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Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing: Is It Really that Different?

Posted on July 28, 2022 | The Diamond Group

In a world where technology is constantly evolving, it's no surprise that the way we market our businesses has had to change too. These days, more and more businesses are turning to digital marketing in order to reach their target audiences. But what exactly is digital marketing, and how is it different from traditional marketing?

Digital Versus Traditional Marketing: Definitions First!

If you're reading this post about digital vs. traditional marketing, you likely already know that marketing itself is a way of promoting and advertising your business. In recent years, branding and customer experience have started to overlap with marketing itself. You may also hear marketers talking about reputation management, recruitment efforts, and employee engagement.

But if you boil it down to basics, marketing is talking about your product in a way that drives sales. So, how does that look different digitally?

Digital Marketing: Marketing Using the Internet

Digital marketing can be defined as any type of marketing that exists online. Even more simply put, this just refers to using digital means to pitch or advertise your business! This includes everything from your website and content marketing to social media accounts and pay-per-click ads (PPC). Basically, if it's something that you can do on a computer or phone, it counts as digital marketing.

Traditional Methods: Marketing Offline

Traditional marketing, on the other hand, refers to any type of marketing that doesn't exist online. This covers things like TV commercials, print ads, billboards, and more. Some may even file some of the tactics used by their outside sales reps under this category.

Why Both are Still Worth Considering

While digital marketing is obviously the more popular choice in today's day and age, there are still some instances where traditional marketing might be a better option for your business. Which is better for your business depends on a few things, most importantly your target customers! Certain age ranges are still very receptive to traditional marketing tactics, and some products or services may also find great success with a well-timed coupon or radio ad.

However, digital marketing puts much more budget control in the hands of the business owner. This can be very appealing to small businesses or solopreneurs looking for a quick burst in business without the high dollar ad spend.

So, let's take a closer look at the difference between these two types of marketing!

The Biggest Differences Between Forms of Marketing

Now that we have a general understanding of each type of marketing, let's look at some of the key ways they differ. While both explain a product or service and try to convince people to take a certain action, they go about it in very different ways.

The biggest differences between digital vs. traditional marketing is in how the two target and engage their audiences, and how much each costs. Let's look at each of those angles:

Audience Targeting Strategies

With digital marketing, you can target a specific audience with laser precision. For example, if you sell women's shoes, you can use Google Ads to target women in your area who are searching for shoes. You can't do this with traditional marketing because it's not as specific. You might be able to place an ad in a local magazine, but you won't be able to specify who sees it.

You can also retarget your digital audience with increasing precision.  For example, if someone visits your website but doesn't buy anything, you can show them targeted ads for your product on other websites they visit. This is much harder to do with traditional marketing.

Digital marketing also allows you to track how many people see your ad and how many people take action from it. This is called conversion tracking, and it's something that's nearly impossible to do with traditional marketing. This data allows you to optimize your digital marketing campaigns so that you're getting the most bang for your buck.

Traditional marketing can be more targeted than people think. For example, a new shopping mall could choose to only mail flyers to affluent neighborhoods in the city if it boasted luxury vendors. Traditional marketing can also excel at local advertising, as it can catch you while you are going about your day and NOT looking at your phone.

Customer Engagement through Marketing

Digital marketing is great for building relationships with customers because it allows you to interact with them directly. For example, if someone comments on one of your blog posts, you can reply to them directly. You can also build relationships by sending out emails, running social media contests, and offering coupons or discounts.

But, digital marketing also allows you to go one step farther! Because of how quickly you can post and issue content, you can build up a personality and presence for your brand that people actually seek out and enjoy engaging with for entertainment. This has been famously achieved by brands like Duolingo and Wendy's, who use their accounts on social media platforms to stay in people's minds in a larger-than-life way.

Traditional marketing is less interactive, but it can still be engaging. It's all about creating a memorable ad that speaks to your target audience. For example, a local business might run a TV commercial during the Super Bowl that tells a personal story about why their product is so great. This could potentially engage viewers and create a long-lasting impression.

However, much of this content is then repurposed on digital platforms. In fact, it is very rare that a company's traditional marketing efforts are not designed to work within their digital marketing strategies in some way.

Costs of Marketing Techniques

Digital marketing is often seen as being more cost-effective than traditional marketing because you can target your audience more precisely and track your results. But, online ads can blow through a budget at an alarming rate! While a PPC ad can suddenly spend thousands of dollars if it is not set up carefully and monitored, a traditional ad that you paid for in full ahead of time won't turn up any of the same "surprises".

