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BFS Capital Blog

Is Traditional Marketing Dead?

October 4, 2013

Social media’s all the rage, and for good reason! Social media channels present plenty of rich opportunities for small businesses to engage interactively with their customers. But with all the talk of social media’s marketing effectiveness for small businesses, does that mean we should be using it exclusively and leave more traditional forms of marketing in the dust?

To listen to current commentary, you might think so. We’ve extolled the virtues of social media here, too, but more as a way of getting our arms around how and why to harness the power of this ever evolving phenomenon. But the explosion in social media hasn’t automatically pushed traditional marketing tactics to the sidelines. contributor Dave Lavinsky poses the same question many business owners are asking: Is traditional marketing still alive? Yes, he says, and the real questions underneath that umbrella should be: How can I drive the most customers? and How can I do it most cost efficiently? Traditional marketing is still alive, for sure, but it’s much more fragmented than it once was, so you might have to dig a little more for the right solutions for your business.

We’d have to interject that what hasn’t changed are the principles underlying marketing—traditional and otherwise. Which means that, if you have the fundamentals in place first, choosing your tactics should fall right in line.

    • Objectives. Articulate in detail what you want your marketing effort to accomplish; quantify the results you’re after whenever possible.
    • Target audience. Define your target segments in as many ways as you can. There’s no perfect tactic that’s going to reach everyone, but depending on who you’re trying to reach, some will be hands-down better than others.
    • Budget. Skimping can be an issue for small businesses. Resist that urge. On the other hand, be sure to set a realistic budget and stay within it.
    • Tracking and measurement. Above all, know upfront what and how you’ll be tracking and measuring results, and put the system in place for doing that.

One caveat—and as a small business owner, you probably already know this. Small businesses are frequently asked to place ads in yearbooks, in community papers, etc. Often these are “nice to do” things that won’t really deliver a return. Agree to these kinds of things only if they fit into your plan and make sense for your business. Don’t be afraid to say no for business reasons.

But the good news is that there are ways to support the community and fulfill your marketing objectives at the same time—a total win-win for you and community groups. In fact, Lavinsky recommends a traditional marketing tactic that can accomplish this very thing: Sponsorships of local or regional events. They’re typically inexpensive, he says, and can be tailored to your budget. Your business gains invaluable exposure and you also generate good will by associating your business with the community.

It may also make sense to piggy back a number of other tactics along with the sponsorship itself—co-branded ads or radio spots, for example. You can also distribute discount coupons or product samples and offers to those who attend.

Depending on your objectives (and, of course, your budget), other more traditional marketing tactics may be good options for you. Some of the most memorable images have come from a single, well-placed outdoor board. Factor creative costs in with the cost of the board, and remember that with outdoor, you’re generating lots of impressions with those who see it, but those aren’t targeted. This makes sense if your objective or offer applies to a very broad and general audience.

To drive traffic, you may also want to consider the tried-and-true direct mail tactic. We’re talking specifically about the U.S. Postal Service Every Door Direct Mail® program. With this, you’re targeting geographically—say, a three-mile radius around your business. It’s cost effective and may be a good choice if customers choose your business, at least in part, because of proximity and convenience.

Traditional marketing, in various forms, is very much alive and well for businesses of all types and sizes. Do your homework thoroughly and build your plan carefully. To increase your chances for success even further, here are two more suggestions:

    • Craft a killer USP. This one’s from Lavinsky, and we wholeheartedly agree. Your unique selling proposition is the hook you’re hanging your marketing efforts on, whether it relates to your business (faster, friendlier, best selection) or a particular offer (BOGO, discount, free consultation). Make your USP as specific and compelling as you can.
    • Invest in creative. Don’t do creative yourself or on the cheap. Your USP and your message will be lost in a creative approach that looks homespun or unprofessional. Hiring a professional is totally worth it.

The Houston Chronicle’s compares some advantages and disadvantages of traditional marketing. Click here to read more. Then decide if some traditional marketing tactics are right for you.