Digital Marketing versus Traditional Marketing – striking the right balance for your Small Business

by Balaji Venkatesan
Published: Last Updated on

Where do you read your news today?

How do you carry out most of your work today?

You’re going out with a bunch of friends. How do you decide the venue, today?

And if you’re like us, how do you travel without getting lost and ending up in a ditch?

Yep, you know what we’re getting at. Digital has taken over in all aspects of our lives. Marketing is one among them and prominently so. But what about traditional marketing then? Is it done with? 

51% of companies today use at least eight channels to interact with customers and only 14% of organizations currently run coordinated marketing campaigns across all channels. 

To find out which channels are included, online or offline or both and to find out more about why this conversation even needs to happen, read on! 

‘’Number Rules the Universe’’

Pythagoras said that. Yes, quality matters but it’s the numbers that ultimately do the talking. Especially when it comes to measuring the success of qualitative efforts. 


Inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional, outbound marketing. As defined by HubSpot, the company that coined this term and structures their entire business around it, ‘’Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them.’’ 

The majority of small businesses today rely on digital marketing and advertising for their marketing efforts. It’s less expensive than traditional and more effective in reaching the right audience. You’re going to spend both ways, just that your digital ad spend will prove to be worth it. 

eMarketer expects the global digital ad spend to reach $389 billion by the end of this year. And Zenith further predicts the Internet to serve as the largest advertising medium, accounting for more than 54% of global ad expenditures by 2022. 

Google Ads can’t be that useful, right? There’s so many businesses fighting for that paid advertising space, it’s not going to reap an effective ROI. Right? 

46% of clicks go to the top three paid ads in search results. And Wordstream mentioned that  Businesses make an average of $2 per $1 spent on Google Ads. That’s double the investment right there and this is an industry average. 

We’ll let you answer that question for yourself. 


Traditionally speaking, we wouldn’t have known these statistics existed for the most part. So let’s lead with that in mind. 

In the US, traditional ad spend fell by 35% in June 2020. And this is beyond a year ago. This statistic can be greatly credited to the influx of small businesses as well. Spending on traditional advertising is quite the expensive affair. Naturally, a fledgling business won’t be able to afford that and so they direct their entire budget toward digital marketing efforts. 

Particularly, newspaper ad spending is projected to decline from $43 billion to $31 billion in the next two years. A lot of newspapers have a strong digital counterpart where buying ad space will be cheaper, making it the default option for a lot of businesses. 

While overall global ad spend is expected to reduce by 11.8%, traditional ad formats will take the most damage, falling by 20.7%. Traditional ad formats include newspapers, television, display ads such as billboards and other such offline and outdoor advertising. 

Do you notice the direction of the shift in trends for digital marketing and traditional marketing in the future? While digital marketing is on an upward incline, traditional marketing is facing a downward decline. 

And while that is the case, it’s important to note that traditional marketing is nowhere near dead. It still holds a lot of potential and we will discuss that in detail later on in this blog. 

The Digital Marketing Ethos

By Definition

According to Investopedia, Digital marketing is the use of the internet, mobile devices, social media, search engines, display advertising, and other channels to reach consumers. 

The term was invented and used in the year 1990. Digital Marketing is cost effective when compared to traditional marketing and it reaps greater ROI too. 

The Significance

Measurable ROI

Email Marketing has one of the greatest ROIs among all digital marketing channels. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you have the potential to earn $44. That’s an ROI of 4400%

Similarly, all digital marketing channels leave you with greater ROI. How does this work? Regardless of the pricing, the major difference between traditional and digital marketing is the cost involved. It is significantly cheaper to invest in online marketing than offline marketing. This in turn leaves you with more margin which translates to greater ROI. 

Hyper Targeting 

This counts for one major plus point of digital marketing. There is scope to target just the right audience for your product/service, giving you a higher percentage of conversions. There are options to narrow down your target audience by demographics, interests and the like. 

You can tailor make your content and use the targeting tools for it to reach the exact audience as planned. Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? 


The first step to reaching your audience is being present where they spend their time. And today, people spend 155 minutes online per day and this is just the mobile users! It’s a no brainer for your brand to be present and marketing online, so as to even have a chance to reach your audience. 