Digital marketing requires ongoing effort and investment. You have to keep an eye on how your ads perform, tweak your budgets, look out for any potential "flags" or reports that could have paused the ads, and vary them more frequently. And, if you're using social media to build relationships with customers, you'll need to put in the time to interact with people responding to your ads.

Traditional marketing can also be quite cost-effective, especially if you use local advertising or run a sale or promotion. For example, a newspaper ad is generally less expensive than a Google Ad, and a sale is a great way to bring in customers without having to spend too much money on marketing. After putting together a couple well-designed ads and making the initial investment, you have to let the ad run its course. It doesn't require as much daily upkeep, but it also may not return results as quickly.

It really depends on your goals as to which marketing technique is more cost-effective. If you're looking for immediate results, digital marketing might be the way to go. But, if you're looking to build long-term relationships or create a more personal connection with your customers, traditional marketing might be a better option.

Measurement of Marketing Results

Digital marketing is driven by data. You can track how many people see your ads, click on them, and then take the desired action. This allows you to see exactly how effective your campaigns are so that you can optimize them for better results. You can also make frequent adjustments to the ad campaigns, and utilize various third party websites to hone into the specifics of how people are interacting with your ads and what results are strongest.

Traditional marketing is more difficult to measure. You can track how many people see your ad and make an estimate of how many people act on it, but it's not as easy to get exact numbers. And, because traditional marketing takes more time to show results, it can be difficult to tell if a campaign is working right away.

Both digital and traditional marketing techniques have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to measurement. If you're looking for quick, exact results, digital marketing is probably the way to go. But, if you're more interested in building long-term relationships or creating a more personal connection with your customers, traditional marketing might be a better fit.

Wrapping Up Differences

In general, digital marketing is going to be cheaper than traditional marketing. This is because you don't have to pay for things like print ads or TV commercials. Of course, there are some digital marketing tactics that can be quite costly, such as running ads on Google or Facebook. But overall, the cost is going to be lower than traditional marketing.

Traditional marketing can be more expensive because you have to pay for things like TV commercials, print ads, and billboards. However, there are ways to save money with traditional marketing, such as by running local ads instead of national ones.

A Deep Dive into Digital Marketing Strategies

Now that you have a general understanding of digital marketing vs. traditional marketing, let's take a more in-depth look at some specific digital marketing strategies.

Website Marketing

Website marketing is all about driving traffic to your website and then converting that traffic into leads or customers. There are many different ways to do this, such as SEO, PPC, social media marketing, and content marketing.

Additionally, your website itself is like a digital storefront, so there are also things you can do to make it a strong sales driver once people arrive on it. You can make the design appealing to your target audience, utilize photography to tell the story of your company or service, and make sure the site is easy to navigate.

A strong website can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to selling your products or services! And, even if you do use it as a landing spot for all your other digital marketing initiatives, it has to be as strong as the original ads that brought people to it to close the sale.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that it appears higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). This is important because people are more likely to click on websites that appear at the top of the SERP.

There are many different factors that go into SEO, such as choosing the right keywords, having quality content, and having a mobile-friendly website.  You can do a lot of the SEO work yourself, but it can be helpful to hire an experienced professional to help you get the best results possible.

SEO is also something that is always evolving. As search engines prioritize different things, you have to be prepared to update your site accordingly. Everything from images, accessibility, load time, and forms of content can determine how "optimized" Google considers your website and thus how many people will see it in searches.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

PPC is a type of online advertising where you pay a fee every time someone clicks on your ad. It's a great way to get targeted traffic to your website quickly. The most popular form of PPC is Google Ads, which allows you to place ads on Google search results pages and partner websites.

PPC can also include retargeting. This is where you show ads to people who have already visited your website. This can be effective because they are already familiar with your brand, so they are more likely to convert into a lead or customer.

PPC is popular because it's a very effective way to get targeted traffic to your website. However, it can be expensive if you don't know what you're doing. That's why it's important to hire an experienced professional who can help you create and manage your campaign.

Social Media Marketing

PPC is also part of social media marketing! Social media marketing is the process of using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to promote your product, service, or company. This can be in the form of organic posts or paid ads.

Organic posts refer to the content you write and post in your main feed. You don't put any money behind them, you just post them and let them generate traffic based on the audience reaction to it. Organic posting requires a lot of creativity and willingness to experiment with fresh content ideas in order to make sure more people see your posts.

