Marketing Maturity in Depth: Legacy Stage

Marketing Maturity in Depth: Legacy Stage

Legacy businesses are well-established companies that have been operational for many years and are often deeply rooted in traditional practices. They are typically characterized by their reliance on manual processes, such as using spreadsheets for customer data management. While these businesses benefit from strong customer loyalty and a rich history, they face significant challenges in adapting to modern, digital-first marketing strategies. The transition from traditional methods to automated, data-driven approaches is crucial for their survival and growth in an increasingly competitive market. In this article, we’re going to dive into the challenges and recommended next steps for Legacy Businesses. 

While we review challenges and next steps for Legacy businesses we will follow along with a Legacy Business, called “Bubbles Laundromat”. We’ll look at how these challenges play out in real life as well as how the recommended solutions can help them overcome those drawbacks and grow. 


1. Manual Data Management

Many legacy businesses rely on basic spreadsheets for managing customer data. This method is often labor-intensive, prone to errors, and lacks the scalability needed to handle growing data demands efficiently. Not only that, the data is siloed into documents which means that without manual input, the data can not be actioned in any meaningful way. The results of manual data (especially considering these sizes of businesses don’t have the resources to analyze it) are that customer insights are lost to a spreadsheet living deep in a computer file that is rarely, if ever, looked at. 

Bubble Laundromat: So how does Bubbles collect data? Customers come in, they have their regulars, and they collect necessary customer contact information. But they collect this data manually. First Name, Last Name, Email, and phone numbers are given to the person behind the counter. HOPEFULLY no typos are made, or numbers misunderstood. There is so much potential for error in manual processes. Bubbles often find the emails or numbers are wrong, if they even reach out at all… but we’ll get to that next. 

2. Data is Static and Often Out of Date

Without integrated and automated systems, data in legacy businesses tends to become outdated quickly. This static data fails to provide accurate, real-time insights, which are crucial for making informed business decisions and responding to market changes promptly. In addition to this data not adapting over time, it can’t be used in meaningful ways. The lack of automation means more time has to be spent trying to use that data to engage their customers

Bubbles Laundromat: We talked about Bubbles collection of data but are they even using it? They’re often too busy to even notify customers, and they have no automation systems to ping customers when their orders are complete. Even if they did have a messaging system in place, the data would have to be manually entered and sometimes that's just too much to ask of a family run business. So customers come in, customers leave, and Bubbles never engages them outside of a friendly face behind a counter. 

3. Generic Communications 

Communication with customers is often broad and impersonal, typically involving mass mailings or general newsletters. This lack of personalization can lead to lower engagement and customer dissatisfaction, as modern consumers expect tailored interactions and offers. A lack of usable data means it's easier for businesses at this stage to blindly create direct mailers or single email blasts with no direction. That lack of personal touch means the direct mailers go in the trash, and the emails immediately deleted (if they make it past the spam folder)

Bubbles Laundromat: So their data has tons of errors, its outdated, and it hasn’t been used at all. But it’s a Monday and our owners have decided they need to drum up more business so they create a direct mailer campaign (the word campaign here is generous, since they are just planning to send out 1 flier to the customers who gave them their home address). Unfortunately they don’t know anything meaningful about their customers. Bubbles can’t even quickly personalize these direct mailers with their customers' names. So the mailer starts out with “Dear Customer”. Unfortunately for Bubbles, the best case scenario here is that the fliers make it to the recycling bin instead of the garbage. 

4. No Reporting or Attribution

Legacy businesses often lack robust reporting tools to track the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. Without proper attribution, it’s challenging to determine which strategies are driving sales and which are not, making it difficult to optimize marketing campaigns and allocate resources effectively.

Bubbles Laundromat: Let’s imagine that Bubbles decided to send an email blast instead of a direct mailer. They took their manual data and one by one uploaded them into their company gmail address. Then they sent out an email advertising their 15% weekend discount. But they have no idea if these emails were opened or deleted. After the weekend, they experienced a 3% increase in weekend traffic. Was this because of the email? Or just complete coincidence, after all 3% isn’t a huge jump. The reality is the single un-personalized email only had a terrible open rate and their 3% increase had nothing to do with their outreach. Bubbles however, has no way of knowing this, so they’re giving 15% away to customers who would have paid the full price and aren’t driving any new traffic. 

Next Steps:

To overcome these challenges and position themselves for growth, legacy businesses can follow these strategic steps:

1. Invest in a Basic Marketing Database

Databases allow you to organize your data, run reports and segment them based on any relevant data point. They often integrate with tons of helpful systems such as marketing orchestration platforms, opening the door for automation and personalized engagements. 

Bubbles Laundromat: Bubbles Laundromat decided to invest in a Customer Data Platform (CDP). By migrating all their manually collected customer data into this dynamic platform, they could keep customer information secure and up-to-date. This investment allowed them to segment their customers more efficiently by past visits and demographics. With this new capability, they can now tailor their marketing efforts to specific customer groups, resulting in more personalized communications. The results? Emails that are opened, direct mailers that don’t end up in the trash, and more customers in their store. 

2. Start Creating Basic Customer Journeys

Understanding customer journeys is vital for every business. Each individual goes through their own distinct journey but each one can be tracked and predicted. At this stage, we recommend starting simple. Instead of sending a single email, plan out multiple engagements. When a customer comes into the store, give them a discount code if they give you their email. Then send an email with a buy one half off offer 1 week later for the same product they purchased. These simple engagements can start to bring 1st time customers back into the store. String enough of these together and you’ll build loyalty very quickly. 

Bubbles Laundromat: To deepen customer engagement, Bubbles Laundromat started designing basic customer journeys. They created a simple 4-step engagement process: 

1. a new customer comes in to have 3 shirts dry-cleaned. At purchase, they’re given 20% off if they provide an email. 

2. a personalized thank you followed by a description of all their services is sent a few hours later.

3. An email is sent 3 days later with a personalized discount stating “Bring in 2 shirts for cleaning, get 1 cleaned for free”

4. When the customer comes in for their second visit, they’re given an additional 15% offer to encourage them to return a 3rd time. 

This is an important detail because Bubbles learned an important lesson- when customers come in for a 3rd time, they’re 90% likely to be customers for life. After implementing this simple customer journey, Bubbles is starting to see significant increases in loyal customers. 

3. Expand Digital Tactics by Hiring a Digital Marketing Specialist

The fastest road to engagement is through digital channels. This is often overlooked by businesses in the legacy stage. Taking this first step to invest in a marketer with digital experience is going to lead to rapid improvements for small businesses. Even organic digital tactics such as SEO, organic social posts, and content marketing will improve traffic. 

Bubbles Laundromat: Recognizing the need to enhance their digital presence, Bubbles Laundromat hired a digital marketing specialist. This expert managed their social media campaigns, optimized their website for search engines, and developed targeted online advertising strategies. For example, the specialist created a series of social media ads promoting special laundry service discounts, which attracted new customers to the laundromat. Combined with their newly launched CDP and tactics to create customer journeys, they now have an engine for creating loyal customers.


Legacy businesses, though grounded in tradition and loyal customer bases, must evolve to remain competitive. By addressing the challenges of manual data management, outdated information, and impersonal communication, these companies can unlock new growth opportunities. Investing in marketing databases, creating customer journeys, and expanding digital tactics are essential steps forward.

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