Digital marketing vs Traditional marketing: Which is more effective?

How are digital marketing and traditional marketing different, and what are their unique value propositions? Discover how to leverage their synergies to increase a business’s overall ROI.

Digital Marketing
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What is Traditional marketing?

Traditional marketing refers to an advertising strategy that is published and released without the use of digital platforms.

1. Channels

Traditional marketing strategies include roadshows, face-to-face exhibitions, print collaterals, door drops (those dominos flyers you get every now and then).

2. Tracking outcomes

A common misconception is that it is impossible to track traditional marketing efforts. However, there are several ways to do so, especially now that technology has advanced data collection.

Onsite engagement count — The effectiveness of offline events can be measured by examining the engagement levels at your booth and activities. For example, marketers could have an electronic tally of the total number of attendees, time spent at the event, and which segments had the highest or lowest attendees.

Brand surveys Are consumers familiar with your brand? What is their impression of your brand? Surveying your customers is the most straightforward and traditional way to measure your traditional marketing outcomes. In Singapore, there are trade displays and expos every month. These are common avenues through which companies can survey their customers about their products.

Discount codes Unique discount codes can help you track how many people made a purchase on your website. For example, if you want to track the effectiveness of a brochure, you could generate and include a code, such as “BROCHURE10OFF”. To customers, these are simply good deals to snag. But to companies, this is an effective way to track the outreach of their brochure.

What is Digital marketing?

Digital marketing strategies utilise the internet to gain attention from target consumers. The implementation process is often quicker. It also has a heavy emphasis on both inbound marketing and outbound marketing, focusing on pulling and pushing customers to goal completions.

1. Channels

Digital marketing strategies include: social media, affiliate marketing, EDM (electronic direct marketing, or email marketing), pay-per-click advertisements, SEO (search engine optimization).

It is often quoted interchangeably with online digital marketing but there is a subtle difference. While online digital marketing refers to all sorts of marketing strategies on electronic devices (think: digital billboards, e-books), digital marketing focuses on the internet.

2. Tracking outcomes

Compared to traditional marketing campaigns, digital marketing campaign effectiveness is much easier to track. Those pesky little pop-ups on websites asking for your permission to allow cookies are used to track your digital footprint. With readily available tools and data from consumers, marketers are able to generate analytical insights quickly.

Google Analytics If your business has a website, Google Analytics will be your best friend. It is free, and generates website metrics on your audience, page traffic, and more. Being a beginner-friendly and comprehensive platform, it is by far one of the most popular tools.

Social Media Analytics Most social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn have embedded analytics tools, allowing you to view basic metrics such as the number of likes, shares, and impressions.

A display of what Performance Statistics will be shown by Facebook Creator
Post insights generated by Facebook Creator Studio from a Facebook fanpage I made for my favourite girl band a few years ago

However, there are also more advanced paid tools like Hootsuite to gain an overview of all your social media marketing efforts. This is especially useful for bigger companies looking to look at their data on a more granular level, such as growth over a time series, and even suggest what kind of posts do the best for your brand.

A display of Hootsuite functions, such as analysis and recommendations
A display of what Hootsuite can do for you Hootsuite analyses your existing posts and suggests the best time to post for maximum engagement — data truly is powerful

SEO tools Search engine optimization is another important component of digital marketing as it directs organic traffic to your business. Tools such as Google Search Console, SEMrush, are fantastic at monitoring your page and keyword rankings.

Google Search Console's figures and statistics shown
What you can gather from Google Search Console Overview of organic website performance using Google Search Console, which is completely free as long as you have a website!

Components and ways to carry out marketing for both mediums
The elements distinguishing the two methods

The Key Difference between Digital & Traditional marketing

While digital marketing uses the digital space primarily, traditional marketing utilises physical spaces and locations to draw customers’ attention and loyalty. Contrary to traditional marketing, we see that digital marketing leverages mostly the power of data to create targeted and personal messages to consumers.

Here’s an analogy by our marketing manager that I really like: think of customers as salmon.

Traditional marketing is fishing in a large reservoir where you know many salmon reside. However, you might get a range of fish, and hope that you get at least some salmon amongst all those fish. This is optimal if you just want fish in general.

On the other hand, digital marketing is similar to fishing in a small stocked stillwater. If you just want to catch salmon, you can refer to other anglers’ past experiences and know that certain hotspots like southern California are the best for finding Chinook Salmon — the biggest and heaviest of all salmon.

Debunking the Myth: Is Digital Marketing better than Traditional Marketing?

Although it sounds like fishing for expensive salmon is much better than fishing for fish in general, it is undoubtable that traditional marketing has its unique charm and cannot be replaced easily.

This is why it still matters: it's all about visibility, trust, and the innate human connection.

Traditional marketing allows your business to meet customers and interact with them on a personal level. No matter how much the internet grows, there is an inherent part of human nature and relationships that are always valued. The secret is to establish your brand to be as authentic as possible, and not remain a passing thought to your customers.

Digital marketing, especially on platforms that require the internet, can be quite frustrating to marketers. This is particularly true because of: (1) the prevalence of ad blockers, and (2) users who are numb to the overwhelming amounts of online advertisements. In contrast, traditional advertisements are unblockable and can allow a brand to stand out amongst the crowd.

Given that there are synergies between the two marketing strategies, marketers are combining both for maximum results.

