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Examining the Efficacy of Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing



Where do I spend my marketing dollars? That’s a question that so many people struggle to answer because it’s a challenge to understand what’s going to work and what’s not for your particular business. You see, every business is different, or at least they should be. Each business should have a story to tell, a unique value proposition to offer its customers or clients, that makes them stand out from all other businesses on its playing field. While telling your story and deciding on messaging is a large feat in and of itself, coming to the decision of where to allocate your marketing dollars seems almost impossible at times with the number of options that are out there.

Well, we’ve decided to make the impossible possible. We are going to explore some core differences between digital marketing and traditional marketing to help you make an easier decision.

Leveling the Playing Field

If you feel like a small fish in a big pond, meaning a lot of your competition has time, experience, and size on your business, then you may want to consider choosing a digital marketing strategy. The beauty of the Internet is that, with a strong team, you’re able to look as big as your competitors with an updated website, active social media platforms, and well-reviewed directory listings. The challenge with buying into traditional advertising is you can only purchase so much, and the frequency in which your business shows up compared to your competition can be intimidating.

Exploring the Cost-Effectiveness

According to a study done by Scarborough, Woods & Poole, they examined the cost per 1,000 users for each platform within traditional and digital marketing.

Platform Cost Per Thousand Impressions (CPM)

Direct Mail Advertising

Mail Order Catalog


Radio (Drive Time)


Daily/Sunday Newspaper


Broadcast TV (Prime Time)


Non-Premium Cable (Prime Time)





This breakdown shows that the overall investment for digital marketing is much more cost effective for overall brand awareness as opposed to other traditional media. While a combination of both traditional and digital marketing may be effective, it’s up to you to do your due diligence and monitor your investment to ensure you’re generating an ROI.

Reaching Your Target Demographic

You must know exactly who your intended audience is by way of your product or service offerings. Whether it’s women, men, or both; old or young, thrifty or extravagant, you need to have an idea of who you want to reach with your marketing efforts. Both traditional and digital marketing can provide you with a demographic breakdown of each medium.

If you reach out to a magazine or a radio station, you can get a general breakdown of their listening or readership audience. If that audience doesn’t work for you, you will move on to request this from the next organization. You can also hire a media buyer to help you make those decisions as they will have a large breadth of knowledge as to the media outlets available that fit your target audience.

For digital, there are several platforms in which you can select your target audience demographic traits, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Adwords, and your ads get shown. You can also target multiple different audiences to split test to see which works best in terms of messaging and conversions. There are definitely more possibilities available to you reaching your target audience when it comes to digital marketing.


Encouraging Brand Engagement

The great thing about digital is that you and your customers can have a conversation. The difference between digital and traditional is that traditional just talks at your audience. The availability of immediate impact with your customers can elevate your brand and establish brand trust early. You can implement a multi-step conversion process that encourages user interactions with social media, content, and other aspects of your website, as well as drive users to convert by calling, using live chat, or filling out a form for more information.

With traditional marketing, it’s typically a two-step process with marketers only integrating a single call-to-action into the advertisement. Considering that, it can technically limit the growth of the business.

Refining Your Strategy

The thing about marketing is that it’s a little bit of trial and error. While there are several precedents for all types of marketing for all types of businesses, when you first start marketing your business or if you’re trying a new platform for the first time, you’ll have to feel it out to see what works and what doesn’t. With that being said, digital marketing allows for more flexibility when it comes to a refining your strategy.

  • You can split-test multiple messages to your audience using a single budget to see what works.
  • You can create cost-effective campaigns using Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and organic strategies to reach your audience.
  • You can pause or change your campaigns whenever you want if you’ve determined they’re not working.

With traditional marketing, it’s not that easy. Many times, you’re locked into a contract with no way of getting out if you deem it ineffective. Also, it’s more of a challenge to measure the effectiveness of the campaign, which is something we will explore deeper, because it’s harder to track efficacy when it comes to traditional marketing.

Digital marketing constantly keeps you moving toward profitability at all times.

Measuring Results

Speaking of profitability, what really matters when it comes to marketing is results. If you’re investing money into marketing, you want to see your business grow.  With traditional marketing, measuring results can be a challenge. Unless you put a vanity phone number in your advertisement, you’ll just have to guess that an increase in customers is correlated to your advertising.

With digital marketing, there are several tools and formulas out there that allow you to measure how effective your marketing is online. You can track conversions, phone calls, live chat conversations, and calculate your cost per lead for each marketing effort to ensure that you’re remaining profitable. In fact, measuring digital marketing efforts has become a science, so much so that there are a lot of experts out there that specialize in just measuring marketing performance through digital channels.
I hope that helps you make a more informed decision as to where to invest your marketing dollars. If you need help deciding what’s going to work for your business and your audience, call On Target, and we can help you find the right platforms to help your business grow.