Are Traditional Marketing Strategies Obsolete in This Digital World?

Depending on various factors, traditional marketing may have a big role to play in your overall marketing strategy, or just a small one. But whatever type of business you’re in, do not make the mistake of writing off traditional marketing as obsolete without investigating its potential. This article helps you in that effort.

Are Traditional Marketing Strategies Obsolete in This Digital World?

What Is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing is non-digital marketing. Among the most important varieties are:

  • Broadcast — Radio and TV advertising
  • Direct mail
  • Event marketing — Tradeshows, training seminars, etc.
  • OOH (Out-of-home) advertising — Airports, billboards, busses, posters, etc.
  • Print advertising
  • Printed collateral — Brochures, business cards, presentation folders, etc.
  • Referrals
  • Telemarketing

In contrast, digital marketing’s most important varieties include:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Email and text marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • PPC (Pay-per-click advertising)
  • SEO (Search engine optimization)
  • Social media

As a quick side note, some people put radio and TV advertising in the digital basket since these ads are indeed digital. However, because broadcast advertising predates the digital age by several decades, many regard it as a traditional marketing option.

Regardless of how traditional marketing is defined, it’s often an afterthought for business leaders. When they think about marketing, they fixate on digital options, even though examples of traditional marketing are all around us. Perhaps for businesses in which leadership spends a great deal of time looking at screens, digital marketing has become more “real” than traditional marketing.


Why Consider Traditional Marketing?

Every business leader should take off those digital blinders because his or her organization may be positioned to take great advantage of traditional marketing campaigns, whether the goal is lead generation, foot traffic generation, brand awareness, or brand perception.

Here are the important characteristics of businesses likely to succeed with traditional marketing.

  • If your business targets older people, traditional options such as direct mail and broadcast advertising may be more effective in getting and holding their attention. In general, older folks do not use mobile devices or desktop computers as much as younger people. They also read print magazines and newspapers.
  • If your business targets people with high sensitivity to privacy issues, digital marketing may not be effective, especially for lead generation. When individuals are reluctant to share their personal information and avoid clicking on ads for fear of being inundated with email spam or retargeting ads, even the most brilliantly conceived digital campaigns will fall short on click-throughs and conversions.
  • If your business involves physical contact with the customer at any point during the sales or marketing process, traditional marketing is almost a necessity. Local retail businesses, many B2Bs, and businesses where sales calls or customer visits occur need physical marketing materials to win over prospects.
  • If your business is getting mediocre or poor results from digital marketing, whether for known or unknown reasons, testing traditional options may be the best next step to solving the problem.
  • If your business is getting good results from digital marketing, complementary traditional marketing campaigns could boost results even higher.

The bottom line here is this: Traditional versus digital is not the best way to approach a marketing strategy. The most effective marketing strategies use traditional and digital marketing in concert to get the most out of both.


Using Traditional and Digital Marketing in Concert

One of the best examples of blending traditional and digital marketing is in event marketing. Live events have strong appeal and are highly effective in building business relationships, demonstrating products, educating customers, and entertaining customers and stakeholders.

However, whether because of budget constraints, COVID travel restrictions, or scheduling conflicts, many customers and prospects love the option to attend the event virtually. Fueled by the pandemic, virtual meetings are now commonplace and easy to integrate with live events.

Furthermore, promotional marketing for an event — before, during, and after it takes place — is highly effective on social media platforms and through email.

Event planners are generally good at blending digital promotion with live events already on their schedules. But you can also think about this the other way around: Does your business conduct digital events such as webinars that could also be put on live? Companies that have been successful with digital-only events may find enormous success by staging them in-person as well.


Don’t Overlook the Obvious

Earlier I touched on how businesses can be blind to the potential of traditional marketing because they are so caught up in the virtual business world. Here is a hypothetical example of how this can play out.

Consider a restaurant involved in an aggressive (and expensive) local SEO campaign to bring in customers from surrounding communities. And because the restaurant is near the Interstate, it has been expanding the scope of the campaign to include nearby states.

Whether the results are good, bad, or in-between, testing a billboard on the Interstate that reads, $2.00 HAMBURGERS, NEXT EXIT would be very informative. Such an ad could bring in as much foot traffic as the SEO campaign, and at a fraction of the cost. If the billboard were successful, the additional ROI could fund new digital campaigns or refinements to the SEO campaign.


When Traditional Marketing Is a Necessity

If your business potentially involves live contact with customers and prospects — meetings, events, customer visits, in-store shoppers, etc. — then you will struggle to survive without traditional marketing materials such as business cards, brochures, presentation folders, and flyers.

These items are important for a few reasons.

  • First, not having them undermines credibility. You don’t want customers thinking, “This person doesn’t even have a business card??”For high-end sales efforts, such as a bank trying to win a new commercial account, high-end presentation binders and professionally designed brochures printed on high-end paper communicate a level of interest and competence necessary to close the deal.
  • Second, using traditional marketing materials during a sales call increases clarity and impact. Well-designed marketing materials make any presentation more effective.
  • Third, traditional marketing materials give customers a physical reminder of the live interaction, which makes the interaction more memorable and may stimulate a response, days, weeks, or even months after it occurred.


Could There Be an Opportunity to Score Big?

One of the reasons digital marketing is so popular is because … it is so popular. Business owners are a conservative lot; if they see everybody in their industries doing email marketing, they assume they need to do email marketing, too.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as an entrepreneur, you have the power to buck the trend. Sometimes, the most effective way to market is to be zigging when everybody else is zagging. If everybody in your niche is sending emails, what would happen if you launched a direct mail campaign, one with a great message, great call to action — and in an envelope nobody could resist opening?

The only way to find out is to test the idea. Many entrepreneurial businesses stand to gain a significant competitive advantage by testing traditional marketing options. Don’t overlook the opportunity to blaze new trails with old tools.

Francis Nwokike

Francis Nwokike is a Social Entrepreneur and an experienced Disaster Manager. I love discussing new business trends and marketing tips. I share ideas and tips that will help you grow your business.

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