However much confidence you have in your business, you won't get anywhere without effective marketing. Setting aside a marketing budget is crucial for getting your business noticed and reaching the right people at the right time. The big question is how you should spend it.
Before you get into comparing specific marketing channels, the first decision to make is whether you should invest your precious advertising dollars in traditional marketing (such as print, phone, TV and radio) or digital marketing (such as websites, search engines and social media), or even a combination of the two.
Read this guide for an overview of the pros and cons of both approaches and how to decide what's best for your business.
What is traditional marketing?
Traditional marketing is the broad definition of any type of marketing that happens offline. This may be through:
- Broadcast (TV and radio)
- Direct mail (letters, leaflets and catalogues)
- Outdoor advertising (flyers and billboards)
- Phone (telemarketing and SMS marketing)
- Print (newspapers and magazines)
Advantages of traditional marketing
Online marketing can be more cost-effective for small businesses, but traditional marketing still has its place. The main benefits of offline advertising are:
- Reach – everyone is exposed to traditional marketing in some form in their day-to-day lives, whether it's direct mail through the door, print or broadcast ads or billboards
- Local audiences – promoting your business in local media can be an effective supplement to online ads
- Older audiences – some audiences are more likely to see traditional marketing than digital equivalents, particularly older demographics who spend more time using traditional media
- Longevity – printed ads may be kept and viewed multiple times, while an ad on a screen may only be seen once
Disadvantages of traditional marketing
If you're considering traditional marketing, it's important to be aware of the drawbacks. These can include:
- Expensive – the cost per impression of print, broadcast and other traditional marketing forms is typically much higher than for digital marketing, which makes it less cost-effective overall
- Little to no interaction – traditional advertising is less customisable and can't reach your customers in real time
- Static – you can't make edits to an existing physical ad to correct errors or update details about your service or offer
- Difficult to measure – there is limited data to measure the success of your campaigns without real-time analytics
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing is any form of marketing that takes place exclusively online. This includes:
- Affiliate marketing
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Pay-per-click (PPC) ads
- Search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Social media marketing
- Video marketing
Advantages of digital marketing
With the huge growth of social media and internet use generally, digital marketing is no longer an alternative to traditional marketing, but in many cases its successor. With its lower barriers, any business can leverage the benefits of digital marketing, which include:
- Reach – the majority of people in Australia and many other countries use search engines, social media and other marketing platforms on a regular basis
- Targeting – online ads can be personalised with greater precision than traditional ads, based on your customer data and their interactions with your business website
- Cost-effective – the cost of digital marketing strategies is significantly cheaper than traditional advertising, offering a much greater return on your marketing investment
- Easy to measure – Google, Facebook and other major marketing platforms give users extremely detailed analytics on how their ads and other content are performing so you can see what works
- Easy to adjust – update offers and use feedback from analytics to improve your content or make corrections with immediate effect
Disadvantages of digital marketing
The positives of digital marketing outweigh the negatives, especially compared to traditional marketing, but it's always important to be aware of the risks when making any investment. These may include:
- Learning curve – while traditional marketing has been relatively unchanged for decades, digital marketing is always evolving, which means learning new information or leaving it to the experts
- Ad blockers – some users have apps or extensions that reduce the amount of advertising they are exposed to
- Technical problems – websites and other online channels may break or go down for maintenance at certain times
- Security risks – high-profile scandals involving Facebook and other companies have made many people more wary of how their data is used, so it's your business' responsibility to make sure your customer data is secure
Can traditional marketing and digital marketing work together?
Offline and online marketing may have very different mechanics, but the basic principles guiding both approaches are similar. Both can work together harmoniously to help you cover more bases – for example, a print or TV ad driving customers to your website and different messages targeted to different age groups through different mediums.
The success of either strategy depends on strong customer data. You need to understand how your target audience is segmented so you know the best places and best ways to market to them, both online and offline, and whether a combined strategy is really worth it – keeping in mind that traditional marketing can get expensive.
Which approach is best for my business?
Every business has specific marketing needs, but in most cases, digital marketing campaigns are more successful and cost-effective for small and local businesses. These campaigns are fast to set up and can be monitored and adjusted in real time, avoiding the waiting time and lowering the risks compared to traditional advertising.
The main exceptions can be if you're marketing to older audiences, who may be less likely to see online ads, or people in your local area, using traditional marketing to supplement a cost-effective digital campaign.
Whichever approach you decide on, a good marketing strategy is vital to make sure you're getting the best value and results for your budget. If you don't have a background in marketing, or don't have the time to run your own campaign, a digital marketing agency can take care of it for you.
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