Marketing Dinosaurs That Should Be Extinct in 2016

Marketing Dinosaurs That Should Be Extinct in 2016

In all industries, there are sworn by marketing practices that will eventually become archaic, due to emerging technologies and other factors. Like anything else, times change and things that were working 10-15 years ago are no longer the best path to take.

If you’re still driving a VW Thing, using VHS tapes and have a flip phone, you’re probably lost when it comes to the latest trends. Chances are, you're also still doing direct mail and advertising in the Yellow Pages.

If so, this column is a marketing wakeup call.

Here are some marketing techniques that should be retired, right alongside the sea monkeys and liquid paper:

  • Direct Mail: Looks at the numbers. In 2012, the Direct Marketing Association reported that an average response rate for direct mail was 4.4% with emails getting a 0.12% response rate. But, now the numbers have changed dramatically, and in 2015 direct mail is pulling in 3.7% response rate and many experts claim that email marketing is coming in at around 4-5%. For lead generation, direct mail costs the sender roughly $19 per every customer acquired if using direct mail, but with email marketing, it costs $11 per new client.
  • The Yellow Pages: In 2013, I wrote a column declaring what everyone already knew—the Yellow Pages were dead or at least dying. But yesterday I looked at our YP directory here in San Francisco and there were more than 300 body shops still advertising there. I called one shop owner from the directory and he told me he’s spending roughly $1,800 annually to run a small display ad in the book, but he isn’t sure if it works. He keeps doing it, because he sees his competitors in there year after year. So here’s the 411--if you’re still buying ads or listings in any type of phone directory, you might as well go back to fixing cars with an old, rusted frame machine and revert back to using repair manuals again. Take that money and put it into things like email marketing, online ads, social media and new content for your web site or blog.
  • Phone Work: Shops work hard to keep their customers in the loop and connected during the repair process. That’s a great thing and an integral part to any customer service model, but you don’t need to do it all via voice calls anymore. The Millennials are much more comfortable communicating by texting or emailing, because they’re more efficient and save time. Experts say that if you want to build relationships with your customers live in their world and emulate their habits. Stats show that young people aren’t exactly psyched about the old personal phone call and if you have a teenager you’d probably agree. Some post-40 types may still desire a voice call now and again, however so find out what they prefer and use that technique.
  • Spam: Spam filters are more sophisticated than ever and changing all the time to adapt to the tsunami of spam that grows at an incredible rate. But no matter how good spam filters get, some will invariably leak through. The problem is that even shops that properly tag their emails still could be inappropriately tagged as spam and discarded. In fact, your reader may never even know that the message was attempted at all, which is even more concerning. So, learn the ins and outs of how to avoid looking like spam. Here are some quick tips: Make sure the message in your subject line isn’t silly or ambiguous. Mailing to large batches of people at once will increase the odds of being tagged as spam, so break them up. Use a company-issued email address. Sending from a free email account like or gmail will increase the odds of getting tagged, so use a service like Constant Content or Mail Chimp. Avoid large images, intricate graphics and html code in your email and maybe most importantly spell check everything carefully before you send out anything, because when filters see bad spelling they figure it’s spam.
  • Keyword-Heavy Content: Writing online content for web sites and blogs that is stuffed with keywords in lieu of worthy and useful information will fail. Five years ago, writers had to adhere to rules like use the company name three times in the opening paragraph, to the point where it became ludicrous and much of the content ended up being illegible. Search engines today will sniff out your keyword-heavy content without hesitation and ignore you. It used to be all about backlinks, but now it’s more about providing top quality content that your readers will be interested in.
  • Fake Testimonials/Ads: In the old days, you could misdirect a consumer with a bogus offer in order to direct them to your page, but that will not work anymore. Most people (even many seniors) have become online experts, so they can smell that it’s a rat before they move their mouse. In the same vein, fake (or hyped) customer testimonials are easy to see through and that’s why companies such as Yelp and Angie’s List are losing viewership and users. Customer reviews are still important, but now you need to monitor them a little more carefully, because an obvious fake testimonial can negatively impact your shop.

By getting these marketing monkeys off your back, you should be able to invest more money in social media—the hottest form of marketing you’ll find in 2016. If you’re still not onboard with it, just take a look at the numbers. Around the world, there are now more than 2 billion active social media users (growing at a steady pace of 25 percent a year). This means more people now regularly use social media than the entire populations of the United States and China, combined, based on data provided by LinkedIn.

So, for those of you who still use a dial phone or root for the Montreal Expos, maybe the time is right to update your life and marketing techniques this year, because “...once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.” –Stewart Brand.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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