Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing for Small Business

You just got in a new line of merchandise and you want to spread the word. Should you send out a traditional postcard or post a picture on your new social media page? Start by reviewing the differences between traditional and digital marketing. Knowing the strengths of each will help you make better marketing decisions for your small business.

Same Goal, Different Paths

Traditional and digital marketing may have their differences but both have the same goal. Each gives you a way to communicate with your target market about a product or service you’re offering.

Traditional marketing does that using conventional technology like print ads, TV or radio commercials, billboards, or direct mail. It also includes personal selling where customers can get help from your staff to select the right product.

Digital marketing takes a different path. It uses newer technology like websites, social media, online videos, emails, blogs or apps. Customers can access any of these using high-speed internet at home or on their mobile devices.

Different Strengths

While traditional and digital marketing can help you reach similar goals, each is stronger at doing certain things. Here are some strengths to consider:


Digital marketing offers a number of measurement tools that provide instant feedback. For example, Google Analytics helps you to measure who’s viewing your website, how they got there, and what action they took. That helps you track results faster so you can make tweaks, if needed.

Measurement is more difficult in traditional marketing. For example, you can put a tracking code on a coupon but you have to wait until the customer redeems it to know if it worked.


Digital marketing can provide one-to-one engagement with many customers at one time. You can display dynamic content that is personalized to their needs and interest. It can remember what a customer looked at on your website and follow-up with an email on a special you’re running. Customers can also share the information with others on social media.

Traditional marketing tends to engage better with higher-touch products. For example, customers might get a brochure and samples of a new floor tile in the mail. Then they can go to a store where a sales person can answer questions about it and arrange to have a cost estimate.


Digital marketing tends to be more cost efficient. For example, search engine advertising can be structured so that you cap your total buy. And you can target the placement so that people who are likely to be interested see it. Typically you only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

On the other hand, it can be more expensive to shoot a traditional television commercial. Then you pay for the airtime to show it. You incur those costs whether the viewers are interested or not. But if you are a new business, it can be a way to build your brand with a wider audience.

Integrated Approach

So which approach should you use—traditional or digital? The answer is both. Each can have a place in your overall marketing plan. The more important issue is how they work together. An integrated marketing strategy takes the strengths of each approach to communicate with your small business customers.

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