Pros & Cons of Traditional Marketing vs. Online Marketing

RaM Billboard

For as long as business has been around, advertising has too. There’s always a need to set yourself apart, to help customers find you, and to compete with similar services. If you’re trying to plan your business’s next advertising venture, you’re likely facing some big decisions about where to put your dollars. Online advertising vs. traditional advertising is a big question right now as the world goes more and more digital every day.

Traditional advertising methods like billboards, fliers, and doorhangers are still the go-to for a lot of small businesses simply because they feel familiar. But in recent decades, the boom in technology and internet advancements has changed the game for advertising and marketing. Online advertising is quickly overtaking traditional methods in effectiveness and accessibility. Below we explore the pros and cons of online advertising vs. traditional advertising to help you make the call.

Online advertising vs. traditional advertising is a big question right now as the world goes more and more digital every day.

Traditional Advertising 

PRO | Reach a local audience.

If your business serves a small town, traditional media is likely to work better there than in large cities. You might see 15 billboards in a row in Dallas, whereas small towns might have only 2-3 on the main roads in. There’s overall less visual advertising to compete with, so you’re not as likely to get lost in the noise.

Smaller populations also mean less ground to cover. So you can tuck brochures on windshields and canvas the neighborhood with door hangers for relatively small printing runs that aren’t likely to break the bank.

PRO | Physical ads last a long time.

Print ads are physical and easy to hold onto. Printed coupons can be stuck to a fridge as reminders, or business cards tucked into wallets for later. If you offer a service that’s useful year-round, people might not need you right away but can hold onto your info until they do.


PRO | Cast a wide net.

Print advertising like billboards and fliers casts a wide net. You can put it out there for tons of people to see on a daily basis. The more they see your business, the more memorable you are. Unfortunately, this is where the cons come in.


CON | Cost per conversion is high.

Casting a wide net isn’t as great as it sounds. Just because thousands see your ad doesn’t mean they all need your service. If you provide home remodeling services, your ideal customer owns a home and has the budget to hire you. But your billboard reaches every teenage driver, young adult, and apartment renter too, none of which will become customers.

It’s important to keep in mind quality over quantity. If your $800/month billboard budget lands you 5 phone calls, you spent $160 per conversion. When you compare that to online advertising, the cost is typically closer to $1-$5 per conversion.


CON | Hard to share and not interactive.

People might stick a card on their fridge, but they aren’t likely to spread the word until they’ve tried your services. No one is faxing a copy of your ad to their brother or mailing a xerox to their aunt. They also can’t interact with it except to call a phone number or visit a website, both requiring a lot of willingness to buy.


CON | Can’t track performance.

There’s also no data to track how well your ads are actually working. You can put out a thousand fliers, but there’s no way to tell how many ended up in the trash instead of in a pocket. You can ask your customers to mention an ad when they call, but that’s about it.


Online Advertising

PRO | Target your most likely customers.

Online advertising allows you to narrow your audience and reach. You can control where your ads show up and what qualities those users have. For example, if you own a remodeling company, you have a specific type of customer. You can set parameters to only show your online ad to homeowners, aged 40-65, within 50 miles of your city.

This still allows you to target local customers, with a lot more flexibility and precision. Instead of showing a billboard to every teenager, young adult, distracted parent, and renter that drives by, you show the ad just to the people who will actually use your services.

PRO | Costs a fraction of traditional advertising.

The cost per conversion is significantly reduced in online advertising. Most ad platforms (like Google and Facebook) use a pay-per-click model. This means you don’t pay to put your ad out there, you only pay when people click on it. Depending on the platform and type of ad, clicks only cost around $1-$2 on average. So you’re still putting your ad in front of thousands of people a day just like a billboard, but they’re much more likely to need your service, and you’re only paying for those who interact with it.


PRO | Make customers take action.

Online ads aren’t just still images like posters and door hangers. They’re links. Whether it’s text, images, or video, your goal for any online ad is to get someone to click it. To engage with you. You can prompt viewers to visit your website, call you immediately, join a mailing list, sign up for discounts, download an app—the list goes on. These calls to action are essential to turning leads into conversions, and you have better odds and more control over their effectiveness with online advertising.

PRO | Track & optimize your ads.

Online ads are all about data. You can track how many people see your ad versus how many click on it. You can track what days people saw or clicked on your ad most. The analytics available is a huge selling point for online advertising. This type of data can help you optimize your ad for success. If an ad is under-performing, you can change it anytime and make adjustments to get your numbers up. Something you definitely can’t do in print or any other medium.

PRO | Accessible to small businesses.

Print advertising requires printers. Radio ads require radio stations. Online advertising mostly just requires an internet connection and a credit card. Almost anyone can set up a business account and start running advertisements online. This marketing method is accessible to everyone, especially small businesses that have a tighter budget or fewer resources to work with. You may struggle to find a good printer in a small town, but online advertising gives you access to the same global advertising tools as everyone else.

 Just keep in mind, with accessibility comes a huge sliding scale of effectiveness and ROI. Anybody can do it, but not everyone can do it well. That’s where some of the cons come in.



CON | There’s a learning curve.

Every online advertising platform does things a little differently, so you can’t just upload the same ad across the board. You must keep track of differences in image dimensions, upload sizes, allowable characters in text, and how each interface works to build your ad and target audience.

Technically you shouldn’t upload the same ad everywhere anyway. Effective marketing creates different messages for the different types of audiences (for example, people on Facebook will prefer different posts than people on LinkedIn). But it can be time-consuming and confusing if advertising isn’t your area of expertise.


CON | Requires upkeep.

Time is a big factor in why more small business owners don’t do their own online advertising. While it’s great to be able to track the performance of ads and make adjustments on the fly, it takes time. It takes data analysis. Reimagining your message and rebuilding your ads. Replying to social media engagements, and so on.

How you allocate your time makes a difference in your company’s success. So even though online advertising is accessible to you, it may not be the best use of your time. Most business owners see the value in hiring the right people for the right tasks, and this may be one task you shouldn’t tackle alone.


CON | Needs a good strategy.

Online advertising needs a good strategy, and a clear message to connect with your customers. This is where business owners often struggle the most in managing their own online marketing. There’s a whole science behind convincing people to buy from you, and with online ads, you only have a few words and the occasional image to get it done. Unless you have a background in copywriting and graphics in addition to managing your own business, this can be a tough task.

If you are interested in advertising your business online and saving marketing dollars, consider hiring an experienced online advertising team to manage the detail work. For less than the cost of most traditional ads, you can get all the benefits of targeted online advertising plus the skills of people who know how to make it work for you.


Ultimately, it comes down to what makes the most sense for your business and budget. It’s easy to go for the familiar option, and in some cases, that might make the most sense for your success. But keep in mind that advertising options and effectiveness have changed immensely in the last 30 years. People rely increasingly on internet searches to find services even just down the street.

Recent statistics show that 87% of people searching for services start online first. More than that, 80% of people who go to brick and mortar businesses say they checked their phone while in that store to compare prices and services. So even if your traditional ads get people in the door, 4 in 5 of them are likely to check out your competitors online before closing the deal! 

If you’ve been on the fence about online advertising, maybe it’s time to come on over and see what the buzz is about. If you have additional questions or want to discuss recommended platforms for your particular business, give us a call. We have clients in every industry from construction to cosmetics, and we advertise a little differently for all of them. We can promote your business too:  682-719-0085


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