Benefits of Digital Marketing for Small Business: How Digital Strategies Turbocharge Local Businesses

by Toby

August 8, 2023

Benefits of Digital Marketing vs Traditional

The Changing Landscape of Marketing

Picture this:
It's the golden age of advertising.

Madison Avenue is bustling with sharp-suited execs, dreamers, and doers, crafting print ads and planning TV spots that will reach millions.

They're masters of persuasion, spinning tales that captivate audiences and drive sales.

But fast forward to today, and suddenly, these once-mighty techniques are gasping for breath, struggling to keep up in a world that's moved online. (read our blog post on Benihana's missteps with traditional marketing

Welcome, dear reader, to the ever-changing landscape of marketing. Today, we stand at the crossroads of tradition and innovation.

On one side, we have traditional marketing - the tried-and-true methods that have served businesses for decades.

  • Billboards
  • Radio spots
  • Direct mail 

These are the tools of yesteryears, built for a world where consumers had fewer choices and less control (read our related post on SEO for Traditional Marketing Agencies).

Prefer to watch a video on this topic? 

But look to the other side, and you'll see a new beast emerging from the digital jungle: modern marketing.

This creature is agile, adaptable, and hyper-focused on its prey. It thrives in the wild lands of social media, feeds on the abundant data of Google search, and moves swiftly on the shifting sands of mobile devices.

This seismic shift from traditional to digital isn't just a trend. It's a revolution, fueled by new technologies and changing consumer behaviors.

The rise of social media has given birth to influencers and viral campaigns. The ubiquity of mobile devices has made marketing an always-on, anywhere, anytime affair. And Google search? Well, that's turned the art of persuasion into a science, with data-driven insights guiding every decision.

So, buckle up, dear reader.

We're about to embark on a journey, exploring the nooks and crannies of this new marketing landscape. We'll delve into the differences between traditional and digital, uncover the reasons behind this shift, and reveal how you can harness the power of modern marketing to propel your business into the future. Hang tight, because it's going to be one heck of a ride!


The Appeal of Traditional Marketing to Local Businesses

Surveys reveal that 75% of small, local businesses prefer traditional marketing to digital (source). Why? It's tangible, personal, and resonates with their customer base . And it can work...but the costs are higher vs digital marketing.

Imagine stepping into a charming local bakery, where the smell of freshly baked bread wafts through the air and the friendly owner greets you by name. This isn't some corporate chain—it's a small, family-owned business that's been serving the community for generations. It's businesses like these that still swear by the power of traditional marketing methods. But why?

Take postcards, for instance.

They're simple, mostly affordable, and can be effective (albeit at a much higher cost per lead than digital tactics). When created correctly, a well-designed postcard can capture attention, convey a message, and evoke an emotional response. The bakery we mentioned earlier might send out postcards featuring a mouth-watering photo of their signature sourdough loaf and a heartfelt message about their family recipe.

Or consider tri-fold brochures. 

These compact marketing tools are relatively easy to create, easy to distribute, and packed with information. Our friendly bakery owner could use a brochure to showcase her full range of pastries, tell the story of how her grandmother started the business, and include a map showing the bakery's location in the heart of the community.

But perhaps the most powerful aspect of traditional marketing materials is their tangibility.

Something as simple as a printed brochure or postcard can feel special in our digital world.  When a customer holds a shiny postcard or looks at a fresh brochure, they are physically interacting with the brand..

A customer once told me that they felt naked without traditional marketing, primarily because you can't hold and feel digital marketing (but I guarantee your bank account prefers digital marketing).

For this reason, many business owners are most comfortable putting most of their ad spending into old-school marketing. But as I will discuss shortly, investments in traditional marketing are sacrificing sales, and, most importantly, profit versus digital marketing.

Startling Mobile Phone Statistics

People check their phones on average 180 times per day!!!

But you know what they are not checking 180 times per day? Newspapers, the radio, TV, magazines, or their mail. Where do you want your brand to be???


