In the world of online marketing, we generally think of offline or traditional marketing channels (like TV, radio, cold calls, billboards, flyers, visiting expos) as too expensive. According to one of many studies, the average lead to sale conversion rate is up to 77.5x higher for online marketing compared to offline efforts.
- Traditional campaigns are a great way to reach a specific demographic. For example, targeting CEOs, who may not have the time to read email shots or online ads.
- One of the biggest pros is probably the face-to-face interaction. Expos, networking, and referrals are all great because they afford an opportunity for “personability” which can build relationships in a way digital interaction often can’t.
- Traditional marketing often comes with tangible marketing materials - hard copies, brochures, flyers, etc. This is useful in a number of ways, particularly for heavily corporate marketing decisions. It’s an advertisement that is just always around - people are likely to glance at a business card, flyer, or piece of mail.
- Traditional marketing is expensive. Advertising on TV, radio, or billboards comes with both intangible and tangible costs. There are advertising fees just to take up space, but then there’s the expense of video production, voice talents, or print and design. It stacks up fast.
- There's also very limited measurability and trackability. Traditional marketing channels always work in a broad, wide-net approach. The ad is put in front of millions of people, with the hope that some of that audience will be interested in the offer.
- Traditional marketing is often an interruption - think of ads on Spotify, TV commercials, or door-to-door salesmen. They all interrupt user experience specifically to advertise, and that can be incredibly annoying and ineffective.
- Online marketing offers you the opportunity to carefully measure and track results. Tools like Google Analytics and various CRMs also take the leg work out of internet marketing.
- Online marketing allows for fairly specific demographic targeting. Certain age, gender, location, interests and even shopping behaviours can be targeted. This allows for a cleaner subdivision of audiences, which in turn allows for more targeted messaging and results.
- There's relatively low cost. Internet marketing is much cheaper than traditional means. Some online marketing channels are even free, like simple interactions on social media, or sending emails.
- Online marketing also allows you to access real-time reporting. While in the case of traditional marketing, it takes weeks (or even longer) to collect data and results.
- As a result of real-time (or low-latency) data gathering, all marketing decisions and adjustments can be implemented quickly. It also allows A/B testing at the same time, as well as dynamically generated marketing messages, based on the audience and its feedback.
- No face-to-face interaction. Therefore it takes much longer to establish trust.
- It requires some technical knowledge, since online campaigns are typically created in computer software or online tools.
- Ad Blockers can seriously limit audience reach. There are also a few factors like banner blindness and user habits that can dull the effectiveness of online marketing.
However, there are a few specific scenarios when offline marketing actually outperforms its digital sibling. These are outlined below:
Reaching a specific audience
One of the situations where traditional marketing has shown itself to be more effective is when an incredibly small or specific audience is targeted, say 1, 2, or even 50 people in a particular area. For example, let’s say you’re a house flipper who got your hands on a list of properties that are about to be foreclosed. You don’t have emails or phone numbers, but you surely know the address. You could create a PPC or social media ad campaign and advertise by radius, but you’d be spending all that time, effort, and money on everyone in that radius, not just the people you need.
In this situation, direct mail will be the perfect fit. It costs less than £1 to print a letter and send a piece of mail. And you can be certain that the person you want to reach will be reached.
In the case of large oil & gas companies, deals are not being made because a given company is ranking #1 on Google for “oil & gas provider”. In those circles, it’s all about who you know, and how connections are built, and, of course, referrals. So, it’s common to spend a lot of money on PPC and email marketing, but without some type of personal introduction, it will be difficult to make a deal. This is an example of where traditional marketing channels come in - such as conferences, EXPOs, and high-level networking.
Companies with large budgets
Each marketing channel, whether it’s online or offline, has an impressions cap, or the max number of times an ad can be shown to users. For example, social media marketing and advertising are limited by the number of people on a given platform in the area you want to market. This audience would have a platform views cap of somewhere around 1,000,000 people in the area targeted with ads. Each person goes to that platform 20 times a day, therefore the ad views cap would be somewhere around 20,000,000 max.
Another example would be PPC campaigns like Google AdWords or Bing Ads. These search giants can’t show a product or service ad more than the number of times people search for it, so that’s the technical ad view cap for PPC. Therefore, even if the online marketing channels in use are not fully optimized, yet they are close to the impression cap, and there’s still marketing budget left, the only real choice is to spend on traditional marketing.
Guerilla marketing is probably the biggest pro-traditional arguments. By definition, guerilla marketing is “an advertisement strategy in which a company uses surprise and/or unconventional interactions in order to promote a product or service”.
In this case, the marketing idea itself is the implementation of offline marketing - the product itself, the guerilla marketing “piece” is the advertising channel. In fact, in guerilla marketing, online and offline channels work particularly well together - creating something in the physical world, and then letting it spread through social media, video marketing, etc, increasing the reach.
What works best for you?
Both online and offline marketing will always have pros and cons. Neither is perfect for every situation, and there’s always room for improvement or unexpected change in how marketing and audiences react to each other. Typically, online marketing brings more value per pound spent. But, as shown above, sometimes offline marketing can perform just as well, if not better, than online. In most cases, they work even better when used together.
About the Author
Dmitrii Kustov is the Internet Marketing Director at Regex SEO and his work has appeared on MOZ, RankWatch, SEMrush, HackerNoon, UpCity, Business Innovator Radio, Small Biz Bonfire and many other high-profile marketing platforms. He has increased the online presence of numerous brands through custom digital marketing campaigns and innovative content marketing techniques.