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Keeping Your Brand Human: 7 ‘Old-School’ Strategies to Make Your Customer Experience Top-Notch

Laura Gayle

14 March 2024

5 min read

Technology has changed marketing, no doubt about it. Customer relationship management tools with AI-powered insights are nothing short of revolutionary, and mobile technology has transformed how both businesses and consumers operate. However, while they are of noteworthy value, these high-tech tools lack some of the charm and human-centric personalization — and efficacy — associated with the customer service and marketing strategies of yesteryear.

“Old-school” mainstays like personal follow-up calls, handshakes, trade show presence, and handwritten thank-you notes should not be lost to the ages. Now that brands of all sizes jumping on the tech bandwagon, these human touches can set you apart from others in your industry and give you a competitive edge. Try incorporating these seven old-school practices to round out your overall marketing strategy and make your customer experience top-notch.

1. Attend networking events

So many people are busy networking on social media, the in-person events sometimes get overlooked. People today are drowning in digital overload, so give them something a little different. Not every connection has to take place on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Nothing beats a networking event for old-school personal interaction. Try attending a trade show or conference for endless opportunities to rack up face time and shake hands. Remember, verbal conversations involving actual voices and faces can be far more memorable than digital interactions if you make a good connection.

Don’t forget to bring along some company-branded swag to hand out to your new friends. They give good brand visibility — and people love freebies!

2. Solicit feedback from customers

One tried and true old-school approach that is often underutilized is the customer survey. According to a 2016 report by Econsultancy, a mere 22 percent of companies are satisfied with their conversion rates achieved by online marketing. With the immense resources routinely invested in online marketing, this number seems to point to a disconnect. But why?

Don’t waste time pondering about it. Just ask yourself: Who’s better qualified to give customer service feedback than your actual customers? Businesses should always be conducting surveys in various forms to see if they’re getting it right.

If you’ve got a physical storefront or HQ, it’s always a good idea to keep an old-fashioned ‘Comments’ box and feedback cards in a visible location. Combine this method with useful and convenient email and text surveys, and you’ll always know how your customers think you’re doing. Be sure to ask them to rate their experiences, and leave a space for them to provide specifics. You can even offer incentives for feedback.

3. Meet clients face to face

Pre-Skype (and other apps), business representatives always met their clients face to face because it was more personal than a phone call from the business phone system. This practice is one that should never be underestimated or underutilized. Everyone wants to feel like their perspective and presence are valued.

Besides, expenses associated with travel and lunch meetings are tax-deductible — so there’s no reason not to meet with clients out in the world! Take advantage of tax- and expense-tracking apps and online calculators for record-keeping once your in-person meetings are finished.

4. Embrace your city

It never hurts your company’s public image to embrace your HQ city for its special attributes, whether or not you have a brick-and-mortar there. Most communities will support businesses that invest in and care about their cities. Connect with potential clients and fellow business owners in your area by sponsoring community events and attending events planned by others.

And if your business does have a storefront, do whatever you can to make your location memorable and welcoming. Since signs are one of the oldest remaining forms of marketing that’s still effective, it’s important to make sure your signage is appealing and visible to foot traffic.

5. Flyers and handouts

Most people have become immune to online ads, disregarding them like part of the wallpaper. Considering the sheer volume of digital ads that everyone sees on a daily basis (some studies estimate 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day!), it’s no wonder online conversion rates are so low. If you want to break through the digital noise, try going old-school: Hit the proverbial pavement with promotional flyers and handouts.

People are more apt to respond to a real person handing them an attractive promotional item then they would be to click on and actually follow through to read an online ad. Choose a location with high traffic, grab a stack of flyers, put on a smile, and start meeting people.

An additional option is to ask other local businesses if they wouldn’t mind you placing a flyer on their bulletin boards or near their checkout register. Be sure to then offer them the same courtesy. More exposure for everyone!

6. Direct mail

Email lists can be a great asset but are not always the most effective. Similar to online ads, too many promo emails can make readers’ eyes glaze over. When consumers are bombarded daily with these, it’s likely that many are sent straight to the spam or trash folders. If you want to achieve better success, consider direct mail through the good old post office.

You can send catalogs, advertisements, and coupons designed to catch your customers’ eyes. Did you know that 84 percent of consumers are influenced by coupons when deciding where to shop? While many younger adults use mobile or app coupons, the majority of consumers still don’t; those 84 percent of shoppers are primarily looking at paper coupons, many of which they receive in their mailboxes.

Let’s take the mail scenario a step further: Imagine a customer’s surprise and delight when you send them a paper note thanking them for their business. With direct mail services, the possibilities are numerous and can be done in a cost-efficient manner.

7. Offer samples or demonstrations

Product demonstrations are a great way to reach out to customers. As an example, think about how many people indulge in food samples as they cruise through the local grocery store or mall food court. Why are these so popular? Because samples and demonstrations work.

Whatever it is you’re selling, allow your customers an opportunity to experience it. They’ll usually appreciate the sample, test drive, or demo to see exactly how a product works. It takes the guessing out of purchases and also gives an opportunity to build a relationship on the spot.

As you design your demo, remember a few things: First, make it inviting in a way that lets people choose to participate; nobody likes a “perfume sniper.” Also, the focus should never be on “me” (meaning the demonstrator or the company); it should always be on “you” (as in the customer) — and how the customer can benefit.

The world has gone digital, unquestionably. But people are still people, with a need for human connection. If you base your entire marketing strategy on digital options, you’re likely missing out on entire market segments. Sure, you should still invest in the latest digital tools, but also, don’t be afraid to take your marketing strategies back a few years. When it comes to old-school practices, “outdated” doesn’t necessarily mean obsolete. Use these strategies to round out your overall customer experience and see what incredible results you can achieve.

Laura Gayle

Founder at BusinessWomanGuide

Writes about everything from crowdfunding and inventory management to product launches, cybersecurity trends, web analytics, and innovations in digital marketing. BusinessWomanGuide is a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms.

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