Since the dawn of the Internet back in 1983, marketers have been coming up with creative ways to reach their audiences every single day.
Many companies shifted their marketing efforts from traditional channels to digital platforms, while others found comfort in sticking with the old ways.
The traditional marketing vs digital marketing debate has been going on for years. Here’s the thing, though: both methods can be useful, so there’s no real winner here.
That said, each marketing method works best for a specific kind of audience. In other words, the key to knowing where to spend your marketing pounds is in understanding your target audience, how to reach them as well as the pros and cons of each kind of marketing.
Without further ado, let’s help you pick a side in the traditional marketing vs digital marketing debate.
What is marketing?
We’re going to keep this as concise as possible: marketing is simply anything you do to promote your brand or business in order to encourage prospects to convert and become clients or customers.
What is traditional marketing?
In a nutshell, traditional marketing, also known as offline marketing, refers to any kind of advertising that doesn’t involve digital platforms.
This method reigned supreme for centuries before the Internet became a thing years ago but had been slowly declining in popularity ever since. Take The Sun, for example, which is one of the most popular newspapers in the UK. Back in 2003, it had an average circulation of 3,364 million copies, but that number dropped to 1,2 million by 2020.
Some common traditional marketing mediums include:
- Flyers and posters
- Magazine and newspaper ads
- TV and radio commercials
- Direct marketing mailers
- Coupon books
- Catalogues and brochures
Pros of traditional marketing
Even today, old-school marketing strategies can still be applied to achieve significant results. Here are some of the advantages of using traditional marketing:
It can help you reach particular audiences
Some consumers, like retiring CEOs, for example, don’t use the Internet and social media channels as much as the younger generations. If that’s your target audience, traditional marketing methods may be your only option to reach your prospects.
There’s definitely a time and a place (well, a bunch of them, actually) when person-to-person selling is the most effective way to market a product or service. For example, that’s the case if you want to do a demonstration of your product or service. Not to mention that many high-ticket customers and clients prefer to deal with people they’ve actually met personally.
Traditional marketing offers tangibility
Traditional marketing methods make it easy to provide information on the go. For example, you can easily hand out a tangible business card that your customer or client can refer to at their leisure. Call us old-school, but it’s also appealing to have physical brochures or something that you can hand out at in-person events, such as trade shows.
Cons of traditional marketing
As appealing as it is (or is it?), traditional marketing still comes with limitations, such as:
It can be pretty expensive
Many traditional marketing channels are expensive and cost-prohibitive. For example, getting advertising for TV or radio can be way over budget for small businesses that are still trying to get off the ground.
Even printing hard copy business cards, brochures, catalogues, and mailers can get expensive, especially if you’re planning to use direct mail to reach tour prospects.
There’s also the fact that, when strictly using traditional marketing methods, you’re going to need outside help with media creation, printing, etc. Those costs can add up quickly.
No effective tracking
Most digital marketing methods offer powerful analytics tools to help you track results effectively. Traditional marketing mediums, on the other hand, make it hard to track real, quantitative results and adapt your strategy accordingly. It’s basically like throwing things against the wall and hoping something sticks.
It’s usually forced upon the customer
Since traditional marketing cannot be as effectively targeted as digital marketing, it’s usually more frowned upon by customers. Most people don’t like their mailboxes loaded with spammy mail, and there’s no easy unsubscribe button to limit that.
What is digital marketing?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock since the nineties, you’ve definitely come across different kinds of digital marketing methods. Simply put, digital marketing refers to any kind of campaign that’s done using the Internet.
Here are some of the most popular digital marketing methods:
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing (Facebook or Meta ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc.)
- Search engine marketing (SEM) through search engine optimisation (SEO) and Google Ads
- Website and banner ads
- Affiliate marketing
- Influencer marketing
Pros of Internet marketing
Digital marketing has revolutionised the way marketers reach their customers, and for good reason. See below:
There’s plenty of data to play with
Thanks to powerful analytics tools, like Google analytics 4, Meta analytics, and LinkedIn analytics, digital marketing methods allow you to use real data and qualitative results to make decisions.
- Data helps you see what’s working and bringing in clients and what isn’t. Not only will that allow you to focus your effort on what works, but it can also save you a lot of money that would’ve otherwise been spent blindly.
- Qualitative results give you an overall picture of your clients or customers. That can help you better narrow down your target market. That, in turn, can help you target sub-groups of your audience using more effective messages, which increases response and engagement.
Not only that, but since that data is readily available at any given moment, you can use the feedback immediately during seasonal sales, for example.
You can interact with your customers
Social media allow you to interact with groups or even individual customers. Not only does that boost trust and credibility, but it can also get you direct feedback on what’s working and what isn’t.
There are many reasons why digital marketing is more cost-effective than traditional marketing. For starters, it’s highly targeted, which means that you’ll only pay to reach prospects that are actually interested in what you have to offer.
Furthermore, you don’t need as much outside help since you can use online tools like Canva to create creatives and Copy.ai to help with copy. Both of those tools use artificial intelligence to make your life easier.
Personalisation is a marketing term that has been thrown around quite a bit over the last couple of years. It refers to the process of using data to figure out how to provide the most personalised experience to specific audience segments in real-time.
With traditional marketing methods, there’s no real way to do it. You’re basically sending the same message to all audience segments. Digital marketing methods, on the other hand, allow you to personalise your messages even on an individual level, creating a bond that cannot be achieved otherwise.
Cons of Internet marketing
By now, you must be thinking, “wow, Internet marketing is so great; it’s obviously the winner of the traditional marketing vs digital marketing debate!”
Well, hold your horses for a second as we briefly go over the challenges of digital marketing mediums.
Your audience has to be active online
This is self-explanatory. If your customers aren’t active online, the Internet is obviously not the most effective way of reaching them.
Keep in mind that Internet use is ever rising. In other words, it will most likely be common with nearly all kinds of customers in the near future.
If your business heavily relies on Internet marketing, then there are many tasks that you need to handle continuously. Those tasks include:
- Creating, editing, approving and publishing content
- Responding to messages and comments
- Maintaining your website(s) and page(s)
All of that can be highly demanding on your time. Of course, you can hire employees to take care of those tasks, but that can be out of the question for small businesses just starting out.
It requires consistency
Technically, this is not a drawback of digital marketing but rather something that you need to keep an eye on all the time.
When building an online brand, you have to be consistent across all platforms, including social media sites, forums and blogs.
Traditional marketing vs digital marketing: Which is the best?
As mentioned above, there is really no “best” option here, especially considering that both are broad terms that include different marketing methods.
Instead of asking, “Which type of marketing is best?” ask, “Which type of marketing offers the best way to reach my customers and get them to convert?”
Chances are, several traditional and digital methods can potentially work for your business. The only way to know which to use is to do your market research thoroughly to find when your market is and how you can reach them online and offline.
Let us manage your digital marketing campaigns
If you’re still confused as to which digital marketing method would work best for your business, worry not, as we can help. Book a discovery call with us today, and one of our experts will chime in to help.