Digital Marketing Vs. Traditional Marketing: Which One Is Better?


Digital marketing has experienced explosive growth over the past decade or so. The results have been transformative, to say the least. Digital marketing has disrupted business models and permanently altered consumer behavior. It’s no surprise that many small businesses struggle with deciding which kind of marketing is worth their investment. Go digital all the way, stick to traditional strategies, or just create a hybrid? The answer isn’t clear and unfortunately not simple either. There are a ton of factors to consider when trying to decide which option will give you the most bang for your buck.  Then there is the question of how to measure the results. Who can you trust? Should you outsource to an agency? Or take a DIY approach? We’ll answer all these questions in detail and help you figure out the best option.

Traditional vs. Digital—Clearing the Confusion

Since we are trying to solve a problem and learn something at the same time, let us take the most basic approach, i.e. start from the beginning. The term traditional marketing refers to

  • Print ads—found in newspapers, flyers, brochures, bill stuffers, and magazines
  • Multimedia ads—radio, TV commercials, and billboards

Digital marketing on the other hand is focused on virtual marketing assets, for example

  • Your website
  • Social media presence
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Media Marketing (SMM)
  • Pay per click (PPC)
  • Email marketing

Creating a digital strategy means doing a ton of research; make sure you have a fast internet connection to make the work easy. Look up Spectrum Internet services in your local area.


The Pros of Traditional Marketing

The concept of marketing has been around for ages, in fact, some believe that it started in ancient India and China.  People would try to present their goods in a certain way to ensure they got something better in return. These humble beginnings have now resulted in today’s advanced marketing strategies that are driven by complex data. Here are some benefits of using traditional marketing tactics.

Easily reach a local target audience

Localized marketing is a breeze with traditional methods. Your radio ad can play in one region or city and reach your audience. A mailbox flyer can go out to homes within a specific suburb area.

Marketing materials can be kept

Because these exist as a physical copy, marketing materials can be kept and browsed through over and over again.

Easy to understand

Most people are familiar with traditional tactics and will immediately recognize the ad and its purpose.

Scientific studies support the benefits of hard copy marketing materials. A study conducted by TrueImpact compared the efficacy of digital ads and paper marketing ads. The techniques used in the study included high-resolution EEG and advanced eye tracking. Three measurements were tracked and evaluated, ease of understanding, persuasiveness, and attention.

The results showed that participants found it easier to process the information in direct mail ads and recalled it better than digital ads.

The Downside to Traditional Marketing

Things aren’t all rainbows and sunshine in the world of traditional marketing. These timeless tactics come with their set of cons. Let’s consider the major issues a small business owner will face.

Very little interaction between customers and medium

There is minimal interaction between your medium and target customer. You’re basically broadcasting the information to a wide audience and hoping the right people will be interested enough to engage.

Print, radio, and TV ads are costly

Print, radio, and television ads can be costly. Printing materials are expensive and distribution is also an added overhead. Good quality TV advertisements need a major investment of time and money.

Measuring results can get pretty tough

Accurately measuring the results of traditional marketing is tough. Often you can’t get detailed numbers which hurt your efforts to refine your strategy.

However, depending on your specific business niche and target audience, these limitations might not be too much of a hurdle. Think carefully before investing either strategy.

The Pros of Digital Marketing

Let’s move on to digital marketing and try to understand why it has become so popular. Here are some benefits that have made many brands replace their traditional strategy in favor of purely online marketing.

Local + global reach

You can easily target a local as well as a global audience. What’s more, you can customize your campaigns according to audience demographics, such as age, location, and interests. More targeted campaigns will generate higher quality leads.

Content delivery can be customized

Your audience can choose their method of receiving content. One person might prefer to read an informal blog post, another might want to watch a quick video, or another might want to skim over a list of features. All these different tastes can be catered to with digital marketing. People can also choose to opt out altogether from if they wish.

Direct interaction with your audience is possible

Social media marketing puts you in direct contact with your customers. These platforms are powered by these interactions and often encourage it. This gives you the power to encourage your prospective customers to take a specific action such as visit your website, participate in a competition, make a purchase, and review products/services.

Often the most cost-effective option

Online marketing is cheaper than traditional methods. Paid online marketing also exists, but even this option is much less costly than radio, tv or billboard ads.

Easily track progress and monitor results

Results of your efforts are easier to track. Tools such as Google Analytics will record all necessary metrics in minute detail so that you can tweak and change things as necessary. You can make quick changes in real time to avoid a loss.

Work on a level playing field

When it comes to digital marketing any business, no matter its size, can perform exceptionally and compete with the big players. Contrast that with how impossible it would be for a small business to match the finesse of a billboard or tv commercial created by a major brand.

Which Option Should You Choose?

Now that we’ve thoroughly understood these two concepts and explored them in depth, now let’s try to answer the million dollar question. Which is better? We suggest a hybrid approach because in this day and age an all or nothing approach doesn’t work.

Creating a Hybrid Strategy

You can get the best of both worlds in this case. Traditional tactics can be supplemented by digital or online methods. These are not mutually exclusive and are often most successful when used in tandem. Try to incorporate traditional methods into the middle stages of your sales funnel. Initial efforts can be purely digital, but once you’ve gained a customer’s interests, follow up with hard copy material. For example, if an e-commerce order is finalized include a nicely designed brochure or a mini-catalog into the final package. You can also brand the packaging to add a customized touch.

The bottom line is there is no use taking a black or white approach. Opt for a multi-channel strategy that combines digital and traditional tactics. Each of these types has their own pros and cons. As a business owner, it’s up to you to decide which tactics will work best. Experiment a little, keep refining with time and you’ll find the right mix.

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