Pre-Internet was a time when we communicated and consumed content differently than we do today. Everyone subscribed to at least one print newspaper or magazine. People read books with real pages and met in coffee shops to discuss them. We wrote and mailed letters. Every family had a camera, many that took pictures on photographic film. What can today’s Web-savvy marketers learn from these pre-Internet days? A lot. Here are 4 pre-Internet marketing rules to build your Web presence.

  1. Respond quickly to customer visits,
  2. Make it easy for customers to find you,
  3. Make it easy for customers to connect with you,
  4. Respect people’s privacy.

Applying these rules increases your search visibility, expands your social media presence, improves user experiences and unifies your digital marketing activities.

Respond Quickly To Customer Visits

Imagine there are two competing, Seattle coffee shops: Sloth Latte and Cheetah Expresso. Sloth takes 5 minutes to serve a customer, while Cheetah takes 1 minute. Cheetah earns high praise from its customers. Sloth gets less praise. Cheetah is expanding its hours of operation, while Sloth is closing for remodeling. Sloth responds too slowly to customer visits to compete with Cheetah.

So, why is your website any different from these two coffee shops? Page load times greater than three seconds are sloths. Load times less than one second are cheetahs. It gets worse. Online visitors often have tens or hundreds of competing choices. It takes only seconds for visitors to bounce off your slow website and onto the next competitor’s, fast website. How do you transform your website from a sloth into a cheetah?

Becoming a Cheetah

Start by migrating your website to managed WordPress hosting service WPEngine. The ROI is huge, compared to the cold reality Sloth Latte faces. Continue by resizing your largest images to less than 2,000 pixels wide. Finish by installing WordPress plugin WP Smush. It automatically reduces the file sizes of all current and future images in your WordPress Media Library.

Make It Easy For Customers To Find You

Retailers’ mantra is location, location, location. Sloth and Cheetah accordingly located their coffee shops near a major, downtown transportation hub. Buses, trains and automobiles bring steady streams of potential customers past their shops. Both shops promote themselves with eye-catching signage and office fliers. How different can it be to find them online? Plenty.

Sloth Latte hired a Local SEO specialist who:

  • Displayed Sloth’s contact information in the header and footer of the website,
  • Claimed and populated Sloth’s Google My Business (GMB) location page,
  • Created a GMB brand page for Sloth’s “Slow Down” apparel line,
  • Claimed additional local business listings via Moz Local,
  • Claimed and populated Sloth’s Yelp page.

Cheetah Expresso made no investment in Local SEO, instead relying on automatically generated business listings. What few business listings Cheetah has identify it as a Tea Store instead of a Coffee Shop. Displaying Cheetah’s old telephone number adds another layer of misinformation. Competitive Advantage: Sloth.

Make It Easy For Customers To Connect With You

A great location, word of mouth recommendations and published telephone numbers contributed greatly to each coffee shop’s success before the Internet. Their moves online have yielded mixed results in three areas.

Offline vs Online Balance

Cheetah Expresso’s focus on quick service comes at a price of having fewer products to sell. It primarily serves coffee by the cup, pastries and pre-made sandwiches. Cheetah has talked about adding online ordering but has yet to implement it.

Sloth Latte is an early adopter of online services. Its online sales of branded apparel allow it to reach new audiences outside its local service area. This is especially true in Austin, Texas, where pre-Internet slackers now find it is hip to be sloth. Online sales of bulk coffee offset declining in-store sales, where long service times remain difficult to improve. Competitive Advantage: Sloth.

Support for Mobile Devices, Primarily Smartphones

Both coffee shops’ websites are mobile-friendly and responsive. The sites adapt to the widths of smaller screens found on Smartphones. They also have click-to-call links and simpler layouts than do competitors’ desktop-first websites. Google says that it will reward such mobile-friendly sites with increased mobile exposure.

Sloth’s support for mobile devices includes Rich Cards for seasonal recipes. Underlying these recipe pages are structured data and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). These two technologies combine to feed mobile-optimized content to the search engines. Competitive Advantage: Sloth.

Onsite vs Offsite Connections

Onsite connections include website visitors who connect with site owners via contact forms, telephone calls and Emails. Visitors ask questions, share ideas and add comments about ways to improve their coffee shop experiences.

Offsite connections are primarily social media. Yelp and GMB are the bright spots in Cheetah Expresso’s social media presence. Cheetah’s customers rave about its fast service time and friendly staff, earning Cheetah 5-star reviews. Yelp and GMB then serve these reviews to newcomers looking for top-rated, local coffee shops. Sloth Latte’s social media presence extends beyond Yelp’s 1-star rants and GMB to include Facebook and Twitter. Positive reviews of Sloth-sponsored events predominate Facebook. Sloth relies on fans to retweet event schedule changes and merchandise special offers via Twitter. Competitive Advantage: Toss-up.

Event calendars combine onsite and offsite connections. Promoted events might be staged on premises, or they might be staged at off premises venues. Each coffee shop’s website aggregates and promotes events that reflect its customers’ interests. Their online event calendars are an upgrade to dedicated shop walls displaying playbills and posters for other types of performances.

Respect People’s Privacy

Both coffee shops started with simple loyalty programs. Regular customers wrote their names on 3″ x 5″ index cards which shop staff maintained. Staff stored the cards in small metal boxes near the cash registers. Limited information and access ensured privacy.

When Cheetah and Sloth upgraded to online loyalty programs, they included privacy policies on their websites. They also linked to their policies from the footers of every page. The coffee shops consistently follow their privacy policies in the ways they collect, store, use and maintain people’s information. Significant policy differences still exist between the two shops.

Cheetah secures all pages on its website with an SSL/TLS certificate. Every page URL starts with https, as a result.

Sloth secures only the shopping cart on its website. Non-Ecommerce page URLs start with http, which might appear in Google Chrome Web browser as Not secure. The Not secure designation ought to compel website owners to secure their sites. Websites risk losing search traffic, when they fail to comply. Competitive Advantage: Cheetah.

Cheetah has another advantage over Sloth, when Cheetah’s employees securely login to its website. Their usernames and passwords are encrypted during transmission. This encryption secures their login information from potential hackers. Sloth employees’ usernames and passwords are visible to hackers when they login, especially via home or coffee shop Wi-Fi® networks. Sloth’s employee and customer information is at risk of being hacked and disclosed.

Conclusion About Pre-Internet Marketing Rules

Follow these 4 pre-Internet marketing rules to grow your business. Strive for a fast response time, high visibility, ability to connect with customers, and a demonstrated respect for privacy. Start by auditing your business’ Web presence and policies. Identify the gaps or opportunities for improvement. Close one gap per week to improve your competitive position in a little as four weeks. Repeat until no more gaps exist.


Last Modified: December 4, 2021