Organic posts are free, but they take more time and effort to create. They are also less likely to be seen by people who are not already following your company on social media.

Paid ads, on the other hand, can be very effective because you can target them to a specific audience. Paid ads can look many different ways, depending on the platform you're using. Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn allow you to "boost" posts to help more people see them in their feeds by paying a little extra to have them reach a wider audience. There are also ads that you set to show up outside the feed, like in the sidebar or header of a social site. These can be targeted down to a very specific audience, which make them ideal for testing new ideas without spending a fortune.

The most important thing with social media marketing is to be active and engaging. You need to post regularly and interact with your audience. The more you do this, the more likely people are to see your posts and click on them.

Email Marketing

Email marketing involves sending out emails to potential and current customers. It's a great way to stay in touch with your audience and promote your product or service. You can also use email marketing to send out coupons, discounts, and other special offers.

Email marketing is a huge revenue driver for B2C businesses. It meets people where they are and can help them make buying decisions from home, before they even walk in the store! For example, a mom planning on going birthday shopping for her son later in the week might skip the store altogether in favor of purchasing the gift she wanted from Amazon for cheaper, all because Amazon sent her a marketing email!

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a type of digital marketing that focuses on creating and distributing quality content. This can be in the form of blog posts, infographics, videos, or eBooks. The goal of content marketing is to attract potential customers to your website and then convert them into leads or customers.

Content marketing works as a resource bucket for all of your other marketing channels. You make the content first, then distribute it in the places that make the most sense.

Digital marketing is a broad term that covers a wide range of marketing activities, including those we described above. It's important to note that not all of these activities are necessarily new; traditional marketing also uses many of these same strategies. It just delivers them through different mediums.

Let's look at traditional marketing a little closer.

A Look at Traditional Marketing Strategies

Traditional marketing is any type of marketing that isn't digital. This includes things like TV commercials, print ads, and billboards. While some traditional marketing techniques are still effective, others have become outdated or less effective over time.

Here are some examples of traditional marketing:

TV commercials

TV commercials can be expensive to produce and air. They also have the potential to reach a large audience. However, people are increasingly using DVRs and streaming services to skip commercials. Commercials are also starting to shift into the digital marketing space as more streaming services allow advertisers to purchase spots on their platforms. This is one form of "traditional" marketing that the digital space is seeing more and more!

Radio Advertising

Radio advertising is another form of traditional marketing that has become less effective over time. This is because people are increasingly using streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, which allow them to choose what they listen to and come with more targeted ads.

Even good radio ads now tend to direct people to a digital form of marketing, like a landing page on a website or their social media accounts. So, the money spent would often be better allocated to promoting your digital presence.

Print ads

Print ads can be costly to produce and place in newspapers or magazines. They're also easy to ignore. But some specific business can still find success with them, especially if their target customers are not as tech-savvy. There are also some dedicated coupon-shoppers who will always choose to shop in person with a paper coupon over the convenience of a shopping app without one.

So, for specific markets a printed flyer can still produce incredible results. But, the success of these ads will remain pretty narrow.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is a form of marketing where businesses send physical mail to potential and current customers. This can be in the form of coupons, flyers, or postcards.

While direct mail can be fairly effective, it's also very expensive. The cost of postage and printing often outweighs the benefits. Additionally, people are becoming more environmentally conscious and are less likely to want to receive physical mail that they'll just throw away.

For these reasons, direct mail is not as effective as it once was and is not a good use of marketing dollars for most businesses.


Telemarketing is a type of marketing where businesses call potential and current customers on the phone. This can be to sell a product, promote a service, or simply to gather information. Telemarketing can be effective if done correctly.

But it's also very easy to do wrong. If telemarketers are too pushy or aggressive, they will turn people off and damage the business' reputation. Additionally, the Do Not Call list makes it difficult to reach potential customers without breaking the law. Because of these challenges, telemarketing is not as effective as it once was and is not a good use of marketing dollars for most businesses.


Billboards can be a great way to reach people who are driving by your business. It is also fun to watch them becoming more and more creative. While some brands like Chick-fil-A have mastered the art of the billboard, they often don't return their investment well.

As you can see, traditional marketing techniques can be expensive and not always effective. This is one of the reasons why digital marketing has become so popular. It's usually more affordable and easier to track results.

