In the world of marketing, staying in stride with your competitors often isn't enough to gain momentum and success. Although many companies have moved past the expensive direct mailers, print catalogs, and cold calling campaigns that were so common twenty years ago, many still struggle to know what to do instead. The problem with these methods is that consumers often ignore push tactics from companies, and at worst, these kinds of ads might actually turn customers off.
Regardless of your industry, today's prospective customers don't want pushy sales ads; they want to control the sales process by interacting with brands organically and on their own terms. This means it's essential for marketers to provide access to the right information, 24/7, digitally.
What is Non-Traditional Marketing?
Non-traditional marketing is any unconventional, strategic marketing program, activity or tactic that uses innovative methods to reach a target audience in a new way. Because marketing is constantly changing, the tactics that are considered "non-traditional" will continue to evolve over time.
Types of Non-Traditional Marketing
- Guerrilla Marketing - an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results. (Creative Guerilla Marketing)
- Event/Seminar Marketing - a promotional strategy that involves face-to-face contact between companies and their customers at special events like concerts, fairs, and sporting events. (Marketing-Schools.org)
- Street Marketing - use nontraditional methods and advertising spaces to earn a greater amount of attention for an ad campaign. Unlike guerrilla marketing that can take place online, street marketing is confined to the street and other public places. (Marketing-Schools.org)
- Stunt Marketing - forms of marketing or advertising through which a brand releases false or humoristic breaking news for gaining media coverage and public attention. (Digital Marketing Glossary)
- Stealth Marketing - a marketing technique that advertises a product to people without them even realizing it. When consumers don't recognize the advertising for what it is, they do not have an opportunity to opt-out if they don't want to view it. (Study.com)
- Membership Marketing - a company-managed program to convert prospects or buyers into loyal customers, it can provide predictable revenue streams, generate higher revenue by customers, and increase referrals by efficiently using company resources. (Marketing Profs)
- Content Marketing - a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. (Content Marketing Institute)
- Growth Hacking - a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most efficient ways to grow a business. (Quicksprout)
Here are 7 non-traditional marketing ideas to help you get your creativity flowing and break the cycle of interruption:
1. Answer Your Audience's Questions
This seems like a really obvious idea, but there are a lot of companies that aren't doing this. Use your blog to create real, authentic posts that aren't focused on selling, but instead focus on helping your customers. Social media channels, like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are another perfect place to address common questions, barriers, and pain points that your potential customers may have. Answering these questions creates a sense of transparency, generates trust and removes hurdles in the buying process.
Things to try:
- Broadcast a FAQ session on Periscope or Meerkat
- Create a downloadable e-book with answers to common questions
- Publish an FAQ blog or website page
- Use social media to do a question chat or post common questions once a week.
Help Customers Create Their Own Story
Have you ever had a really exceptional experience at a company? How many people did you tell about that experience?
Helping customers create a unique shopping experience will not only create brand loyalty, but also give the customer a great story or shareable moment. When customers love your brand enough to share about it, they become powerful promoters.
Things to try:
- Inspire exceptional customer service, give your employees permission to go out of their way to give guests and customers a great experience
- Surprise your customers
- Loyalty programs
- Throw a customer appreciation party
3. Educate Potential Customers
Information is now more readily available for buyers than it's ever been, so consumers now spend massive amounts of time researching, learning, and preparing before they make a purchase. Consumers hate the feeling of being tricked by the car mechanic or the pushy salesperson trying to add on the $350 upgrade.
When you take the time to educate customers, you show them that you are trustworthy. Show them how you can solve their problems, help your customer to be smarter—then if they run into trouble or have questions, they will know exactly who to call.
Things to try:
4. Show Them You Care
Consumers love to support companies that care about the communities around them and share their values. Volunteering and showing the stories going on in your company can go a long way to help humanize your brand. People love supporting other people, but consumers are often leery of big corporations.
Things to try:
- Tell the stories of your customers and employees
- Volunteer with members of your company
- Sponsor events & support companies that give back
- Share stories from your community
5. Be Interactive
Traditional marketing is all about pushing your ideas on to potential purchasers. By allowing your customers to interact with your brand, you instantly become more memorable. One great example is Mastercard, which created an AI chatbot through Facebook Messenger to help customers with transactions in real-time. Not all companies can do elaborate campaigns like this, but you can use the principles to create an unforgettable experience.
Things to try:
- Interact with shoppers on social media
- Use surprising signs and display ads
- Let people try your product
- AI Chatbots
6. Develop an App
Developing an app may seem like a stretch for some companies, but just hear me out. There are a lot of awesome free tools and interactive apps available today. Think about things like headline generators, calculators, or the free versions of keyword research tools.
These apps can be a great introduction to your company in a non-salesy way. Helping people get answers to their questions and better understand the value that you bring to the marketplace.
Companies that already have developers are more likely to have the resources in house to deploy this kind of tactic, but there a tons of websites out there, like Fiverr, that can connect you will talented designers and developers that can help you get these tools built.
7. Start a Podcast
Edison Research’s Infinite Dial reported in March 2021 that 116 million Americans listen to podcasts on a regular basis and as many as 80 million listen on a monthly basis. This is a huge number of potential captive listeners over the length of your podcast. While content marketing is a continually crowded space, there is a steady number of listeners who are looking for great podcasts to add to their mix.
Here are a few tips for getting started:
- Make a plan - Know what your outline will be and what specific content area you want to cover.
- Invest in some good equipment - This doesn't have to be professional recording quality, but do some research on high-level podcast quality equipment to make sure you sound great.
- Promote your podcast across multiple channels - Don't expect that new listeners are going to come to you right away. Use your blog, social channels and emails to start gathering consistent listeners.
- Get lots and lots of feedback - Find out from your listeners what works and what doesn't and always keep iterating.
Marketers aren't going to be able to rely on the same playbooks forever. Applying these innovative marketing techniques will differentiate you from the crowd of noisy, pushy marketers who are still stuck in the past and will help you to connect with your customers.
Now, go forth and break the cycle of interruption-based marketing!
Editors Note: Originally published Aug 17, 2015, and updated August 25, 2021.
The 10 Content Marketing Benchmarks Worth Tracking
One of the beautiful things about Internet marketing is the ability to track the success of your...
Measuring the Effectiveness of Traditional Marketing
Doubting Thomas comes to mind when I think of the struggle many old school marketers have when it...
Enhance Your Marketing Efforts with Journalistic Brand Content
Some of my fellow StoryTellers recently attended the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s event...