Fighting Chance

‘’Is it even worth it to start a small business and put all my time and effort into something that is already being provided by the giants in the industry? There’s no way I can survive in such a market.’’ 

Our fear speaks to us in a lot of ways. But it’s important to rise above them and focus on your goals. And digital marketing helps with that fighting chance simply because you have about as much of a chance to be found online as the established businesses in your industry. 

Rise Above Competition

This only sounds motivational. But this is also our last point to make in this segment. 

‘’If they’re doing it, why not us?’’ 

Human behavior is often driven by this thought process. As are small businesses. So if you’re still considering the importance of digital marketing for your business, just look around at your competitors. They’re all doing it and you can see that it’s working for them. So, why not? 

The Types

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

This is no longer a fancy term people throw around in conversation centered around digital growth…or is it? 

SEO is the process of making your website rank higher up on search engine ranking pages (SERPs). This gets much needed visibility to your website. People asking questions or looking for products/services that you offer, can find you on search engines thanks to SEO. 

This is an ongoing effort as search algorithms keep changing. So how do you practice SEO for your business? 

  • Create high quality content 
  • Employ the right keywords 
  • Build backlinks 

Start a blog – Once your website is made, changing the elements won’t happen regularly. If you have a blog on your website, you’re repeatedly alerting search engine bots of updates made to your website. This increases your chances of ranking higher on SERPs. And this is just one reason for you to start a blog. 

  • You can answer potential questions your customers will have about your product/industry. 
  • Building SEO authority and thought leadership in your field. 
  • More opportunities to generate backlinks to your website. 

And now you know why we’re doing this, the cat’s out of the bag! 

Content Marketing

As defined by the Content Marketing Institute

‘’Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.’’

Once you have defined a target audience, the next step is creating tailor made content. 

  • Quality packed content – really understand what your audience would be interested in knowing. About the product, your brand, the industry, all of it. 
  • Correct channel – Identify the right channel for each piece of content you post. The audience and the format of each digital platform are different. Look closely and plan an omni channel content calendar accordingly. 
  • Just a reminder – Content is King. 
  • It’s a slow burn. But just stick with it and stay consistent. The growth you’ll see later on is exponential and 100% worth the efforts. 

The following fall under the bracket of Content Marketing – 

  • Blogging
  • Video
  • Podcasting
  • Infographics
  • Email
  • Visual content
  • Ebooks
  • Lead magnets
  • Whitepapers
  • Slideshare presentations
  • Quizzes/tools
  • Checklists
  • Courses
  • Webinars
  • Slide decks
  • Free apps
  • Social media posts

A fresh angle can make the most mundane product/service attractive to your audience. Don’t agree with this? Take BlendTec for instance. Their YouTube marketing strategy has resulted in a 700% increase in sales in a three-year period!

Social Media Marketing (SMM)

It started with broadcasting content in an effort to boost sales. And look what we’ve made of it today. An absolute essential in your brand’s marketing toolkit. And let’s be real, the process is 70% fun and 30% work. 

Telling you what social media marketing is, is merely a formality at this point (it helps our SEO, please roll with it, thanks). In layman terms, SMM is using the social media platforms available to market your product to the right audience and establish an online presence for your brand. The channels include Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat among others. 

Your social media strategy largely depends on your goal. Do you want to 

  • Create awareness about your brand 
  • Reach more people that fit your target audience 
  • Drive engagement for your page 
  • Increase leads generated and converted 

It’s almost impossible to call yourself a foodie and not catch yourself watching Tasty’s videos at 2:40am at least once. Their videos reach around 500 million users monthly. 

How did this work? They studied Facebook’s video content algorithm and nailed their content accordingly. The auto play feature allows the user to watch the video regardless of sound. 

Congratulations, you now have access to a social media page that’s going to give you a lifetime worth of food cravings. 

Pay Per Click (PPC)

It’s time to take out your wallets! 

