Offline Versus Online Marketing: Put Your Money Where Your Buyers Are

8/16/2010  By David

Traditional marketing vehicles include TV, Radio, Newspapers and Magazines. These are offline forms of marketing. A website, blog, video & podcasting and social media are online forms of marketing. Which is best? If you use both, how should you spread your budget? Will one have a better reach towards your target market?

Asking which is best is a little like asking whether fruits or vegetables are better for your health. Both are good for you, and it is much better if you eat some of each, rather than fill up on just one. In marketing, this is call synergy. Several studies have shown the synergistic relationship between various forms of marketing. Using both TV and Radio is better than just using TV or Radio. Similarly, using both offline and online methods is better than one alone according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Assuming the same total spending, employing both offline and online marketing pays off more than throwing the whole pot at a single medium.

To carry the fruit and vegetable analogy a bit further, while it is good to eat both, it would not be good, nor possible, to eat all kinds of both. Simply obtaining one of every kind of fruit or vegetable could be difficult. To gain the synergistic benefits of both fruits and vegetables, you only need to eat some of each, not all of each. This is also true in marketing. It is best to employ both offline and online marketing. But there is no need to use every conceivable medium - and most budgets probably couldn't.

How much should be spent on each? That's going to be different for each situation. Your industry, strength of brand and many other factors will affect how you spread your marketing budget between offline and online methods. But here are some things to consider:


A recent white paper by the IAB quotes a Forrester Research media survey from 2009. The survey looked at how much time U.S. adults spend with various forms of marketing vehicles. The survey covered radio, magazines, newspapers, TV and online media as a whole. When considering how to spread your marketing budget, it is important to know where the buyers are. If hardly anyone reads the local newspaper, you may want to allocate the smallest portion to paper ads - unless, of course, your product or service specifically targets "people who read newspapers". The results are rather interesting as the chart shows. TV, Online and Radio will give you the best exposure.

Targeted Marketing

The best marketing will target highly qualified buyers. When you run an ad on TV, the radio or in the local newspaper, you might hit a few highly qualified buyers now and then. But for the most part, the best you can hope for with much of traditional marketing is a little brand recognition building. An industry magazine, or targeted television program (such as a series on painting targeting artists) are a little better at reaching qualified buyers. But its hard to beat the highly focused targeted marketing of the internet. The big difference being that people who find your website online are actually looking for your products or services. It is most important to be right in front of a buyer at the moment they are interested, rather than hoping they'll remember your ad three weeks from now when they decide they want your product.

Don't get me wrong, brand recognition is important. But what if they don't remember your name? What if they can't spell it correctly when they do a search? What if all they do is type in the name of their city and the word "attorney" in a search engine? Will they find you?

Traditional marketing is like old farming methods of throwing seed around in hopes you'll get the most crop, realizing much what what is thrown won't grow. Online marketing is like modern farming where the exact amount of seeds to maximize harvest are planted without waste.


How many people read your local newspaper? How many people watch the local TV show that runs your commercial (or, how many people recorded the show on DVR and skip the commercials)? How many people heard your radio ad? How many people can access the internet each day?

It's a no-brainer that your online marketing efforts can reach far more people than any form of traditional marketing. And while there are some businesses that are limited to a particular region or state for legal reasons (such as wineries), even within your limited region, online marketing will reach far more people that traditional marketing.

Long-Term, Continuous Exposure

Online marketing is available 24/7 each week of every year. If your buyer is up at 2:00 AM searching through Google, your website is there to make the sale. Day or night, your online marketing is always working. Traditional marketing is only working for brief moments and only for the duration of a given campaign.

Message Depth

How much information can you fit on a newspaper ad? What about a TV commercial? Not much. Online you are not limited to how much content you can provide. On a website you can provide product overviews, in-depth analysis, show other customer reviews, provide video demonstrations, instantly have people sign up for a newsletter... the list goes on. Online marketing allows you to provide just the right amount of content and information to convince buyers. That's hard to do with traditional marketing.

Cost Benefit

Dollar for dollar, online marketing will directly and indirectly reach far more qualified buyers, and therefore generate far more conversions than any form of traditional marketing. In many cases, a single TV campaign, radio spot, newspaper ad and magazine ad together will cost about the same as an entry level website - sometimes more! But a website will target qualified buyers, reach the greatest number of qualify buyers, last longer and allow you to provide as much content and information as you need - and even update it whenever you need to.

Getting back to our fruits and vegetables, the ideal marketing strategy is going to employ both offline and online media. Offline marketing is great for building brand. Online marketing is great for converting highly qualified buyers into customers. To obtain the benefits of synergy you need both. But it is important to recognize the importance of online marketing when determining budgets.

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