Digital vs. Traditional Marketing: What's Better?

lessons from our LAB

April 17, 2019

Digital vs. Traditional Marketing: What's Better?

Sarah, or better known as "Rex", is StringCan's Paid Media Account Manager. Rex has a passion for media strategy and getting results!

So your company is growing and you’re thinking about enlisting the help of a marketing agency to accelerate this growth. But there are endless types of marketing - and therefore agencies - and it can be hard to know which path to pursue. Do you go with a firm that specializes in traditional marketing, or one that has more expertise in digital marketing? And before deciding that, do you really know which type of marketing will serve your particular business and ideal personas best?

Here’s a look at the showdown between traditional vs. digital marketing, so you can be informed as you make your next move.

All-consuming digital

It’s no surprise that the Internet, mobile devices, and other technology have shaken up our entire world as we know it. So in the traditional vs. digital marketing conversation, we have to start with the acknowledgment that digital is everywhere, and isn’t going anywhere.

In fact, last year’s PwC report estimated that the digital advertising market was about $15 billion larger than the TV advertising market. This year, the Internet advertising market is close to $30 billion larger market than TV advertising, which means it’s just about doubled. There’s no denying that online advertising has a dominant presence, and this is due to its dominant viewership. After all, ads are only worth as much as the quality and quantity of an advertiser’s audience viewing them. So does that mean you should only go digital, and forget all about traditional methods? Maybe not so fast.

But what about ROI?

Even though digital is prevalent - and still increasing its stronghold - many business owners are concerned about putting all their eggs (marketing dollars) in this one basket. Since it’s become so heavily saturated, they worry about the efficacy decreasing and wonder if traditional routes may help them stand out more from their competition and get better results. These are fair points, and important to consider.

When we look at some of the stats, it can seem like traditional efforts may make more of a splash than digital. For instance, one report found that more than 92 percent of direct mail gets opened, while just between 15 and 29 percent of email marketing gets opened. However, it’s important to remember that direct mail, for example, costs significantly more than email marketing does. So even if the open rates sound better on the direct mail front, the ROI may not actually be better.

And there are also other ways to view the data, which put it in a different light. Another report found that SEO has a 14.6 percent conversion rate on average, compared to 1.7 percent for traditional outbound methods such as cold-calling or direct mail. So when you look at these numbers, it makes it seem like more budget should go toward SEO efforts than traditional methods. Either way, it’s safe to say this all makes it a little more confusing, right?

Variability and Integration

There is so much variability between industries, audiences, and initiatives that it’s impossible to concretely and overarchingly say one form of marketing always wins over the other. But the main takeaway we’ve learned through our own research, experience, and expertise is that digital marketing is definitely the way of the present - and future. It’s also where most consumers are going to be effectively reached. But, traditional marketing still has a (smaller) place, especially in certain cases, and this is why integrated campaigns are often a valuable choice.

Instead of saying you must choose one or the other, start with some research. We always lead our clients through the process of market research and building accurate buyer personas so they can understand where their particular target audience is spending their time, whether it’s with digital channels, traditional channels or a mixture of both. Then we create campaigns accordingly, test the results and keep adjusting for maximum impact. And that’s really the best way to decide between digital vs. traditional marketing, or omnichannel.

If you’d like to learn more or have help designing your own marketing strategy, contact us any time.

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