This is advertising on a click basis. You pay the search engine to display your link above others at an auction rate and you pay for every time a user clicks on your link. Simple enough? A common example of this process is Google Ads. Some other channels that follow this are: 

  • Sponsored messages on LinkedIn 
  • Paid ads on Facebook 
  • Twitter ad campaigns 

An example of a well structured PPC is this ad by Upwork. 

It’s hyper focused. There’s a clear breakdown of different elements of the information to be conveyed. The site extension links help with an increased CTR. There’s a promise – ‘’hire the best’’, which deems them trustworthy. It’s a winning PPC ad, all in all. 

Affiliate Marketing

This involves marketing another company’s product/service. You as an affiliate will get a commission on every purchase made. The sales will be tracked via affiliate links. To give you an idea of just how big this form of digital marketing is, ‘’81% of brands and 84% of publishers leverage the power of affiliate marketing’’. 

To quote an example, Amazon has a program called the ‘Amazon Associate Program’. It’s credible, there’s a variety of products that can be selected by the affiliate and the cherry on the cake – when an affiliate link is used, the affiliate gets a commission on the entire cart amount. 

Email Marketing

Have you subscribed to a newsletter before? Do you receive emails from brands regularly too? Or are you normal? 

Emails sent from brands to their subscribers (people who have given them permission to send emails) for the purpose of distributing information, community building, drive sales, etc is email marketing. It’s one of the oldest and most effective forms of digital marketing. 

And now, brands have made the whole experience personalized and tailor made for different customer journeys too! There are a few different types of emails – 

Promotional Emails – This could be to promote anything. You might be releasing a fresh collection of your product, a festive offer coming up or a webinar announcement. Make sure to leave a clear CTA in these emails. 

Informational Emails – Any piece of information you think your consumers should be made aware of – new release, product/service updates, change in processes, etc. A newsletter is a popular example as it does just that – delivers news to your subscribers. 

Does Your Business Need Digital Marketing? 

On average, Americans spend 6 hours and 40 minutes on the internet every day. Ideally, you’d want at least a few minutes from that statistic to be directed toward your brand. Almost all businesses need to invest time, effort and money in digital marketing today in order to reach maximum potential. 

However, there are few streams of work that don’t find their place in digital marketing. For example, we don’t exactly google/Instagram for doctors. That mostly happens with word of mouth. So it’s important to understand the industry you’re in and take the necessary steps

Quantitative Success of your Digital Marketing

  • SMART Goals 

Set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound goals. It’s important to know where you’re headed. That way, you keep your eye on the prize and you also know when you actually get to the prize. Set clear landmarks for your digital marketing efforts and grow systematically. 

  • Business Objectives 

Again, knowing what you want to do as a next step helps with an informed journey. And be sure to take your entire team with you on this one! 

  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

You have to identify what counts for a key performance indicator and set targets for it accordingly. For instance, social media followers and page views are not KPIs. They are merely for show and thus known as vanity metrics. Some examples for KPIs include –  

  • Conversion rates 
  • Inbound links 
  • Customer acquisition cost 
  • Product downloads 
  • Analytics 

The ultimate quantitative measure of digital marketing success – analytics. There are a number of platforms that allow you to monitor and measure the analytics of your digital marketing efforts. Some popular examples are Google Analytics, HubSpot and Adobe Marketing Cloud. 

The Traditional Marketing Ethos 

By Definition 

The simplest way to define traditional marketing is terming it ‘’offline marketing’’. Any form of marketing that takes place outside of the digital realm comes under this bracket. Basically how it was done before the internet came to be. Examples – Television Ads, Hoardings, Print Ads and a lot more! 

Do People Still Do This? 

Do people still read the newspaper? Yes. 

Has the percentage of these people gone down owing to digital? Also, yes. 

Let’s face it, traditional marketing efforts cost a bomb. And small businesses looking to establish themselves simply don’t have the budget to afford such frivolous expenditure. Having said that, established businesses use traditional marketing methods to this day, alongside their digital marketing. 

Why is that? The idea is to strike a balance between the two depending on your capacity to spend. This way you’re covering more channels, reaching more people and as a consequence, increasing your sales. 

Many globally coveted magazines have seen their circulation numbers drop, forcing them to adapt and move to the digital world – where their audience lives. 

