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Last updated on 5/4/23

Compare Digital Marketing and Traditional Marketing

In the first chapter, you learned what marketing means.

In the second chapter, you learned about digital and online marketing.

Now that you're comfortable with these concepts, what do you think traditional marketing is?

Essentially, traditional marketing is a term used to describe the other half (offline) of marketing. To illustrate the decline of some offline media, I mentioned print advertising: this is a prime example of a very traditional marketing tactic.

But you certainly know others:

  • Catalogs, brochures, flyers, and other printed material πŸ–¨ 

  • Radio advertising πŸ“»

  • Cold-calling ☎️

Traditional marketing is usually relatively untargeted compared to what's possible online and typically described as broadcast. In other words, it seeks to reach as broad an audience as possible.

Choose Between Pull and Push Marketing

One of the roles of the marketer is:

To analyze a market to better implement activity that facilitates the meeting of supply and demand.

You also know that in digital marketing, an activity can take many different forms. In absolute terms, it can only really move in two directions:

  • Marketing pushes supply towards demand, called push or outbound marketing.

  • Alternatively, it attracts demand toward supply, called pull, or inbound marketing. 

Diagram of Inbound and outbound marketing
Inbound and outbound marketing

The majority of people prefer to be asked permission before being solicited.

In your opinion, are traditional marketing techniques more like push or pull marketing? What about digital marketing?

Put Yourself in a Customer's Shoes to Understand the Impact of Your Strategy

To illustrate this idea, put yourself in Thomas' position.  Thomas has just discovered a passion for gardening and, more specifically, for bonsai trees.

While you're on your way to buy your first Japanese tree, you pass a dozen billboards without really realizing it. A clever dog food advertisement catches your eye for a fraction of a second outside the garden center. πŸ• ⚠️

A traditional advertising display
Dog food: eye-catching, but irrelevant to Thomas

If you are like 80% of the population, you don't have a dog, and you'll pass by the advertisement. Maybe you're even allergic to dog hair. So all this ad managed to do was to make you smile at the creative artwork, but you're not going to buy the dog food.

Neither will the vast majority of people exposed to this ad. It will have to work much harder to be profitable.

Are the posters that you see on the side of the road, on trains, or buses really effective?

It depends on the advertiser's objectives.

  • If the objective is to encourage immediate impulse buying, posters are relatively ineffective in most cases. The exception to this would be something like the McDonalds ads that point to the nearest restaurant.

  • If the goal is to make the general public aware of the brand and its products, they can be very effective, mostly if seen repeatedly. Do you remember the name of the dog food brand from our example?  

Therefore, Pedigree's marketing manager is comfortable never knowing the precise number of people who passed his billboard, how many people looked at it or even how many showed interest.

This inability to precisely measure a campaign's performance is one of the significant limitations of traditional marketing. By contrast, online advertising makes it possible to measure a campaign's performance, whether the objective is awareness or a direct return on investment.

By the way, what's the relationship between dog food and bonsai trees?

There is absolutely none, which says a lot about the second major limitation of traditional marketing: lack of relevance.

In our example, Thomas was on his way to buy a bonsai tree. He was naturally more receptive to offers related to what he was looking for. If any of the billboards had presented an offer for a local garden center, Thomas probably would have noticed it. It might even have influenced his buying behavior.

On the other hand, digital marketing allows for more precise targeting and can be much more relevant.

How often have you seen advertising online for something you've just been shopping for? Online advertising can hone its messages to things you've been looking for. At its best, it very relevant.

Put Yourself in an Advertiser's Shoes to Choose Between Traditional and Digital Marketing 

Now imagine that you are the author of a book on bonsai tree gardening for beginners. πŸ“—

How would you go about presenting your offer to Thomas and other beginners who want to learn more about bonsai trees?

There are several ways to answer this question.

The full and detailed answer would be a formal marketing plan. And this is what you'll learn to do in the second part of this course. πŸ˜€

In the meantime, to compare digital marketing with traditional marketing, a top-level answer will suffice.

The Traditional Approach

As a freelance author, sticking to purely traditional tactics, your options are limited. 

First, you probably can't afford to put up billboards in all the cities where bonsai trees are sold. There's also little chance that you'll be able to create and broadcast a TV or radio commercial. Printing flyers seems affordable on a small scale, but you realize very quickly that you'll have to deliver or distribute them. Suddenly, this option looks a lot less attractive. Not to mention that as a nature lover, you don't like the idea of wasting so much paper and ink.

One fine day, you have the idea to buy an ad in Bonsai Magazine. What could be more relevant? So you call the publisher to inquire. You tell him your concerns about measuring advertising performance, but he reassures you that there are precisely 800 subscribers. 

