The Pre-Internet Era

Before launching my bricks-and-mortar window blind business, I was deeply involved in the home business scene during the 1980s and early 1990s, a time before the internet became a household thing. Back then, marketing a home-based business required immense effort. We primarily relied on direct mail, which involved creating physical promotional materials, managing extensive mailing lists, and making countless trips to the post office.

To drive traffic, we used traditional advertising methods such as print media, word-of-mouth referrals, and shared mailshots where you split the cost of the mailing with a few other promoters. Mainstream publications in the UK, like Exchange & Mart, offered affordable classified ads, and niche home business magazines were prominent. Among these, from memory were  The Millionaires Magazine, Fucus magazine, and I even had my own publication, Viking International News.  They were  A5 size and had a 500 to 5000 circulation and you could advertise in these or send your promo leaflets out with them for a fee.

They typically featured an affiliate or MLM system where subscribers could promote subscriptions to the magazine which would lead to monthly commissions. I remember subscriptions being about £5 a month, with a £3 per month commission in the case of my magazine,  for each new subscriber introduced.

The Millionaires Magazine used a multi-level marketing model that allowed earnings down to five levels of referrals.  The potential income from introducing 5 who introduce 5 down 5 levels at £1 each is over £3000 a month (you do the maths or math) which back then was well over average wage in the UK. I’m afraid that the ideal world world doesn’t exist but some made good money from this.

The MLM Challenges

It wasn’t all smooth sailing.  If you think that dodgy income schemes are a product of the internet era think again, back then the landscape was rife with crooks and pyramid schemes masquerading as legitimate MLM opportunities.

Infamous examples include the Bills Paid Club and FPW (I believe it was an acronym for Frequent Programming World), supposedly a fantastic new  “computerised money making system”.  These schemes eventually collapsed when money ran out due to a slowdown in new people joining prompting new legislation, in the UK at least, to crack down on MLM programs where pay-outs depended solely on recruiting new members.

Transition to Digital.  Affiliate Marketing Today

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if the offline business hadn’t taken off and I’d been one of the pioneers of the online make money online scene.  We’ll never know I guess.

Today, affiliate marketing has evolved into a sophisticated, predominantly digital practice. Traffic generation now leverages online platforms like social media, search engines, and emails, enabling broader reach and precise targeting. The modern approach encompasses diverse strategies including blog posts, videos, and social media.

Engagement strategies have also advanced with technology, using sophisticated tools to track user behaviour and personalise follow-ups, which significantly enhance conversion rates. Monetisation methods have diversified beyond direct sales to include ad revenue and sponsored content.  And hey, no more trips to the post office!  Back when my village post office in the UK used to love me.  They used to stick the stamps of the enveloped for me for free.

Core Principles Remain Intact

Despite these changes, the fundamental marketing principles, what I call my THEM framework – Traffic, Hook, Engagement, Monetization remain consistent. This framework emphasizes that those who transition from THEM who are strangers to THEM who are your fans are your most significant assets.

Although tools and tactics have transformed with the digital age, the essence of effective marketing remains the same.

Create connections, engage effectively, and monetize those relationships. The shift from physical to digital has not only streamlined processes but also reduced costs, enabling marketers to reach massive audiences and achieve more with less.

In conclusion, whether through print or digital media, the principles of effective marketing continue to guide businesses towards success, proving that some things don’t change even as everything around them does.

16 thoughts on “Evolving Tactics in Home-Based Business Marketing – From Print to Digital”
  1. Hi Steven,

    Your journey through the evolution of marketing from direct mail to digital platforms is fascinating! It’s amazing how much it has changed since the 1980s. Your insight into affiliate marketing and the THEM framework shows how timeless marketing principles endure, regardless of the medium. Thanks for sharing your experiences and wisdom!


  2. This post is a fantastic trip down memory lane regarding the evolution of mail, copywriting and promotion. Everything has changed in this short time but the foundations of marketing have stayed the same! Thanks for the history lesson!

  3. Hi Steve,
    I definitely remember those days! I had a t-shirt business in the mid 80’s. I used the telex service I worked at to contact my suppliers and was able to cut down on shipping delays from China by at least 2-3 weeks!
    If I had only kept the great money I was making back then instead of “living the life” I think I’d be way closer to my financial goals!
    But you can’t change the past – only learn from it! So many changes in what seems to be short years and here we are, all trying to make it using Affiliate Marketing as our venue.
    Persistence of work will get us there.
    All the best!

    1. Telex – remember it well. one of the many things that have appeared and disappeared during our generation.😁 Thanks For visiting and for taking the time to leave a comment

  4. What a fascinating trip down memory lane! .It’s amazing to see how much effort went into direct mail campaigns and traditional advertising. Transitioning to today’s digital affiliate marketing must feel like a world apart, yet it’s interesting to see that the core principles—your THEM framework—remain the same. It just shows you that while tools and methods evolve, the fundamentals of building relationships and creating value for customers are timeless. Thanks for sharing your journey and insights, I found this blog really interesting. Thank you

    1. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. Nothing about selling changes. I firmly believe that people will always buy from REAL people and the principles of making the sale will not change

  5. Ha Ha! It seems to be a resounding story. Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Steve. I was a fresh new graduate as a Mainframe Programmer – right at the time PC’s came online – like about 1983.

    I certainly got caught up in some crazy MLM in the 90’s. But program after program, I learned more and more – leading me to my current knowledge-base of what I enthuse about working on today as an affiliate.

    Nice job on relating the principles of effective marketing whether through print or digital media.

    You will get a share on my social media.

  6. Steve It’s fascinating to hear about your journey from traditional home business marketing in the pre-internet era to today’s digital affiliate marketing landscape. The effort and creativity required back then with direct mail and traditional advertising methods are truly commendable. It’s also eye-opening to learn about the challenges and successes of MLM ventures during that time, navigating through both opportunities and pitfalls. Your insights into the evolution of affiliate marketing into a digital powerhouse resonate well, highlighting how technology has enhanced reach, engagement, and monetisation strategies. It’s clear that while tools have evolved, the core principles of effective marketing remain timeless and crucial for success in any era. Thanks, Atif

    1. Hi Atif. Thanks for visiting and for the comment. The core principles are still the same and I believe always will be. Its just a new delivery method which needs learning in my case

  7. Steve thanks for making me remember the good old days although I broke in at a time that direct marketing was being revolutionized by the fax machine. Crazy how times have changed, but you are absolutely correct in that the core principles remain the same. All the Best!

    1. Fax Machine? You still got one? Think I’ve got some of the early fax rolls somewhere if you’re still doing fax. Interestingly in my bricks and mortar business up to around 2 years ago one customer insisted on sending his orders trough by fax. I had to pay for a fax to email just for him. He was a good customer and like most customers was a mate so I didn’t bother too much.

  8. It’s amazing how things have changed in such a relatively short time. As you were describing how it used to be, I caught myself thinking “hang on don’t we still get fliers in the mail” and quickly realized I hadn’t seen any for ages.
    Thanks for trip down memory lane.

    1. Hi Andy. Many thanks for dropping by and also taking the time to post a comment, Yes, the method has changed but the principles remain unchanged. Not sure what you mean by “hang on don’t we still get fliers in the mail” The individual emails are the same as to fliers

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