Hold up for a minute though because even though it’s looking bleak for traditional marketing, there are a few adaptive options available – 

  • Sponsoring regional events 
  • Local radio shoutout 
  • Newspaper print ads 
  • Banners/Hoardings

Some inexpensive alternatives include – 

  • Flyers 
  • Direct Mail 
  • Posters 

The Types


Outdoor form of advertising usually done along city roads/highways. They are big enough to catch your attention. Billboards have upgraded over the years seeing as we now have digital billboards displaying video Ads as well. But the inherent concept and purpose remain the same. 

Check out this promotional digital billboard by British Airways where the boy points at the moving airplane and walks toward it. With the boy’s exit comes the promotional message from the airways. Simple and effective. 

Direct Mail 

Did you still end up thinking of an email? Don’t worry, we did too. 

Well this doesn’t just limit to posts either. Any type of physical correspondence sent comes under direct mail marketing. Just make sure to mention your product and brand clearly, have a CTA and contact information. 

Think from a receiver’s perspective and create your correspondence so as to ensure maximum conversion. 

KitKat came up with this brilliant direct mail marketing campaign – they had customers pick the free kitkat bar up from their newsagent because it was too ‘’chunky’’ to fit through the letterbox. They even customized the mailers to address the consumer, adding a personal touch. Don’t we just love KitKat’s marketing team? 

Print Ads

Advertising in any form of printed media be it a newspaper or a magazine to reach it’s customers is print advertising. It is on the steady decline given the digital revolution but it most certainly is not dead. 

This very simple yet smart print ad by Keloptic features one of Van Gogh’s paintings. It’s supposed to have a blurry color scheme and Keloptic being an optical eyewear company, put their glasses in front of the painting revealing a clear picture of the artist. 

Event Marketing

Holding an event online or offline in order to promote a product/service. This type of marketing uses both inbound and outbound strategies. Some types of event marketing are: 

  • Live streaming events
  • In-person events 
  • Trade shows 
  • Conferences 

Google, for instance, holds its conference offline. But they have a live streaming service which allows people to connect globally. What’s better is they save all their conferences on YouTube. This helps people watch it and/or revisit it. 

Google does an excellent job of curating educational talks by experts in the field and promoting their product/service as a part of the conference. It’s a win-win for everybody! 

Television Ads

When was the last time you watched television? It’s been a while for us, we pretty much stream on OTT platforms for the most part. 

However, there’s a good chunk of the audience still watching television. And any form of advertisement (mostly video ads) on the tv comes under this form of marketing. TV ads are mainly for products/services that want to reach the masses. 

Does Your Business Need Traditional Marketing? 

The answer here is not quite the same as it is for digital marketing. There are a few things you need to check off your list in order to require traditional marketing – 

  • Location – Is your business local and will a billboard or an ad in a local newspaper help your business? 
  • Budget – As mentioned, traditional advertising isn’t exactly cheap. Do you have the resources to be able to fund your traditional marketing campaigns? 
  • Worth – Is it even worth it to place ads traditionally? Is it going to make you stand out in a good way from your competitors? Or is it way off tangent for your industry? 

Quantitative Success of your Traditional Marketing 

There is none. Very simply put, we realise the answer isn’t what you’re looking for but it is what it is. 

Traditional Marketing is fairly straightforward. You buy ad space in whatever category of offline marketing and you estimate the resultant effect. Yes, estimate – there’s guesswork for the money you spent, advertising to the masses, hoping to have caught your target audience’s attention. 

This worked way back. When this was the only option. But now, it seems almost futile to invest in traditional marketing when you know you can track the exact number of conversions you’re hitting, when there’s a whole platform giving you stats and measurable ROI. It’s a no brainer! 

So, Digital Marketing versus Traditional Marketing – Who wins? 

If this were a war, Digital Marketing would’ve pretty much won. But it isn’t a war. It’s about what works best for your business, for your brand. 

So more than winning, it’s about trial and error until you manage to strike the right balance between the two. Luckily for you, we have the digital front handled and ready to go, just a call away. 

Until next time, take care and stay safe. 


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