Traditional Marketing: A Costly Endeavor

Imagine for a moment, your business is as a painter. The canvas? A blank postcard, an empty tri-fold brochure, or a vacant newspaper ad space. The colors? Vibrant imagery, compelling copy, and an irresistible call to action. But this masterpiece doesn't come cheap—far from it.

The most beautiful of canvases require the most skilled hands to bring them to life. A graphic designer to capture your brand essence in a visual symphony, a copywriter to weave words into a captivating narrative, and a photographer to snap the perfect shot of your product. These creative maestros don't work for pennies—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for graphic designers is $53,380 per year, while copywriters can command an average salary of $61,820.

Then comes the canvas itself. 

Whether it's a postcard, a brochure, or a print ad, each has its own price tag.

Postcards might seem inexpensive at first glance, but once you factor in design, printing, and distribution costs, the total can quickly skyrocket.

The same goes for brochures, which require not just design and copy, but also high-quality paper and printing—a single run can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

And let's not forget about print ads.

A full-page ad in a national newspaper can cost upwards of $100,000, according to FitSmallBusiness. Add in the cost of hiring a top-notch designer and copywriter, and you're looking at a hefty sum.

Even the biggest brands aren't immune to these costs.

In 2019, Apple spent a staggering $1.8 billion on advertising, according to the New York Times. That's a mind-boggling amount of money, all poured into traditional marketing channels to keep the brand front and center in consumers' minds.


Transition to Digital: A New Era of Marketing

Imagine you're a ship captain in the vast ocean of your industry. You've been navigating these waters for years, using stars (traditional marketing methods) to guide your way. But now there's a new compass on deck—digital marketing. It's more precise, more reliable, and it's changing the game completely.

Today's businesses aren't just dipping their toes into this digital ocean—they're diving in headfirst.

They're using these channels - Google, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube - to shout their brand stories from the virtual rooftops, to make their products shine brighter than a thousand suns, and to reach out and touch their customers, no matter where they are.

But why?

Why have more and more businesses moved away from the familiar terrain of traditional marketing to chart a course through digital waters?

The answer is as simple as it is powerful: because digital marketing works.

It's more cost-efficient, reaching more people for less money. 

No more shouting into the void; this marketing speaks directly to the heart.

Where Companies Are Spending Their Ad Budgets

An eMarketer study found that US digital ad spending surpassed traditional ad spending for the first time in 2019, reaching $129.34 billion. And that gap has only widened since 2019.

And in July of 2023, a survey of CMOs uncovered that digital spending grew by 8% while traditional marketing spending decreased by 8%. 

Moreover, digital marketing allows businesses to target their audiences with laser precision. Instead of casting a wide net and hoping for the best, they can zero in on their ideal customer—right down to their age, location, interests, and buying behavior—and tailor their messages accordingly.

Let's take a closer look at this compass, shall we?

Gone are the days of wasteful traditional marketing. 

Instead, behold the raw power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It's like a lighthouse in the foggy night, guiding lost customers straight to your shores. 

Ninety-three percent (93%) of all search traffic goes through Google. There are 8.5 billion searches per day on Google. And it's the first place many customers go for information.

Toby Danylchuk - SEO Blogger

Toby Danylchuk

Where do your customers hang out?

" Be where your customers' eyeballs are, which is in digital mediums - on their phones, Google, Social, Email, SMS."

But not only does Google own search, but it is also the number one maps app for navigating anywhere by car or foot. It has the number one website analytics app in Google Analytics installed on almost every website. And it has the number one browser - Chrome. What this means is that Google has the ability to send your ideal customer to you in droves through SEO or ads

Then, let's talk about Google Ads. 

Google Ads can easily tap into your ideal audience through search ads, YouTube ads, and display ads. And these are potential prospects that are pre-qualified leads. In the case of search ads, we know they are interested in our products or service because they typed in keywords of what they were looking for - no other channel provides a flow of customers quite like this. 

Then there's marketing automation.

