Digital Marketing: “Old-School” is New Again….and Still Rocks Big-Time!

Back in the good old sales days, it was all about the power of persuasion. You know–back then salespeople had to have a handful of proven techniques, like listening to potential prospects, adjusting the sales pitch and being able to close deals.


Matt Bailey on why old school is new again in the digital space!

Fast forward to the era of digital marketing…and much has changed. Yet niche publishing pros still need these tried-and-true sales techniques more than ever in order to reach, convert, and grow audience.

So what are some of the most popular old-school sales techniques and how do you retrofit them into your website design, marketing, calls to action, engagement, measurement, and subscriber management?

We checked in with Matt Bailey, Founder of SiteLogic Marketing and best-selling digital marketing author (and Niche Digital Conference Keynote), about how to apply “old school” sales techniques to digital marketing. These tried-and-true tools help you communicate more effectively with your audience and build long-term relationships that drive revenue.

NMHQ: What are 3 ways that niche publishers can start taking their “old school sales tools” and make them new again in the digital space?

Matt:  “Great question:

1)  My favorite is to look for “the need behind the need.” When people are looking for a solution or a meeting a need, there is always an underlying need. We tend to focus on the external, or expressed need, rather than exploring the underlying need. Those needs are deeper, more powerful and leverage action more than the expressed need.

For example, I need information about a hobby, and would like to subscribe to a niche publication. Is the need as simple as a hobby? It’s what they’ve expressed. Scratch the surface, and you may find that they are looking to gain financial independence by turning their hobby into a business- or realizing a long-held dream.  Those are powerful motivators – and if you can show how your publication helps to meet the deeper need, there will be more attraction and value perceived by the subscriber.

2) Know the Objection. When you know your product and your audience so well that you can predict the objection. Usually price is the primary objection. In sales training, you learn to re-frame negative objections into a positive reason. The more you are prepared for the negative objection, the more prepared you are to turn the tables in presenting it as a positive. 

I won’t give away the farm by showing how to do that here – I’ll wait for the session and show how to turn a price objection into your most powerful and persuasive sales and subscription tool.

3) Data, data, data. Mine that audience data to find the most profitable sources, segments and relationships. Know the best use of your time in developing your audience, and which activities are more profitable than others.”

NMHQ: The post-sales process–what are some areas of opportunity you think publishers may be missing out on?

Matt:“The most obvious part of the process that I see is the initial 3-6 month period for a new subscriber. You can’t always bet that they’ve read all of your available content prior to becoming a subscriber. I would create almost a new set of content that is delivered to them on a regular basis for the first few months of process. Educating them not just on the niche content, but on you the publisher and the community as well. 

New Subscribers are excited and engaged subscribers. They will be more open to receiving a higher volume of communications early in the relationship, as they want to be brought up to speed and understand this new community. Studies constantly show that subscribers who receive ‘welcome series’ email or addition content are more engaged, more active, and purchase additional products at a higher rate.”

NMHQ: Tell us more about why the small numbers tell the real story behind digital success and revenues.

Matt:“One of my first lessons in digital marketing was that “big numbers lie.” I found this out when I started looking beyond the visitor numbers and started looking at the sales numbers. I found that the vast majority of my leads came from search engines, but ALL of my sales came from a link from an industry publication’s website – where I had purchased an ad for $25/year. Talk about an astronomical ROI!

This taught me that the trends are in the segments. By segmenting my sources, segmenting by search terms, segmenting by actions – they all provided me with different contexts and stories about the different motivations of my audience. By focusing on a segment, I could improve the experience of that segment and increase my revenue. Then, move on to the next segment, and so on.  

Jan Carlson, founder of SAS airlines, said it best: “You can’t improve one thing by 1000%, but you can improve 1000 things by 1%.”  Too many times we only look at the big numbers in analytics, only to realize that there is not enough information to take action. By looking at the small segments and trends you can find immediate action to improve.”

NMHQ: What trends do you see coming in website design and marketing?

Matt:“That’s a difficult question, as there are many answers. For niche publications I see a different trend than more general publications. In general, readers’ attention spans are dwindling rapidly. There is a demand for content at a moment’s notice and publishers will have to react and somehow monetize.

In niche media, I see a different trend. People want the information, but they are more invested in the hobby, business or trade. Because of that investment, they have more attention and are more engaged.

Website design in niche is going simpler and less “design heavy.” By that I mean that the emphasis is on the clear presentation of the content: Things such as layout, fonts, structure (hierarchy) of the content are taking precedence as users want faster access to content. Making the access and presentation of that content the focus, rather than pretty pictures or cult-layered designs are becoming necessary for fast access, limited attention spans and mobile culture.

Unfortunately, most companies are waiting for that “silver bullet” that will magically lift them into profitability. Rather than pursing a data-centric approach to marketing, they are the mercy of external headlines, trends and media. They chase the latest trend and wonder why it didn’t work. 

What I’d like to see as a Marketing trend is more of a wish. While Google no longer allows us to see the search queries that drive visitors to the site, I’m wishing that more publishers would look to the basics and get those right before focusing on the latest marketing trends and social sites that keep popping up every day.  What are the basics? Know what works, why it works and how to leverage it for more money. Once you know those, handling new social apps and marketing trends is a breeze.”

 Editor’s note: Matt is leading the keynote session, New Dogs, Old Tricks (Classic Sales Techniques & Your Digital Business) at the Niche Digital Conference in Denver, Sept. 19-21, 2016.


More about Matt: Matt Bailey, Founder of SiteLogic Marketing, is a digital marketing trainer, speaker & best-selling author. Over his 20+ years in the online marketing industry, he has shared his online marketing wisdom with Google, Microsoft, Experian, Proctor & Gamble, and more! Over Matt’s extensive history in online marketing he’s taught at Rutgers University – Center for Management Development, Direct Marketing Association, and Market Motive. In 2006, he founded digital marketing agency SiteLogic Marketing.


Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. Next up? The Niche Digital Conference in Denver, Sept. 19-21. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Plus, Carl Landau – Niche Media’s Grand Poobah – is launching the all new Super Niche Event, March 27-29, 2017. Check it out!

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