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Will Digital Marketing Replace Traditional Marketing?

by Article by Dan Moyle Dan Moyle | May 4, 2020 at 8:15 AM

How many years have marketers been beating the “traditional marketing is dead” drum? Since the old dial-up modem sound became synonymous with the world wide web? Probably. 

As world events move people online in greater numbers than ever before, the cry that traditional marketing is dead grows louder. 

But does that make it true? 🤷‍♀️

The fact is, about three of every four people prefer learning about products through content rather than traditional advertising. And for every 10 people, six of them say watching a Facebook video has influenced a purchase decision in the last 30 days; yet we all say we hate commercials on TV. 


With virtual events and video calls gaining necessary popularity in early 2020, along with a huge drop in commuter traffic, traditional advertising like radio ads have fallen even further out of favor. 

So it sounds like digital marketing and advertising continues to take over while traditional marketing flounders. 

However, nearly 80% of households say they at least scan direct mail ads they receive. And more than half of people say they trust printed marketing material more than any other kind.

So we’re back at square one: Will digital marketing replace traditional marketing? 

It’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all answer. The real question is “Where is my audience and how can I connect with them?”

Let’s take a quick look at some of the differences between these two disciplines so we can dive in deeper. 

Digital marketing at its core is using digital channels like social media, websites and email to communicate with an audience.It can be for awareness (social media) or lead generation (websites with conversion paths).

On the other hand, more traditional marketing tactics include channels like billboards, TV ads and print media. 


Here’s a look at the most common examples of traditional marketing:

  • Print (magazines, newspapers, etc.)
  • Broadcast (TV, radio, etc.)
  • Direct Mail (catalogues, postcards, etc.)
  • Telephone (telemarketing, sms marketing, etc.)
  • Outdoor (billboards, fliers, etc.)

Up until widespread use of the internet in the late 1990s, traditional marketing was pretty much the only type of marketing. Now, digital marketing opts more for online media like email or websites.

Here’s a list of digital marketing channels used:

  • Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter)
  • Video (YouTube, TikTok, website videos)
  • Websites (blogging, using SEO)
  • Email Marketing

So the basic difference between digital and traditional marketing is the channels through which your prospects or audience encounter your marketing message. 

Ultimately both types of marketing have their benefits and difficulties; the key is understanding your specific marketing needs, considering your budget and understanding your target audience.

Your more traditional marketing channels may reach the Baby Boomer generation and Gen X better since they’re more used to TV content or traditional radio. However, digital marketing is a suitable route for all ages, not just Millennials and Gen Z. All generations spend hours scrolling through Facebook and LinkedIn or shopping online.

Digital or Traditional? Discover What’s Working!

It’s always helpful to start at the beginning. What better way to begin than to dig into what works and what doesn’t work in your marketing? 

Whether you’re finding that traditional methods have become less effective or you’re just exploring a new path, understanding your current state is critical.

How do you measure your marketing efforts right now? Do you track where leads are coming from? Are you mapping the conversion paths (or steps) that turn those leads into clients or customers?

That baseline information is essential to establish measurable marketing. But there are a few more critical steps that will help you to understand what turns a stranger into your customer:

  • Define your benchmarks. This way you can understand what positive ROI really means for your company. 
  • Understand the quality of your lead types. Each lead has an effect on your revenue. Not all leads are created equal, so understanding this can help you focus where it’s most effective.
  • Learn what data your sales team uses. How does the sales team convert leads into customers?  
  • Determine your ideal client profiles or buyer personas. Figure out which lead types that will generate the most revenue and align with the ideal direction of your business.
  • Understand the time it takes for a lead to become your customer. This number can differ drastically from business to business and helps you see the importance of every conversion.
  • Trace the buyer’s journey of your current customers. Understand how they went from having a problem to being your customer and everything that shaped that journey.

With a data-driven foundation, you get to understand how buyers find your company. Then you can discover who’s actually making a purchase and at what point leads seem to be considering a solution to their pain points. 

The great thing about digital marketing? It leverages a deeper data-driven understanding of what’s working and what’s not working. Ideally, you should be able to look at your sales data and determine the financial value of a customer by channel. That information will allow you to determine the cost of customer acquisition for each of your marketing channels. 

As you assess the ROI of each of your marketing acquisition channels, be sure to gauge it over specific timeframes. This will show you where opportunities exist and where you can or should diversify and adjust your budget. 

Once you know where leads come from, where your buyer personas live and how you can reach them, you can decide where to put your marketing budget. Because at the end of the day, both digital and traditional marketing can work for you, as long as you know what your audience wants and where they spend their time.

As HubSpot offers while comparing digital and traditional marketing strategies, the question shouldn’t be “traditional marketing or digital marketing?” 

Instead, ask “How do we use both tactics to market effectively?” Of course, some businesses may benefit from going one way or the other. But for most of us, it’s possible to use both strategies in your business.

When it’s time to take a good long look at your lead generation efforts and consider a plan to lean into digital marketing, we’re here to help.