Is Online Marketing a Better Match for a Small Business than Offline Marketing?

The question of whether online marketing trumps offline strategies is often treated as a hypothetical one – most marketers have tossed offline by the wayside and placed 100% of their focus on newer (and more successful) online methods.

But is online marketing always the best match for a small business? Let’s first take a look at how online marketing can benefit your business. I’ll also consider the question of whether offline marketing really is antiquated and not worth doing, or if there’s something left in the tank of old school methods.

Deep Dive Analytics

Online marketing can give you an excellent overview of the performance of each and every dollar you spend. Free inbuilt tools on Google Analytics, for example, allow you to set goals and track the flow of your traffic. You can analyse where your audience is exiting your site, which landing pages perform best – and that’s just the start.

Analytical tools allow you to deep dive on the specifics of your business performance, allowing you to tweak and adapt in real time. You can respond to market shifts quickly by viewing the results of complex calculations with just a few clicks.

Lower (Potential) Cost

Reaching an audience online doesn’t mean having to spend countless dollars on PPC or Facebook Ad campaigns. In fact, online marketing can be a very cheap avenue for start-ups (and even mature businesses!).

Blogs and active social media accounts can be particularly successful when it comes to attracting new customers for free. If you cater your blog to search metrics (i.e. how many people search for a given phrase per month), it’s possible to build an audience without having to spend a dime. Giving value to an audience via social media is also a good way of building trust with your potential customers.

Going Viral

There’s a definite art to it, but if you manage to get a video, infographic, podcast, or blog post to go viral you can get your brand out there without having to do the heavy lifting. Your audience will do that for you.

For example, Disney’s Surprise Shopping ad has reached over five million people. Puppyhood has had over 8 million views on YouTube. Ask yourself how much it would cost to get the same results on the traditional television advertisement campaign (answer: a heck of a lot!).

Offline Marketing is NOT Irrelevant

Despite the obvious strengths of online marketing, I’m not saying you should completely shelve your offline marketing efforts. In fact, the top marketing agencies are still very much using

The Comeback of Direct Mail

People don’t trust their emails as much as they used to – we have spam to thank for that. Marketing emails are often instantly deleted and never read. But despite disappointing results, marketers often don’t consider going back to ‘snail mail’.

And that’s a mistake. Direct mail is on the comeback trail, with customers considering print amongst the most trustworthy ad types. In fact, according to the DMA Response Rate Report you can expect to receive a return on investment that matches social media campaigns (around 15%).

Direct mail doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive either. Do your research on your targets (instead of mass mail shots!), personalise your content, and insert a small item that will allow you to stand out from your competitors – something like a branded pen, as a part of your marketing mix, is enough to make an impact.

Not Everyone Is Online

In the days where people obsessively clutch their smartphones as if hanging on to dear life, it’s almost crazy to think that some people either don’t use the internet and often don’t even have access to it.

In the United States alone, 15% of adults don’t use the web. And despite government efforts to increase adoption, this number doesn’t look like it’s going down anytime soon. Do you really want to miss out on this potential audience by ruling out offline marketing altogether?

Offline and Online Can Work Together

Marketers often make the mistake of thinking that they need to choose; it’s either online or offline, you can’t do both. But why can’t we use both?

According to a study published by iProspect, 40% of online searchers hit the buy button as a result of offline marketing. This means that while online is clearly a key element, offline efforts are still very much relevant.

Which Is Better?

The answer may be a little frustrating to some: it depends. While some offline strategies may be a little old school and low on the ROI front, there still are some methods where you can still gain an advantage. Similarly, not all online options will be suitable for your business.  

It’s not about picking one blanket strategy over the other.

Whether you’re running a brick and mortar business or an online ecommerce store, both offline and online marketing strategies should be used. The specific ones you go for depend on your business type and customer base – and always remember to test, test, and test some more. Analyse your data and respond according to cold hard facts, instead of going by gut feeling or the latest trend.