Should SMEs use traditional marketing?

traditional advertisingThe benefits of using online marketing through social media, blogs, websites and the rest have been well-covered in other blogs.

Traditional marketing, on the other hand, is deemed to be costlier in terms of printing and distributing the materials for a newsletter or magazine, brochures, leaflet drops, press and trade publication advertising (plus the cost of buying the space). The cost of content ought to be similar although it has been dumbed down with everyone now producing their own.

While billboards are plainly too costly for SMEs, press activities/PR need not necessarily cost a great deal. Imaginative ideas such as submitting news about activities or functions that include a reference to a celebrity, or a well known organisation or charity may be enough to catch the news editor’s eye. A great photograph with minimal text is the easiest way however for an SME to get press coverage.

Or what about the well-known Pizza company that hires a person to stand or walk along a street wearing a superhero costume with a sign or a sandwich board?

Comparing the costs

Online marketing is often free to post on your own website or on LinkedIn. Reaching the right followers however is key and costs escalate when posting on a platform that has a well-defined audience. Online does arguably level the playing field by making it easier for the smallest SME to compete alongside its larger rivals.

Results of online marketing are measurable in as much detail as the business would like, creating greater understanding of customers’ behaviour, needs and allowing for precise targeting. This is where successful companies spend more time and money on analysing what does and doesn’t work. SMEs can also do this but all too often don’t value the investment.

Since time is money, and it takes quite a long time to learn about the marketing and associated analytical tools, it makes sense to use an experienced marketing specialist, part time if necessary. Whether employed or outsourced, an expert can run the marketing campaigns, monitor them, analyse them and provide reports based on data. The reports are key to improving the results which is achieved by constantly adjusting the marketing campaigns to achieve better results. Again this is what the successful companies do.

If a business economises by having someone do this in-house as well as their main role, how much does it cost to have them constantly juggling tasks when they might be more productive focusing on their main role?

It is also said that online marketing enables a business to create relationships with customers, raise awareness of its brand and demonstrate its knowledge, especially in an era of short attention spans and browsing via mobile phone. If online marketing is done in-house how much time can you afford to let the employee spend on monitoring and responding to responses? What about the costs or rectifying an unfortunate piece of online marketing that goes wrong and could damage the business’ reputation?

While traditional marketing costs for printing and distributing materials may be higher at the outset arguably their potential longevity is far greater than the unopened or swiftly deleted message on a screen. This is not only because the material can be re-used, with tweaks, repeatedly but also because there is some scientific evidence that people like to have something they can touch and keep. At least they have to physically handle hard copy materials.

Research done in Canada on the benefits of traditional marketing, by testing eye tracking and measuring EEG brain waves, attention spans and ease of understanding has also found that the hard copy scored far higher for ease of understanding and brand recall.

While there is a wealth of analytics data for measuring online marketing, it is argued to be less easy to target and to measure results for traditional marketing. But is that really true?  Run a simple postcard campaign with a tempting offer for replies and include a code or codes in the return address or even a dedicated phone line and it is easy to track the origins of the responses and compare the results with the previously-defined percentage return for the campaign.

There is no doubt that there is some value to businesses from using traditional marketing, but do they have to choose between this and online marketing?

It may not be a case of either/or but identifying the right mix of online and traditional for an individual business after carefully weighing up the costs in relation to its available marketing budget.

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