Dear FAM, What kind of marketing tactics are losing their edge or totally done? I remember ten years ago when e-books were all the rage, but we don't see them anymore. On the other hand, new kinds of platforms like TikTok channels, while exciting today, run the risk of running out of steam. What can I do that will stand out and also stand the test of time? Sincerely, On The Edge
Dear On The Edge,
This is a GREAT question, and it has a few moving parts. First, we have to clarify the difference between a strategy and a tactic. A strategy is a long-term plan made up of many different tactics, which are short-term actions geared to help you get closer to your overall strategic goal. Your marketing strategy should clearly define a quantitative goal and the channels you’re using to generate those results. For example, I have a strategy to build a paid newsletter list of 3,000 people by the end of the year through four channels: social media marketing, paid ads, podcasts, and speaking engagements. Within each of those channels, I’ll use specific tactics that help me get the most of those channels. So that’s the difference between strategy and tactics.
Secondly, we have to get specific with the timeframe of your question. As you pointed out, e-books were really popular back in the day, but not so much now. Similarly, running an ad in TIME Magazine with a mail-in coupon probably won’t yield the same results it did in the 60’s. But I don’t have to tell you that—it’s pretty obvious.
So, for the sake of a valuable answer, let’s focus on tactics that have risen in popularity over the last 3 years. With that criteria in mind, I can think of a few:
Low-ticket influencer marketing campaigns have lost their edge. Unless you’re paying a celebrity or the rare micro-influencer who is VERY careful with their reputation, you’re most likely going to be paying a sell-out who’s in it for the money. There are a lot of ex-influencers on Instagram who’ve lost their engagement because they started hocking products left and right, totally abandoning their audience.
White paper and case study PDFs are quickly going out of style—I could probably make the argument that they’re already out of style. In today’s mobile-responsive and video-friendly world, downloading a PDF document is quickly getting to be a pain in the ass. You can see this by enterprise SaaS companies having ditched their white papers and moving on to live demos, webinars, and other more engaging forms of content.
Quora has lost its edge in recent years. I stopped using it entirely about two years ago because the content wasn’t relevant and became really clickbait-y. It used to be similar to what Reddit is today; an energetic community of thoughtful people asking and answering thoughtful questions. But now when I log in I see a lot of ads, a lot of really, really random questions, and a lot of people more concerned with getting followers and views than posting truly thoughtful content.
Now, just as a cherry on top of my response, let me vent for a minute about Re: subject lines. Those are emails that have the letters Re: in front of the actual subject line to trick you into thinking someone replied to one of your emails. They aren’t going out of style anytime soon, but they’re annoying, so I’m including them on this list to start manifesting their demise.
Generally speaking, if you feel that a particular tactic you’re using is losing its edge, start running some experiments. Try something new! See how it performs and whether it makes sense to pivot to another tactic. The great thing about marketing is that making decisions between two tactics really comes down to the numbers—whichever gets you closer to your strategic goal is the one you should use. Plain and simple.