With marketing automation, you can send personalized messages, nurture leads, and convert them into customers—all without lifting a finger. Invesp reports that 80% of companies using marketing automation saw an increase in leads, and 77% had an increase in conversion rate (the percentage of leads that convert to paying customers). It's like having the wind always at your back.

And let's not forget social media.

Facebook and Instagram are the 800-pound gorillas. More people use Meta's apps by a large margin over any other social platforms. Facebook's unique ad platform can send volumes of your ideal customers your way. It's ad platform is unmatched in targeting customers based on likes, behaviors, and other bottom-of-the-funnel signals. 

The digital revolution is here, transforming every industry landscape. Those who seize these new tools are catching the trade winds, while those clinging to old ways risk being marooned and sacrificing sales and profit.


Digital Marketing: A Cost-Effective Alternative

As a marketing expert, it's clear that digital marketing has transformed the way businesses reach their target audience. It offers an array of cost-effective platforms, each with its unique advantages and pricing models.

Social Media Ads: Facebook & Instagram

Let's start with Facebook and Instagram Ads. These platforms are known for their extensive user base and sophisticated targeting options.

These platforms collectively host billions of users, and the cost per impression is significantly lower than traditional advertising mediums.

Google Search: SEO & Google Ads

Google Search is a powerful tool that leverages user intent.

With SEO services costing anywhere from $500-$20,000+ per month, businesses have the chance to rank high on search results organically.

On the other hand, Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, where you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, costs about 10-20% of monthly ad spend. The beauty of Google Ads lies in its ability to reach customers precisely when they're looking for what you offer.

Email Marketing:

Email marketing is another cost-efficient digital marketing strategy. While specific costs can vary based on the size of your email list and the platform used, it's known for its impressive ROI. In fact, every $1 spent on email marketing typically generates about $38 in ROI!!

Marketing Automation:

Finally, there's marketing automation—a highly efficient method of managing marketing processes and campaigns across multiple channels. While the cost of marketing automation tools can vary depending on the features, complexity, and scale of your campaigns, companies using marketing automation see significant increases in leads, sales, and profit.

Here are some statistics about its effectiveness:

  1. Using marketing automation software can increase qualified leads by as much as 451% (source)
  2. 80% of businesses state that marketing automation increases their lead generation (source)

Price Comparison With Traditional Marketing:

In comparison, traditional advertising methods such as TV commercials, print ads, direct mail, and billboards come with hefty price tags and offer less precise targeting and higher costs.

Traditional Marketing Leads Are 10X OR MORE Expensive

"One test we ran for a retail services business with 12 locations in a large metro area showed that the cost per lead with postcards was 10x higher than a lead acquired through digital marketing."

Toby Danylchuk

Moreover, measuring the effectiveness of these traditional methods can be challenging.

Overall, digital marketing proves to be more cost-effective and offers a higher return on investment, better audience targeting, and detailed analytics. Businesses can save significantly and achieve better results by choosing and combining different digital platforms based on your product type and target audience.

Below is a chart of a year-and-half of cost per lead tracking for 3 channels for a retail services company with 30 locations: 

  • SEO/Organic in Google (blue line)
  • Google Ads (red line)
  • Direct Mail (green line)

Print is exponentially more expensive compared to digital marketing - not even close in comparison. If this doesn't make you shift your marketing focus and budget, I'm unsure what will. 

Also, in a separate study, we found that leads from SEO and Google converted at a 50% higher rate to paying customers than from traditional marketing channels. But this makes sense, right?

As I mentioned above, leads coming from Google are pre-qualified - they are actively searching for what you have. Traditional marketing is interupt marketing - interrupting people in whatever they are doing to pique their interest. And this is why the cost per lead is so much higher using traditional marketing. 

Cost Per Lead Comparison - Traditional vs Digital Marketing

Cost Per Lead Comparison - Traditional vs Digital Marketing


The Benefits of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a multifaceted strategy that encompasses various tactics such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, pay-per-click advertising, and more. The goal is to engage with your audience where they spend most of their time—online.

