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Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing: How, When, and Why To Use Each Form

As we’ve shared in other blog posts, we don’t love the use of the phrase “traditional marketing” to refer to activities that marketing teams at organizations, and advertising agencies, employed prior to the arrival of the internet and the digital marketing tactics made possible by it, but it’s become a tradition now to use the word “traditional,” and it’s something we don’t see changing. As we just alluded to, digital marketing activities are those that require the internet for execution and/or present information in a digital fashion or on some form of digital media.

Per our blog post heading, the aim of this discussion is to provide some insight on the difference between traditional and digital marketing and when to use each form. Most organizations will benefit from employing a combination of traditional and digital marketing for the reasons outlined below.

What Is Digital Marketing?

As we expressed above, digital marketing activities are those that require the internet or other digital technology/platforms for execution. Unlike traditional marketing opportunities that are all about putting the idea of your products, services, and solutions in the heads of individuals who might be a good fit for them, many digital marketing activities, such as organic search/SEO, paid search advertising, and social media posting are focused on getting information in front of individuals who are actively searching for your particular organization and/or the products, services and solutions you provide. Digital marketing activities include:

  • E-mail marketing – sending an e-mail/e-blast to existing clients, or to prospective customers who meet your target-audience criteria, e.g., meet certain age, geography, income, gender, job title, industry, or other demographics.
  • Social media postingposting free/unpaid updates on various social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, and LinkedIn.
  • Display advertising/social media advertising – this includes running paid ads that are served up by a social media platform, such as Instagram or Facebook (you can buy ads on the two aforementioned platforms together) to people meeting the targeting requirements you set, such as those outlined above for e-mail marketing; plus, Google Ads offers display (image) advertising to allow you to reach individuals whose behaviors, interests, and demographics make them a good fit for your products and services.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – employing free/unpaid/organic tactics such as optimizing behind-the-scenes meta/SEO post and page title tags to ensure your website and Google My Business Profile rank as well as possible in Google and other search-engine results for relevant searches conducted by your target audiences.
  • Paid search advertising – think Google Ads or Bing Ads – these are ads that are served up a the top of search results for search terms used by target audiences that are relevant to the products, services, and solutions an organization offers. This former blog post addresses when it makes senses to employ paid search/paid SEO tactics.
  • Banner advertising – this is advertising that is bought from an external website that serves the same target audience your organization wants to reach.
  • Other – the above list is not exhaustive, but highlights the most common forms of digital marketing. Other examples of digital marketing include, but are not limited to, digital billboards or transit posters, and ads that run on a TV-type monitor at transit stations, such as subway stations.

So, What Is Traditional Marketing?

As we explain in our blog post about push vs. pull marketing, to us, many forms of traditional marketing are “push” activities. They are marketing vehicles and activities that reach your target audience(s) and put the idea about your product, service and solution in their heads. Examples of traditional target marketing activities/vehicles include:

  • Broadcast Advertising – radio and TV (network and cable — of course now, you can also run advertising on streaming channels and stations)
  • Print Advertising – magazine, newspapers, and other print publications
  • Direct Mail – a postcard or letter is mailed to a purchased or existing list of current or prospective clients
    • When the list is purchased, the names and addresses you obtain would meet certain criteria that you specify, like geography, age, gender, income, job title, industry, etc.
  • Outdoors Advertising – billboards (static poster, and now digital options as well)
  • Transit Advertising – posters and signage (static, and now digital options as well) that appear inside a bus, train, or subway car, or on train, bus, or subway platforms. You can also “wrap” a bus or train, or a bus stop kiosk, with your branding.
  • Mall or movie theater advertising – posters and signage (static, and now digital options as well) that are placed throughout mall corridors or advertising that appears at the beginning of a movie while one is waiting for a movie to start.
  • Event Attendance/Tabling – the aforementioned could refer to having a table at a community or some other event where prospective customers can walk up to your table to obtain information about your organization and your products and services.
  • Tradeshow Attendance/Booth – the aforementioned is all about setting up a booth at a trade show which is expected to draw your target audience, and sharing information about your products and services with booth visitors.
  • PR/Publicity – distributing press releases to gain media coverage of an announcement made by your organization, or pitching your story to media/reporters who serve your target audience in hopes the media/reporter will “cover” your story.
  • Other – the above list is not exhaustive, but highlights the most common forms of traditional marketing. Other examples of traditional marketing include but are not limited to distribution of branded, promotional items, and lobby merchandising (if your organization has physical locations that customers can visit).

Why Most Organizations Should Employ Both Traditional and Digital Marketing Tactics

As we’ve discussed with many of our clients, some target audience members may not be “online” regularly. Perhaps, their busy personal and work lives just don’t allow for them to be regularly viewing social media posts and profiles, and/or conducting search-engine searches. Or, they may just not like being online.

While, individuals who visit your social media profiles and/or land on your website because they conducted an appropriate search-engine search might be warmer/hotter leads — therefore, they may be more poised to buy your products, or engage you for your services/solutions in the near future — some other target audience members may need some prodding or reminders (delivered to them via traditional media) about your products, services, and solutions.

Sometimes, there’s just not enough people searching regularly related to the products, services, and solutions that your organization offers. Target audiences just don’t know you and/or your products and services exist. All the more reason to employ some traditional marketing tactics.

Free Marketing Brainstorm With Marketing Experts

Our Boston marketing agency has experience related to executing the majority of the digital marketing and traditional marketing tactics above. Unsure which tactics to execute when, or need more detail on what’s involved in executing them, and/or more information on production and media-buy costs?

Schedule a complimentary discussion with our expert marketing team today to brainstorm about your organization’s particular marketing opportunities and challenges.

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