Traditional vs. Internet Marketing

Understanding the Pros and Cons of Traditional and Internet Marketing

Megaphone with a speech bubble that says "Marketing"

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Many new small business owners focus so much energy on their products and service, that they don't recognize that success isn't just from what the business offers. However, success comes from the ability to reach customers and get them to buy. Marketing is a crucial element to small business success.

Prior to the internet, marketing, especially to the masses, was difficult and expensive. The internet has changed that. However, that doesn't mean there isn't a place for traditional marketing methods alongside internet marketing.

What Is Marketing?

Marketing is essentially anything you do to promote your business to entice customers and clients to buy from you, including advertising, publicity, sales, social media, merchandising, and distribution. Fortunately, with the growth of the internet, you have two categories of marketing in which to spend your marketing time and dollars: traditional marketing and internet marketing.

There is an ongoing battle about which method is best. The truth is, both methods can be useful, and there is no reason to choose one over the other. However, the key to knowing where to spend your marketing time and money is in understanding your target market, the best way to reach them, and the pros and cons of each type of marketing.

What Is Traditional Marketing?

Basically, traditional marketing involves the promotional strategies used before the internet, or what is now referred to as offline marketing. It includes a multitude of marketing tactics such as direct sales, TV, radio, and mail advertising. Traditional methods relied heavily on print advertising such as magazines, coupon books, billboards, and other printed promotional materials like catalogs or brochures to convey their message to the buyer.

The use of brochures was often referred to as collateral but now applies to several media that presents the product.

Pros of Traditional Marketing

Even in the digital age, there are good reasons for employing old-school marketing strategies. Traditional methods may be the only means of reaching a particular group of consumers. For instance, if you are interested in targeting retiring CEOs, much of this demographic may not be utilizing the internet or social media channels.

You can market person-to-person, which can be an extremely effective strategy of traditional marketing. There is definitely a time and place when this type of direct selling is the most effective way to market a product or service. For example, through person-to-person, you can do demonstrations. Further, many customers and clients prefer to do business with people they've meet personally.

Traditional marketing offers tangibility or hard copy material. There is something to be said about handing a consumer printed material they can refer to at their leisure. This makes it easy to provide information on the go, such as handing out a business card or to have something at in-person events, such as speaking engagements or trade shows.

Cons of Traditional Marketing

While traditional marketing can be effective, it's not without drawbacks or limitations. Many traditional methods are expensive and cost-prohibitive: Purchasing advertising for TV, radio, or print can be very expensive for many small, home-based business owners. Printing hard copy brochures, business cards, and mailers are costly, and those expenses increase if you're mailing them through direct mail. Television and print advertising can also be very expensive.

It is difficult to track results when using common older forms of marketing. Traditional marketing is a lot like throwing things against the wall and hoping they stick. It is tough to track real quantitative results.

Using strictly traditional sources means most businesses will need outside help. Outside help can get costly when you consider the cost of printing materials, buying media, and creating radio or television advertisements. Also, this method employs the use of graphic designers or scriptwriters, which adds to costs.

Traditional marketing is usually forced upon the consumer, often annoying them. Many people don't like their mailboxes loaded with "junk" mail. Digital recording has made it easier for television viewers to avoid commercials.

What Is Internet Marketing?

Internet marketing is the process of promoting your product or service online. Internet marketing isn't limited to online businesses, such as a blogger or an e-commerce store owner. Even brick and mortar businesses can, and should, use the internet for marketing purposes.

Internet marketing utilizes strategies like a website, search engine optimization (SEO), website banner ads, social media, pay-per-click advertising, and email marketing.

Pros of Internet Marketing

Internet marketing has made reaching a wider market easier and more affordable. Customer interaction or results are much more measurable using online-based marketing methods. You can see what methods are bringing prospects and leads to your business, and leading to sales and which aren't. This data allows you to focus your efforts on what works. It can be accessible to any size business.

Decisions can be made using both real data and qualitative results. Qualitative results are descriptive and can give you an overall picture of your clients. You can better identify demographics to better find and reach your target market. This allows you to target sub-groups of your market for more effective marketing messages to increase response. Also, Data and results are available immediately. This gives you quick feedback on what works and what doesn't so you can adjust your marketing.

You can engage and network with your market. Social media allows you to directly communicate with groups or even individual consumers. It's free, allows you to speak to your market, and provides quick feedback on what's working and what your market likes. You have the ability to build direct relationships with your customers via social media and communities. It also provides the ability to make marketing message changes on the fly.

Using internet marketing can be inexpensive. Some online marketing methods are free. There's no need to hire outside help. Many online marketing strategies can be easily implemented by one-person home business.

Cons of Internet Marketing

While the internet has made marketing easier, it's not without its challenges. It can mean a reliance on customers being highly interactive on the internet. If your market isn't online, it's not the most effective way of marketing. With that said, internet use continues to rise, and eventually, will be common with nearly all consumers. 

It can be highly demanding on your time. Continuous content must be created, edited, approved and published; comments must be responded to and sites and pages must be maintained. And then there are social media, which can take an inordinate amount of time.

It can be mismanaged or inconsistent with your brand identity in forums, blogs, and social media. Successful online marketing requires consistency across all your marketing platforms.

Which Type of Marketing Is Best?

Too many businesses rely on one form of marketing over the other in the belief one is better than the other. While one method might be effective at bringing results, that doesn't mean integrating other options can't be as effective. For example, a television ad might pull in many prospects, but so too could that same ad on YouTube for less money.

The question isn't really what type of marketing is best, but instead, the question is what type offers the best way to reach your market and get them to buy? Odds are there are strategies in both traditional and internet marketing that will work. To know what option is the best for your business, you should do market research when creating your marketing plan, so you know who your market is and where they can be found both online and off.

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