Although a lot of experts like to treat internet marketing as something that has completely changed business forever, the fact of the matter is that few things under the sun are ever completely new; most are just different, or faster, ways of doing what we’ve always done before.

Make no mistake, in some ways the Internet has drastically shifted the way we work with buyers, vendors, clients, and each other. Just think of the amount of information you can find on a company’s website, information that might have taken days or weeks to compile just over a decade ago. But beneath these changes, most companies are still doing the same things they have been trying to do for decades: find new and better customers in the most efficient way possible.

And so, if you came up in a different era of business, sales, or marketing, don’t fret. A lot of the same ideas that made so many well-known companies strong are still around today, they are just done a little differently now. Here are four old school marketing strategies that are easier than ever in the Internet age:

Cold Calling. While there are still a handful of companies that prefer a “smile and dial” approach to finding business, it’s a lot simpler, faster, and less aggravating to make introductions through inbound social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Not only did these sites make it a snap to form personal connections, but you can set appointments directly, or even let potential clients see other customers’ recommendations and testimonials, so you can gain a lot more credibility via social networking than you would through an unsolicited phone call. Cold calling isn’t dead, to be sure, but it’s a lot easier when you have social media on your side.

Direct Mail. Like cold calling, direct mail hasn’t gone away exactly, but neither is it enjoying the popularity (or profitability) that it once was. That’s because more cost-effective inbound marketing alternatives, specifically e-mail and targeted landing pages, can accomplish the same things as a sales letter can, only faster, more inexpensively, and with a higher success rate.

The key to direct mail, online or off, is still matching up the right list with the right message. The only difference is that, when your sales letter is online, you can pick and choose exactly what sort of customer you want to reach, and when, without wasting a chunk of your marketing budget on postage and printing.

Coupon cutouts. Few things bring buyers into a retail location like a great coupon. With newspapers facing smaller circulations, however, and many buyers being too pressed for time to scan and save printed coupons anyway, a new alternative has come in the play: QR codes.

Since they can be distributed any number of ways, and used as everything from a hyperlink to an instant coupon, QR codes give shoppers all the savings that printed coupons used to while also giving marketers more control than they’ve ever had. If you rely on foot traffic through your store, or retail sales, to make your business profitable, then it’s worth experimenting with different ways to integrate QR codes into your inbound marketing mix.

Yellow Pages ads. There was a time when a company wasn’t really “in business” without a proper Yellow Pages ad, and when you could expect that most of your local customers would come from the phone book. That has all changed quickly, as more and more customers are turning to the World Wide Web — often from their smartphones — to find businesses down the street.

It’s no wonder that buyers prefer local search, when you consider that the geographic results on Google, Yahoo, and Bing feature online maps, driving directions, links that can be dialed instantly from smart phones, and even reviews from other buyers who have already been there. Add in the fact that search engines can make real-time updates and don’t require flipping through different sections of the phone book to find the right name, and it’s easy to see where the future is headed.

Each of these inbound marketing tools is relatively new, in the sense that they didn’t even exist a couple of decades ago. But when you get past the technology involved, they are still about the most fundamental part of any business: letting buyers know that you are open for business and can help them. That’s always been important, and always will be — it just takes a little less time and effort than it used to.

What other marketing tools are morphing? Please share your thoughts.

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