What Is Traditional Marketing?

Query: Traditional Marketing.

You wouldn’t be the first small business owner to use the words “marketing” and “advertising” interchangeably. But you really shouldn’t. Your marketing team may not correct you, but think of marketing as including all the activities you must marshal to promote and sell your product or service; advertising is just one of these activities, and you must always pay for it. There is no such thing as “free advertising”; this is a misnomer. (If your team makes this faux pas, regain the upper hand by reminding them that they are referring to publicity. This will cost you staff time to produce but not to place.)


Defining traditional marketing methods depends on how far back in history you choose to go. Ancient Egyptians used papyrus to make posters to sell products and promote candidates. But the methods that bear closer resemblance to those recognized today were spawned by the Industrial Revolution. This lasted from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century in the United States.


Consumers wanted to hear – and producers were eager to tell them – how such revolutionary goods and services such as the telephone, radio, car, airplane and a new energy source known as electricity could transform their lives. By the 1940s, “the goal soon became to persuade consumers the goods and services provided by one company were better than those of another company offering the same thing,” the History Cooperative says.


Methods of Traditional Marketing


This traditional concept of marketing endures, as do four marketing methods that arguably remain as popular as the automobile:


1: Print (especially newspapers and magazines).


2: Broadcast (especially radio and TV, which featured their first commercials in 1920 and 1941, respectively).


3:  Direct mail (with one of the earliest and most beloved examples being the Sears catalog, whose debut issue was mailed to consumers in 1888).*


4:   Telephone (which, over time, came to be known as telemarketing).


“Because (marketing) encompasses so many different strategies, nearly every company selling a product or service uses one or more types of traditional marketing as part of an overall advertising strategy,” Marketing-Schools.org says.



What Are the Advantages  or Benefits of Traditional Marketing?


There is good reason small business owners rely on traditional marketing: When it’s created and executed well, it can produce results. The reasons have as much to do with the benefits the mediums offer as the sheer number of people who continue to gravitate to them:




Numerous communication studies have underscored the influence of the printed word. At their best (and depending on the source), newspapers and magazines are viewed as trustworthy and credible, often engendering intense loyalty among longtime readers. Print also offers the advantages of providing a targeted audience at an affordable price. And magazines can enjoy a long “shelf life.”* The tradition lives on: Daily newspaper circulation remained impressive in 2017, hitting 31 million for weekdays and 24 million for Sundays.


But these numbers are still down double digits from the year before as readers continue to be lured online. As the Pew Research Center says, “Americans express a clear preference for getting their news on a screen, though which screen that varies. TV remains the dominant screen, followed by digital.”




 The ability to reach a large audience has long been the primary advantage of TV and radio. But attaining such reach can be elusive for many small business owners, who often cannot afford TV and radio spots. Local programming can be less expensive, but lower viewership numbers help explain why.


The tradition lives on


 record number of U.S. households – 119.6 million – included TV sets during the 2017-18 viewing season, though the number of “pay TV” households continues to decline, Statista says. Radio, meanwhile, “is the third most powerful medium in the United States,” trailing only TV and social media.


Direct mail


Marketers “in the know” also know that studies repeatedly show that people like going through direct mail and depend on it to make purchase decisions. Studies also suggest that such “hard copy marketing” is easy for people to process and recall. It helps that they may spend more time reviewing direct mail (enjoying the ability to turn it over in their hands, often at the end of the day) than online messages.


* The tradition lives on: Between 80 and 90 percent of all direct mail gets opened every day in America (far outpacing the 20-to-30-percent open rate of emails), Small Biz Trends reports. Even millennials consider direct mail to be helpful in guiding their purchase decisions.




As a means of communication, the telephone has arguably undergone more of a transformation than any other medium. (Doesn’t even the reference to “telephone” sounds quaint compared to “cell phone” and “smartphone”?) It didn’t take long for an invention that revolutionized communication between two or more people in the 20th century to become a favored tool of sales people and telemarketers.

But just when consumers got the hang of “don’t call me lists,” Apple released its first smartphone in 2007, with Samsung following in 2009. More than a way to hold a conversation, the phone has become a ubiquitous form of modern life, with people using it to communicate, read news, shop, research, organize their day, socialize, gossip and play games.


The tradition lives on


Americans love their phones, with 95 percent of them owning a cell phone and 77 percent pocketing a smartphone, the Pew Research Center says. It’s easy to take these numbers in stride, until you consider that only 35 percent of Americans owned a smartphone in 2011.


As you assess these attributes, Forbes answers its own question in an article entitled, “Is Traditional Marketing Still Alive?”:

“Traditional marketing still works for businesses of all sizes. These strategies can be reliable ways of keeping your business in the public eye. This generates new business without breaking the bank. Just make sure you have a compelling USP (unique selling proposition) and offer and target the right customers. And put it all together in a marketing plan that you and your team can follow.”


What Are the Drawbacks or Challenges of Traditional Marketing?


That marketing plan might well address some of the drawbacks of traditional marketing:


Print can be difficult to measure – a considerable handicap if your marketing team is pushing you to quantify the return on your marketing investment (ROI). Just because people subscribe to a newspaper or magazine doesn’t mean they actually read it. Circulation should never be confused with actual readership, which has always been vexing for publishers to quantify in meaningful terms.


Broadcast can be expensive, if not out of the financial reach of many small business owners. And since it is designed to reach “the masses,” it doesn’t target consumers the way many business owners believe is crucial to their success.


Direct mail has historically produced a relatively low response rate – generally between 2 and 5 percent. But these are usually reliable and consistent numbers that can be bolstered by careful execution. For example, be certain that you’re working with an up-to-date mailing list. Emphasize benefits rather than features. Highlight a compelling offer and develop a recurring campaign in which consumers receive multiple direct mail pieces from you. You will probably be disappointed if you expect a single direct mail piece to be a “one-shot wonder.”


Telephone marketing may be inexpensive, but just try getting even a small percentage of those cell phone owners to answer a call from a number they don’t recognize. And the number of landlines has dropped commensurately with the growth of cell phones. In fact, the AARP reports that in 2017, the “wireless only” rate for “those ages 18 to 24 was 64.2 percent; for those 35 to 44 it was 63.9 percent; for those 45 to 64 it was 47.1 percent; and for those 65 and older it was 23.9 percent.”




So you have learned the different challenges and benefits offered by Traditional Marketing. If you liked this article, please check out our other blog posts as well. If you want to learn how marketing can help you contact us at info@fieldforceconnect.com for more information.