For small businesses, finding a successful, cost effective marketing strategy often comes down to a decision between digital and offline methods.
This is not always simple – only 61% of marketers believe that they have an effective marketing strategy.
With both the rise of internet usage and continuation of traditional marketing by even the most successful business, it is important that your decision is well informed to prove beneficial. Gaining an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of both methods is vital in achieving this.
In terms of cost, digital marketing tends to be much more effective. Designing, printing and distributing a physical advertisement is often much more expensive than sending an email, advertising on Google, or displaying a banner online.
Furthermore, it does not add much cost to change a post online if there is a need for alteration. Traditional methods such as leaflets or brochures are costlier to reprint and redistribute.
However, businesses with a low marketing budget do not have to rule out traditional marketing methods completely. Small adverts in local newspapers or on local radio stations are often relatively affordable and can be advantageous when not overpowered by larger, more expensive ads.
An unsuccessful marketing strategy is a waste of time and money with little payoff.
With digital marketing, it is easier to measure the success of a campaign. You can keep track of the number of people reached, who engaged with it, and who purchased as a result.
This is harder to pinpoint with offline methods of marketing as it is not clear how many people may have ignored a newspaper ad or thrown away a brochure. You will therefore have difficulty in determining how effective a strategy is, setting goals and tracking progress throughout its lifespan.
Credibility is particularly important for a small business trying to build up a positive brand image.
A business can gain credibility through a well-designed website, but with a limited budget this can be unachievable if your competitors are much larger, established brands.
Potential customers often trust particular digital marketing campaigns less due to the prominence of online scams. They are more likely to believe a business that is recognised and recommended by a reliable source (e.g. a local radio, newspaper, friend). This is a huge factor in whether they choose to invest in the offered product/service, and so offline marketing can offer benefits in this way. But if it’s a matter of proving your credibility online, it’s worth considering which strategies, channels and campaigns will work best for your particular industry.
While it is argued that the non-invasive aspect of digital marketing is an advantage, it can consequently feel less personal. Digital marketing is often expected, ignored, and distant as opposed to an object that interested individuals can physically keep.
Something tangible allows for potential customers to become accustomed to the business. From a leaflet kept on the fridge to an ad cut out of a newspaper, the brand can become more familiar and trusted by members of the target market. If you can tie your offline marketing with digital campaigns, it can prove to be very effective. For instance, providing free gifts or branded items through online giveaways.
One benefit of modern digital marketing is personalisation, which can be achieved through marketing automation. You can generate dynamic web or email content that is tailored for the person who is receiving or reading the content, and can really help in generating new relationships or nurturing existing customer relationships.
When considering online vs offline marketing, recognising a target market is crucial.
Using offline marketing can be effective when targeting a local audience. People nearby are more likely to discover businesses relevant to them through ads in community newspapers, posters in shops, or leaflets posted to them directly.
Additionally, offline advertising allows you to reach potential customers who may not make use of the internet. Though it is unquestionable that internet usage has increased significantly in recent years, the percentage of elderly and disabled people who use the internet regularly is still considerably low. When aiming to attract such groups, it would be effective to use more traditional and accessible methods of marketing.
Alternatively, marketing online is appropriate with a broader target market who may be further from where the business operates. And the fact you can advertise through platforms such as Google AdWords or Facebook to specific audiences within a certain radius means marketing to local audiences is also very effective. But this is all down to your target audience.
It can also be more suitable when targeting young people. They are statistically more likely to use the internet and thus more likely to encounter forms of online marketing.
Online advertisements also ensure that relevant demographics notice the business. They target certain types of people based on information such their age, gender and interests.
To conclude, it cannot simply be claimed that one form of marketing is ‘better’ than the other.
You should use digital and offline marketing complimentarily for the most effective strategy. Each provides a contrast to the weaknesses of the other, giving them the potential to work extremely well together.
However, for a small business with a limited budget, it ultimately depends on what is most important to you (e.g. cost vs credibility) and how the method affects your target market.
Digital marketing offers a great range of ways to market your business to potential customers, whether it’s through your on-site SEO, social media marketing, email marketing, paid ads on Google and Facebook, content marketing, or otherwise. All of this can be done to suit your budget, and most businesses nowadays simply cannot afford to not have an online presence that helps to grow their business both on and offline.