Is traditional marketing dead?

And if not, should it be? Since the digital revolution, marketing agencies have been able to access much more data about their customers, letting them create much more effective campaigns and to refine those campaigns based on what people actually do (or buy) rather than just what they say they’re going to do (or buy). Yet traditional marketing tools are still around and still being used. In some cases this is like sticking to a horse and cart when your competitors are driving a Ferrari, but in others tried and tested does the job. So how do you tell which are which?

What is traditional marketing anyway?

It’s hard to draw a clear line as many traditional marketing activities have been altered by digital marketing and the boom in data which the internet age has brought. However, as a broad generalisation, we’re setting traditional marketing in opposition to digital marketing so we’re talking about things like: billboards, print advertising in magazines and newspapers, TV and radio ads, mail shots, leafleting, catalogues, cold calling, printed directories like the Yellow Pages… Essentially, if you can picture it on an episode of Mad Men using it, it’s traditional marketing.

Dead in New York, alive and well in Hampshire

From the billboards in Times Square to parish newsletters in Hampshire, the digital world is like an invasive species, destroying the natural habitats of traditional marketing methods. However, pockets still remain: there are businesses and customers who connect without using the internet and there are ways of using traditional marketing effectively even in highly modern fields. As a Hampshire-based web development and marketing agency, boxChilli have been tracking down the most effective digital and traditional marketing techniques for our clients for over a decade. By applying analytical techniques drawn from online marketing, we’re able to closely evaluate traditional marketing strategies to determine if they’re effective. In many cases, for small businesses, cutting back on some ‘obvious’ traditional marketing methods can free up budget and time for more effective digital methods – but the reverse is also true.

Avoid high cost per view publications

Pay per click (PPC) advertising online has given us a clear metric for evaluating the cost of visual ads, and that transfers to print media too. As an example, putting a print ad in a magazine should be comparable to the cost of your PPC advertising – or get you something clearly more valuable, if it costs more. As a direct comparison, a quarter page ad in a niche publication might cost you £500, so if the circulation of that magazine is 25,000 readers then that’s the equivalent of 2p per view. How does that compare to your PPC spend? Remember that PPC only costs you money when a viewer actually clicks through to your website, but print media will charge the same even if you don’t make a single sale from the coverage.

Does this ad boost your prestige?

This is a difficult one to properly analyse, but it’s clear that some advertising can boost the prestige of a company. This is one reason that certain slots (such as the US Super Bowl half-time ads) go for so much money and that companies sponsor sports teams, world record attempts and charities. For small and medium enterprises (SME) the costs of chasing prestige slots often outweigh the benefits. This is true both online and off, particularly if you are in competition with multinationals with deep pockets. However, if you can find a way to turn your particular expertise into prestige at a local level, then that can be enormously beneficial as it often leads to good publicity in the community. Examples include: a local outdoors store teaming up with Hampshire colleges to sponsor Duke of Edinburgh expeditions; a cafe or supermarket working with a homeless shelter; or a tech start-up sponsoring after school computer clubs.

How will you measure the effectiveness of your spend?

No company has an infinite marketing budget, so it’s important to get value for money. One major reason traditional marketing strategies are dying off is that it can be very hard to determine whether they’re cost effective. Certain industries still use techniques such as leafleting very effectively though, and that’s partly because they’re able to measure the impact of their work as well as keeping costs low. As an example, you may think that the endlessly changing offers your local takeaway shoves through your door are designed to entice you into their shop rather than your own kitchen, and they are, but tracking the use of offer codes also let businesses check on the effectiveness of a particular campaign and determine if they got value for money.

Where are your customers?

Traditional advertising can be very effective at reaching customers in a narrow geographic area (for example, by leafleting) or in a clearly defined demographic (members of a particular professional association for example) but generally it is a broadcast medium – literally: you scatter your advertising far and wide and hope the right person will spot it and come to you. If you know where your customers are, you may be able to reach them effectively using traditional media (putting an ad in the post office window is still a good way to find casual work cleaning houses) but if all you know is something about them (they have kids under 5 / they buy plumbing supplies / they need a poster made by next Tuesday…) then digital marketing will give you better access for your money.

Does it bring other benefits?

It’s long been true that buying an ad in a magazine or newspaper increases your chances of positive coverage in that publication. Most traditional advertising slots are still sold on a direct person-to-person basis, which means that there are more opportunities to negotiate for a better deal, to build a relationship, or create a network which may serve you well in the future. As an example, sponsoring an event may get you access to a VIP room where you can network with potential clients or refusing to take out a cheap ad in the local newsletter may make the person running it very cross – which can be uncomfortable if you’re related to them. This is much less likely to be an issue online, which is a blessing and a curse!

Need help figuring out which traditional media opportunities to take up and which to avoid? Want to dive into online marketing? Contact us today for an analysis of your individual needs.

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