Digital + Traditional Marketing - Finding the Perfect Balance

by on October 26, 2012

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As the importance of digital marketing continues to increase along with the growth of the Internet, some businesses wonder whether they should forgo traditional marketing altogether and stick to digital marketing solutions.  At the same time, some businesses that have historically used traditional marketing remain skeptical about using digital.  The truth is an effective marketing campaign typically incorporates a balanced mix of both.  

No matter the channels you choose, the fundamentals have not changed since Mad Men ruled the marketing world.  In both approaches there is still a need to conduct research on your target customers, develop buyer personas, and create compelling content that will engage your target audience.  Digital and traditional marketing both refer to the channel a marketer is using, not the strategies they employ.  

Digital vs. Traditional Marketing Channels

So, if the difference is the channel, what specifically is different about these channels?   Here we have listed the four biggest differences we see:  

1. Cost

Running a marketing campaign can be expensive, depending on the scope of the overall campaign.  However, with digital marketing there are ways in which you can reach more of your target customers and spend significantly fewer dollars than you would if you were paying for traditional marketing through traditional channels.   

For example, running an ad on a billboard or in a national newspaper for a month could cost the same as hiring a digital marketing agency for an entire year.  The ROI in paid search advertising has the potential to be much higher than traditional forms of marketing as using online marketing is relatively cheap (and measurable = invest media, and then you measure against conversions, leads or for an eCommerce business, actual sales).  

2. Reach vs. Targeting

The sheer size and popularity of the Internet means that you can potentially reach a much larger audience than a traditional ad – such as a billboard or magazine ad – would.  However, while it’s true that digital marketing has the potential to reach a much larger audience, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will actually reach a larger audience.   

For example a billboard that stays up on a busy road for a month has the potential to reach a much larger audience than the same advertisement would if were on a single web page online.  Thanks to ever more sophisticated and precise targeting tools, that online ad is more likely to be viewed by a smaller audience that is more likely to convert. You have no such control over the billboard.  

So the decision here will depend on the nature of your business and the purpose of the campaign. Trying to sell stuff to women over 50 in Washington State? Digital may work better for you with its demographic and geo-targeting.  You’re a new credit union in a crowded market trying to get noticed? A well-placed billboard is worth the investment.  

3. Customer Relationship – Who shapes the Messaging?

Traditional marketing channels include TV, print, and radio, whereas digital marketing channels include search,paidsocial, etc.  The intent of an advertisement presented through a traditional channel is to spread a message, raise brand awareness, and hopefully eventually move products.  When it comes to digital marketing the intent changes, and is focused much more around communicating and building a relationship with the customer (eventually encouraging them to purchase your products).  

Whereas in traditional marketing marketers have full control over the message, in digital marketing there is a certain level of control over message shaping being forfeited by marketers – in order to get their customers talking about their products (shaping their own messaging).  

Digital + Traditional Marketing Strategies

It’s no surprise that the most effective marketing campaigns incorporate both traditional and digital marketing solutions.  With a combined approach you are more likely to be able to reach customers at every stage of the conversion funnel.  

However, in the digital world we live in today, it is almost impossible for traditional marketing to not include some form of digital.  For example, if a potential customer sees your ad on TV or a billboard, if they want to find out more about your product odds are they will research it online.  Almost all magazine ads nowadays include a QR code with a link to a multimedia ad or the landing page for the product. Ultimately, all roads (and ads) lead to the website, which functions as brand central for any business these days.  

But it typically takes multiple touch points for a customer to convert, so the more visible your brand, the more likely that you’ll be front of mind as an option for a potential customer ready to make a purchase or sign up for a service. They’ll most likely go online to search for you, so you better have the digital in place. But it could have been a beautiful spread in a magazine that inspired them to make the move.  

As consumers change the way they make purchase decisions, both digital and traditional marketing will have to keep pace.    

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