The Multichannel Approach: How to integrate Digital Marketing and Traditional Marketing Strategies

In the past, both were viewed as mutually exclusive strategies. However, technological advancements have made both channels essential to the overall consumer experience. It’s very possible to use both of them.

For example, your flyer could direct people to your website, and your social media advertisements could inform your audiences of an upcoming pop-up store.

As such, most businesses need to incorporate both digital platforms and physical touchpoints for maximum return on investment (ROI).

Step-by-step Guide to Growing Your Business with Integrated Marketing Strategies

If you’re a marketing newbie, planning a marketing campaign from scratch can seem overwhelming. Choosing between a digital or traditional marketing strategy, or incorporating both can be a difficult decision.

Here's a simple step-by-step guide to help you get started.

The way design thinking pans out is progressive, but not linear
Going all around the cycle is normal | Credit: Interactive Design Foundation

1. Start by defining a marketing objective

Are you trying to gain greater brand awareness? Are you interested in getting as many sign-ups as possible for your next workshop? Having a clearly defined and realistic goal sets the general direction moving forward, and sets the ground for an efficient brainstorming session.

2. Generate as many ideas as possible

With the goal in mind, it’s time to get creative with your ideas. At this junction, focus on quantity over quality. Our brains don’t think in a linear way. Instead, our thoughts are often connected to one another intricately. Therefore, having a whiteboard and some post-its might be helpful for visualisation. For virtual meetings, you can look at platforms such as Miro — an online visual brainstorming platform that you can use for free.

If you have a team working together, start by brainstorming individually before coming together. This prevents free-riding and confirmation bias, two major pitfalls you’d want to avoid when working collectively.

3. Clustering emerging themes

After the creative ideas are displayed on the board, take a good look and connect the overlapping themes. Are lots of them about implementing a social media campaign? Is leveraging influencers a common idea? Grouping similar ideas together can provide some interesting insights.

4. Perform a benefit-cost analysis

While creativity is a key component of a successful marketing campaign, the reality is that businesses are always bound by resource constraints.

Here’s where the concept of Pareto analysis comes in. This is a technique that helps you to narrow down to the best possible strategies. In essence, you maximise your marketing outcomes with the minimum effort.

Think about all the potential benefits and costs associated with each proposed idea in the earlier step. Does this marketing campaign take too much manpower to implement? What are the estimated leads it can reach?

Assign a number from 0 to 10 for the total benefit and cost, and divide your benefit by your cost.

Here's an example of how it might look like for a small team looking to expand their consumer outreach for a dating app.

Theme Idea Benefit Cost Benefit/Cost
Social Media Collaborate with influencers who post content related to relationships Utilise existing outreach of influencers to reach new target audience.

Reduces the effort we have to invest in creating fresh content.

Score: 8
Influencers with a bigger follower base require commisions which can be be a hefty sum given that we have a limited budget.

Score: 4
Creating Instagram guides such as "How to up your dating game", "Outfit ideas for your first date", etc. Original content with strong branding of our app.

First-mover advantage because there is no similar practice in our industry.

Score: 9
Requires our graphic designer and content writer to create high-quality guides, which adds to their existing workload.

Score: 2
Face-to-face events Book a booth at the annual Expo for technology related events Opportunities to interact with potential business partners in the same line of work. These businesses can help extend outreach to consumers.

Score: 4
Booking space is expensive and beyond our budget.

Collaborations might take a long time to see results, and leans towards B2B, while our focus is more B2C.

High uncertainty due to COVID restrictions.

Score: 10
Conduct a street interview to ask passers-by about their dating experiences, and qualities they look for in a partner. Ability to connect with consumers on a physical level.

Able to video the entire interview, and the video can be published through several digital channels such as YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.

Score: 8
Limited outreach with locals because our target audience is anybody across the world with internet access.

High uncertainty due to COVID restrictions.

Score: 8

Also, here is a ready-made template you can download to use!

5. Shortlist the top few ideas

Now you have a score for each of your marketing strategies. Highlight the top few strategies with the highest scores as they have the highest benefit relative to their cost. Depending on your capacity, choose a couple to implement for now.

Coming back to the previous example of marketing a dating app — you’d realise that all digital marketing strategies rank higher than traditional marketing strategies. Therefore, it should be pretty obvious which you should prioritise at this moment.

6. Review and reflect

Once you have implemented your strategies, take a while to collate the results. Thereafter, you should have a follow-up session to review the impact of strategies, what worked, and what didn’t.

These serve as important learning points for your next round of campaigns. Shortly after the review session, you could repeat the process again from the top. This time, you could re-evaluate the ideas which were eliminated in the previous cycle.

Marketing is all about ideation, experimentation, and reflection. You’re almost never implementing the same strategies all year round as you learn and as objectives change according to circumstances. That’s what makes it exciting!

Final Tip: Maintain brand consistency across digital and traditional channels

If you have selected a mixture of both types of marketing strategies, maintain the same brand message across the platforms. Have a product listed on your pamphlet? Make sure your website displays that product as well. Ensure that consumers can find the same products no matter which touchpoint they are at.

To make transitions between channels smoother for your customers, you can cross-promote your business. If you’re hosting a face-to-face workshop, have a QR code at the end of your workshop to direct audiences to your social media.

Remember, both platforms work hand-in-hand. By focusing on the needs of your business and serving the needs of your audience, marketing will gradually seem less and less daunting!

Learn Digital Marketing with Hatch!

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