Marketing Lessons from Dusty Boxes

Change Is Good

This week, I’m tangibly aware of change.

You see, I’m preparing to move, and that means finally sorting through dozens of boxes of business materials and software to extract the 5-10% worth keeping. Some of these boxes have been in storage for years, but I don’t feel I can just toss them, since there are a few bits I want to preserve.

I’m Making The Paper Recycling Gods Happy

One of the changes I see very clearly in this 10-25 year old treasure hunt (oh, look, my high school diploma!), is that we’re so rich now in information. I had hoarded precious folders of clipped articles on small business, marketing, technology, management – and today I could find better information, faster, in seconds on the web. Without having to read the courier fonts that some of these are written in.

In spite of this, true wisdom is timeless, and the dozen or so articles I’ve kept out of all these many boxes are amazing. I remember them and the concepts and principles I learned from them, and those still serve me today.

Feed Your Head graffiti image

Good Design Holds Up

Many of the brochures and ads I’m sorting through, from the days before my “swipe file” went electronic, have laughably bad graphic design and writing. Yet, there are some that have held up, and could be used today with little change. Those are well designed communication tools that simplify complex ideas, from the point of view of the target audience. Many of them tell a  story, with a strong emotional component, visually.

Technology Is The Tool That Gets Us Results

I glanced through one article on working from home that stressed that you couldn’t expect to spend only $2000 (the low end of the market) for a home computer. You were going to need a 20 MB hard drive and a processor that could handle Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets (Excel didn’t exist yet), so expect to spend $3000-5000 for a home office system complete with dot matrix printer. Then I threw out a 10 GB and 20 GB hard drive. Nobody I know would use them today. The most recent drive I’ve bought is a 1.5 TB drive (1,500 GB, 1,500,000 MB), and I paid well under $100 for it. I remember buying a 10 MB drive in 1989 for $3000, wholesale…

I also recycled some $400/month long distance phone bills today, and I’m grateful for the reminder of how pleased I am to be able to call long distance through Skype to any phone in the USA or Canada for under $3 per month.

The tools change, but the goal of servicing our clients doesn’t change at all.

Not Paperless, But Moving In The Right Direction

We really are becoming more free of paper. My business doesn’t need paper swipe files any more, and my sales page examples are electronic, in a folder on my desktop. The ideas, quotes, and reference notes I used to scrawl on scraps of paper are in Evernote now, and I can find what I need, when I need it. My client files haven’t been on paper for years – so I can find them now.

Resisting Change is Deadly

Continuous learning is an essential business success skill. Sure, we’ve all heard that, but I held it in my hands today.

I just recycled over 50 course manuals from software courses I used to be paid very well to teach, that are so out of date they’re useless to anyone. Several dozen technical reference books went with them.

Many of today’s workers have never seen 5.25″ diskettes like the ones I was tossing out today. The fact that I used to be one of the best WordPerfect trainers in North America would mean nothing to them. I consider myself lucky to love learning – I’m probably one of the more tech-savvy women of my generation, partly because I’ve been around since before there was an internet. Early on, I insisted the techie boys share their toys, and I’ve kept up to date. If I’d sat back satisfied with my knowledge at any point, I’d be irrelevant and ineffective today. I’d be restricted from access to the global flow of information that the internet brings me… and I certainly wouldn’t have clients as far away as Hawaii and Hong Kong.

Six Lessons From Dusty Boxes

  1. Feed your head. Learn new stuff constantly.
  2. Don’t cling, but preserve and treasure the very best.
  3. Communicate to your client’s needs and point of view.
  4. Delight in Change, it brings gifts.
  5. Create better systems.
  6. Perspective is valuable.

Photo credit: MichuNeo

About the author


I'm a big fan of entrepreneurship. Most of my learning, teaching and business is focused on effectively creating "freedom businesses" that allow you to focus on your strengths, and bring what you're really good at to the world - profitably. My clients are looking for more of the right customers - and I show them how to make that happen. I help them develop their web presence through their website, SEO, social media and other marketing tactics.

Posted on by Karilee in Small Business Marketing

3 Responses to Marketing Lessons from Dusty Boxes

  1. Vernessa Taylor


    So I’m not the only one tossing out reams of teaching materials and 800-page reference manuals, eh? 😀 And I remember those $400 phone bills, especially from my daughters’ first year in college — which made me a believer in Instant Messenger.

    Your lessons are well taken. What else did you find valuable enough to make the 5-10% cut?
    Vernessa Taylor recently posted..No Hardhats Allowed – Online Project Management For The Rest of UsMy Profile

    • Karilee
      Twitter: KarileeO

      @Vernessa Taylor, Greetings back at you! Sorry I’m a bit slow, but the move is finally done.

      I’m a sentimental type, I’m afraid. Every personal letter and photograph got kept, at least for now. I kept diplomas and certificates, and my high school yearbooks (they were in the last box I sorted). I kept a few newspaper clippings, either of family achievements or of amazing moments, like the first lunar landing.

      Businesswise, I kept some references on management and design – the non-technical stuff ages better. I also kept a few key mementos like classroom props and teaching aids, rationalizing that they’ll make good examples if I teach Train the Trainer some day again.

  2. Tracyann0312

    Hi! A lot of lesson learns from your article. Every change comes into our life and we should face it so that success will come into us. The lesson you have learned is good especially the communication between you and your client. And that is important because opinions are the ones that can help your small business to succeed.
    Tracyann0312 recently posted..Baby EagleMy Profile


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