Convinced, you agree to pay $1,000 to place your full-page ad on page 13 of the magazine. Six months later, the magazine publishes its annual edition (with your ad on page 13) and distributes it to its 800 subscribers. With a margin of $20 on each book, you must sell at least 50 books before you even start making money on this campaign. Therefore, 6% of readers have to place an order.

Let's say that after a month, you've only sold four books. The conversion rate (CR) of your advertising is  0.5%.

Conversion rate = (number of conversions Γ· number of impressions) Γ— 100

(4Γ·800) Γ— 100 = 0.5

The campaign balance amounts to -$920 and a 7-month wait. You wanted to find more customers, but in the end, you spent too much. To console yourself, you tell yourself that at least the magazine's subscribers (your target audience) now know your name and your book.

If you sell a niche product (not for mass consumption), don't limit yourself to traditional marketing. 

Twenty years ago, our author would have had to negotiate a distribution contract with a publishing house, a bookstore chain, or garden centers. Without any of these, it would have been tough to sell books about bonsai trees.

The Digital Approach

The internet has fundamentally changed the lives of independent creators. It's easier than ever to bring your product to market without going through a distributor.

In little time, and with no help, you can set up a point-of-sale for your book on Amazon, eBay, or both! These e-commerce platforms only ask for a commission in return. In other words, if you don't sell, you don't pay, which is called performance-based compensation. 😌

If these platforms don't provide enough business volume, you have an arsenal of digital techniques available to boost your sales. Here are just three examples:

Social Media Marketing

Join or create a community of gardeners on Facebook. You will then be able to personally communicate directly, for free, to potential readers and other similar online prospects. 

Content Marketing

You can reach other enthusiasts (free of charge) by creating content from your book (video tutorials, newsletter, blog, etc.). These techniques will attract new prospects and allow you to position yourself as an expert in the bonsai world. This content will then feed your activity on social networks.

Online Advertising

If you want to boost your sales even further and are ready to invest the money, you can also try online advertising. Once again, you can target your prospects and only pay if they click on your ads.

Whether you use these techniques or others, keep in mind that today's marketing efforts can also prove very useful in the future.

In other words, you want to find, acquire, and keep prospects.

So plan a way to stay in touch and develop a relationship with those interested in what you offer. It saves you from having to contact them again when you want to let them know about your next book.

You can grow your audience or acquire new prospects by inviting them to follow you on social networks or getting their permission to add them to your customer (or prospect) database, such as customer relationship management software (CRM).

Legal Obligations

Monetizing or storing collected personal data without the individual's consent is illegal in most parts of the world.

For example, you can't add email addresses to your mailing list without prior permission.

Similarly, you must allow people to unsubscribe.

Let's Put It Together: the Differences Between Traditional and Digital Marketing

5 differences

Traditional marketing

Digital marketing



Digital and often online





Slow and fixed

Instant and agile

Customer relationship

Interruption/premeditated/ unidirectional

Request for permission/spontaneous/bidirectional


Difficult to measure

Easily measurable (data-driven)

The table portrays a rather negative image of traditional techniques. However, don't overlook them entirely. Depending on the campaign objective, some are still appropriate.

Digital marketing is nothing more than an evolution of traditional marketing. In biology, species adapt to their environments to improve their chances of survival; in marketing, techniques evolve to fit available technology.

Some channels, such as television advertising, are changing fast. Although television is a digital medium, right now, these advertising spots are still (mostly) poorly differentiated. Planning a TV campaign takes time, and you can't modify it during a broadcast. The customer relationship on television is based on interruption (a commercial break). Finally, the effectiveness of a television commercial is only moderately measurable. Until the new generations of smart TVs become the norm, should we view television advertising as modern? 

Ultimately, categorizing a technique as traditional or modern doesn't allow you to say whether it's good or bad for you and your goals. You have to systematically analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each tactic as it fits your context.

Let's Recap!

In this chapter, you learned to identify:

  • The basics of marketing, especially the marketing mix, which provides a strategic foundation thanks to four pillars: product, price, promotion, and placement.

  • Digital marketing, a subset of marketing. It allows you to develop your strategy and approach consumers through screens.

  • Traditional marketing, often broadcast, which means sending the same message to a large audience. In many cases, this will be less effective than digital. The choice depends on your objectives.

You've also learned about the advantages of digital marketing compared to traditional methods, in particular:

  • Asking permission from consumers to run pull marketing activity.

  • Precisely targeting the audience interested in your message (potential customers).

  • Measuring the performance of marketing activity.

Now that you have a solid foundation in marketing, you're ready to move on. I've prepared a quiz for you to check how much you've taken in - good luck!

Then join me in the second part, where you'll start by finding out how to create your first marketing plan. 

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