Are Both Types of Marketing Useful?

In general, both types of marketing have potential to be useful for your business. As with any marketing, how it is done will have just as much to do with its success as the type of marketing you use. The real question is what type of marketing will give you the biggest return on your investment and help your business succeed.

Which Type of Marketing is Right for Your Business?

The answer to this question really depends on your business and your goals. If you're a small business, you might not have the budget for a traditional marketing campaign. In that case, digital marketing would be a better choice.

But if you're a large company with a well-established brand, you might find that traditional marketing is still the best way to reach your target customers.

It's also important to consider what your goals are. If you're trying to raise awareness for your brand or product, digital marketing might be a better choice because it allows you to track how many people are seeing your ads and visiting your website.

If you're trying to sell a product or service, traditional marketing might be a better choice because it allows you to reach people who might not be using the internet.

So, there's no right or wrong answer to this question. It really depends on your business and your goals.

What Digital and Traditional Marketing Can Learn from Each Other

Despite the differences between digital and traditional marketing, there is still a lot that they can learn from each other.

Creativity and Storytelling

Digital marketing can learn from traditional marketing in terms of creativity and storytelling. Traditional marketing has always been about creating ads that tell a story and capture people's attention. Digital marketing tends to be more focused on data and results. While this can be effective, it doesn't always result in the most creative or interesting ads.

Data-Driven Decision Making

Traditional marketing can learn from digital marketing in terms of ways to reach people and track results. Traditional marketing has become less effective as people have become less responsive to things like direct mail and telemarketing. And it can be difficult to track the results of traditional marketing campaigns. Digital marketing, on the other hand, allows you to track how many people are seeing your ads and how they are responding to them. This data can be used to make more informed decisions about where to allocate your marketing budget.

Hyper-targeting Different Audiences

Traditional and digital marketing can learn a lot about how each targets its audiences. Traditional marketing methods have to appeal to as many people as possible, whereas digital marketing can target down to the smallest groupings of people and make ads just for those groups.

Traditional marketing could learn how to be more fearless in tailoring its content to its target audience. But, digital marketing also needs to remember that mass appeal works! And when it comes to your local audience, using the best of both sides of targeting will generate the best return on investment.

Thinking Outside the Box

While digital media has made its creative mark, many digital marketers looking for fresh inspiration turn back to classic newspaper ads and commercials. When your only option was to target a huge audience, your advertising really had to make an impact. This forced traditional media marketers to really push the boundaries of their creativity to find new ways to boost brand awareness and make big sales.

So, while online marketing has to find new ways to cut through the noise, sometimes looking back to traditional marketing for inspiration is the best way to think outside the box!

Reaching People Where They Are

Traditional marketing can look to digital for inspiration to find ways to reach people where they are in ways that feel personal.  Traditional marketing has always been about reaching people where they are, but with the advent of digital media, there are now more opportunities to do this than ever before.

Digital marketers can use things like cookies and web beacons to track people's online behavior and target ads based on their interests. This allows you to reach people with ads that are more likely to be relevant to them, which can make them more receptive to your message.

Traditional marketers can use this same data to target their ads more effectively. For example, if you know that someone is interested in travel, you could target them with ads for travel-related products and services.

The bottom line is that both digital and traditional marketing can learn from each other to be more effective in reaching their audiences. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each, you can create a more integrated marketing strategy that uses the best of both worlds.

Ready to Start Marketing Your Business? Contact Us!

No matter what type of marketing you decide to use for your business, the most important thing is that you start somewhere. And, if you're not sure where to start, we can help!

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the options available for marketing in today's digital age.  But, by taking the time to understand your options and create a plan, you can develop a marketing strategy that's right for your business.

That is exactly what we help you do at The Diamond Group! We will take the time to learn more about you, your business, what it stands for, and what your growth goals are. Then, we will build a customized plan for you that respects your budget and helps you bring in sales.

Work with Award-Winning Digital Marketers to Grow Your Business!

Contact us through our website here: www.diamond-group.co/contact-tdg. We look forward to meeting you and learning more about your business!


In the meantime, we invite you to keep exploring our blog or reading about our recent work.

About The Diamond Group

The Diamond Group is a Wilmington, NC based digital marketing and web design agency committed to helping today's small businesses grow and prosper. With a 28-year track record of success, their proprietary in-house system and concierge-level multi-disciplinary team approach to marketing guarantees double-digital growth and optimizes marketing ROI. 

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