Digital marketing is a multifaceted strategy encompassing various tactics such as:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Email marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Pay-per-click advertising, and more. 

The goal is to engage with your audience where they spend most of their time—online.

One of the main advantages of digital marketing over traditional methods is cost efficiency. A report by Gartner’s Digital Marketing Spend Report highlighted that up to 40% of respondents claimed to get considerable savings by using digital marketing methods for their products and services.

Digital marketing also enables businesses to reach a global audience. 

For instance, an SEO-optimized website can reach anyone with internet access, regardless of their geographical location. A perfect example of this is Airbnb, which started as a small startup in San Francisco and used digital marketing to grow its presence. Today, it operates in over 220 countries.

Example of Reach Through SEO

And a more personal experience, in the early 2000s, my wife and started a furniture and home decor store in Poway, CA. It was tiny to start - 1,500 square feet.

But with the website we built and a focus on early SEO strategies, we gained national exposure in the search engines from people looking for what we had to offer. We got requests for orders from around the country. It was then, we went from being a small hyper-local store to having national distribution. 

Moreover, digital marketing offers the advantage of highly personalized communication. A compelling example of this is Warby Parker, a small to medium-sized eyewear business. They have effectively used digital marketing to tailor customer experiences. By leveraging past purchases and browsing behaviors, Warby Parker provides personalized recommendations for glasses frames that align with customers' style preferences and purchase history. 

Finally, let's talk about marketing automation—an advanced digital marketing technique that automates repetitive tasks such as emails, social media posts, SMS messages, and other website actions. It not only saves time and effort but also increases efficiency and ROI. 

Specific tools used for successful marketing automation include Keap, HubSpot, Marketo, and MailChimp. These platforms offer features such as email automation, CRM integration, and analytics. Here's a more in-depth post with examples on how marketing automation combined with lead magnets can help you scale your leads. 


Bridging the Gap: Integrating Traditional and Digital Marketing

Traditional marketing still has its place in the right situations. And if you're going to use traditional marketing, make sure to integrate it into digital. This harmonious mix can help you reach potential customers more effectively, engaging them at multiple offline and online touchpoints, and improving your ROI.

Let's picture this: 

You've got an attractive sign outside your local store—classic traditional marketing.

Now, imagine adding a QR code to that sign, which, when scanned, leads consumers to a customized landing page or an engaging email newsletter sign-up. 

An additional example would be a table tent placed on dining tables at a restaurant. Perhaps you have a giveaway they can enter to win a free dinner. They scan the QR code on the table tent and go to a customized landing page to enter. 

This is the magic of integrating digital marketing into your traditional marketing - you're bridging the gap and extending the life of your traditional marketing into the digital space.

By placing QR codes on your traditional marketing materials—be it flyers, posters, or billboards—you can effortlessly guide traffic to this digital platform. And after the Covid pandemic, people are much more comfortable using QR codes. 

You can also do this with a vanity URL that is redirected to a landing page as well with UTM parameters in the redirect so you can track in Google Analytics how many people used the vanity URL from your other marketing materials. 

In essence, traditional and digital marketing marriage can create a potent mix that drives customer engagement and boosts your business's outreach. 


And so, we find ourselves at the crossroads of marketing tradition and digital innovation.

At every step of your customer's journey, digital marketing provides more effective solutions when compared to traditional.

Not only does digital marketing catch your prospects where they are, but it combines it with customer intent (people that are actively searching or ready to buy now) to provide marketing that delivers a consistent flow of leads and sales at the lowest cost.

Are you ready to start your digital marketing journey? 

With 'Digital Dynamo' by your side, there's no limit to what you can achieve. Click here to learn more and begin your adventure today. Remember, the future waits for no one. Seize it now, and let's make marketing history together!

About the author 

Toby is the co-founder of 39 Celsius. He has over 20 years of digital marketing experience and has started several companies throughout his career. He's an expert in SEO, Social Media Ads, Google Ads, Marketing Automation, and more. He has a BA in Chemistry/Biochemistry from UC San Diego and an MBA from SDSU.

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