Compelling ad copy writing is a necessity and also a fine art.
Resource: download this old school guide for writing killer classified ads and apply it to your paid search ads.