Shortly after the earth cooled, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, marketing was purely physical. If it didn’t exist in the world as an object that could be touched, seen, and (sometimes) smelt, it wasn’t real. It wasn’t marketing. But nowadays, you can run an entire marketing agency using only social media accounts and have no physical representation of your product or service at all.

Where once there were flyers, billboards and ads on the radio, now there is Google Ads, sponsored social media posts, 5 second commercials on Youtube, and push notifications. So when do you buy a billboard, and when do you pay for an ad in a movie theater, and when do you invest in a social media marketing push? You only have so many dollars to spend on advertising and marketing, and you’ve got to make the right choice between traditional marketing vs. digital marketing. It’s a pickle, but we have some advice for making the right decision.

Choosing Your Media Wisely

Imagine you make the greatest Superbowl commercial ever. It’s got a beloved celebrity, it will make the viewers laugh, cry, and then immediately order ten of what you’re selling. You run it right before halftime, and… nothing happens. No sales spike, no angels singing from heaven. What went wrong?

The answer is: none of your customers watched the Superbowl.

Know Where Your Customers Live to Achieve the Biggest ROI

Now, it’s not like you need to know their address (although geotagging ads is a thing), but you should be able to reasonably guess where they spend the bulk of their time.

If your ideal clients are digitally savvy teens, you want to be on TikTok. If you want stay-at-home mothers of two to buy your products, Facebook, Instagram, and TV are good bets, with a sprinkle of ads on Spotify or some sponsored segments on a podcast.

It can quickly get hectic—you will probably feel the need to be everywhere, all the time. And while there is some benefit to casting a wide net, your best bet is to buckle down and focus on one to two marketing strategies and platforms that work for targeting your customers.

How to Determine Where Your Customers Will See Your Ads

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.

– John Wanamaker

Even though you might want to use traditional marketing tactics, it is important to remember that we’re living in the digital age. Thanks to the insane amount of data collected from social media and search engines, you can learn a lot about your target customers without needing to spend much money. Anyone can use Google Trends, for example, to see what types of topics are being searched for on a daily basis. You can peek behind the curtain on Facebook and other social media sites and even look at your own website’s data with Google Analytics. All of these are free or inexpensive ways to learn about your audience—and once you’ve gathered more information, you can start to think about how best to advertise to them.

The other option, if passive data collection isn’t your bag, is to simply ask. Surveys, questionnaires, and the like are all valid ways of getting the information you need from your customers. Just make sure to make it worth their while—nobody wants to do an hour long survey for a chance to win a coupon.

If the idea of gathering this kind of data on your own makes you balk, hit us up and we can chat about the resources we can use to help you.

What to Do Once You Know Where Customers Spend Their Time

This is where the fun comes in. You’ve played detective and gathered the intel about where a customer is most likely to see and interact with an ad—now it’s time to think about the best way to sell to them. It’s a bit like being Sherlock Holmes.

Let’s say that your target customer commutes a lot—45 minutes or more each way. To help pass the time, you can see from their purchase and download history that they listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. So, logic would dictate that you want to advertise on Audible, or whatever audiobook seller your customers buy from. You could also sponsor a few podcasts that have to do with business or sports. Again, whatever the data tells you they are interested in.

BUT, you also recognize that they’re sitting in traffic for 45 minutes a day, and that means a billboard along the main highways in their city (you know where they live thanks to geographic data collection) is going to work, too. So you sponsor a podcast, buy a billboard, and put sidebar ads on an Audiobook site. And then…

Wait, Test, Deduce, Correct, Repeat

Once you’ve set up your strategy, the hard part starts—you gotta wait. Wait for the data to trickle in: the sales metrics, engagement online, and so on. Once you’ve got a good sample size, you can have a think about how the ads are performing. If it turns out the podcast/ audiobook ads aren’t performing well, perhaps it means that your commuters are listening to the radio instead—and that’s where your ads should be. So you give that a shot, wait and test again, and then repeat the process once you have enough data.

“Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”

–David Ogilvy

When you’re using traditional marketing tactics, you need to be a bit smarter. No program will tell you exactly how they’re performing, but you can deduce what is happening by looking at the data points you can collect, like sales in a given area, how often a product is returned, or how many times you get a personal referral to a new client.

The Trouble—and Advantage—of Traditional Analog Marketing

The one problem with a traditional marketing strategy that involves billboards, radio ads, and their more analog cousins is that it can be difficult to tell if they’re working. A Facebook ad will tell you exactly how many people saw it and exactly what percentage of those people actually clicked on it. A billboard cannot do that. However, a billboard can be just as, if not more effective, than an online ad—especially when a commuter is stuck in traffic with nothing to stare at but your big sign.

That’s the primary advantage with an analog, or traditional, marketing strategy—you typically have less competition. Online, you’re competing with the urge to scroll; a cute cat video, the newest political outrage. In traffic, or on the radio, or on TV, you have total command for a brief window of time. So make sure if you’re using traditional marketing, that you make the most of that attention.

Conclusion: Traditional Marketing vs. Digital Marketing?

So, in the debate between traditional marketing vs. digital marketing, who wins? Well, you should make ads that your customers will be likely to see—and the only way to figure that out is to do some research. Pound the pavement, ask people on the street, or use the digital equivalent to collect data on your customers. Once you’ve got the info, you can start using your noggin to choose one or two advertising mediums you think will perform best. Once the ads are made and out in the world, you get to wait.

Then track the results and see which ads do the best, make some changes, test again, and proceed like that. Stick to a few avenues of marketing while your budget is small. If you can afford to plaster your ads everywhere, on every platform, in both traditional and digital mediums, well… you’re probably going to be okay. That said, you should still be intentional about where you spend your ad dollars. Nobody’s going to see an Ask Jeeves banner ad, after all.