Saturday, 18 July 2009

Why does online marketing beat offline?

My marketing career began in the early 90s, as a direct marketing grunt for a financial services company. Back then, most people had never heard of the Internet, and it wasn't something marketing people talked about. Every marketing activity was offline.

In 1999 a friend and I started an Internet ad site. I began working full-time for the business in January 2000. From that point on, every single marketing campaign I took part in happened online. For me, the world of marketing transformed completely in just 3 short years.

Now it seems that every business is moving its ad spend online. Even in a recession, the data shows Internet marketing spend continues to outstrip offline. The question somebody from 1990 might ask, is why? Surely offline advertising still works?

Well yes it does, but it can't possibly hope to compete with the benefits of online marketing. Consider the disadvantages of offline advertising...
  1. Offline isn't automated, so tracking is manual. Of course, you can direct people to a web site. But you can't be certain everybody has access to the web so must also provide a manual response mechanism (which will probably cost money)
  2. Almost everything about offline costs money. Online you can dilute your ad costs with free promotion techniques
  3. It takes longer. Some things take a while online (e.g. waiting for articles to be approved). But most things happen straight away
  4. It's possible to test multiple concepts and pick a winner within 24 hours. This used to take weeks offline. What's more, if you have sufficient social media marketing leverage, you can run your testing at no cost to you (this web page explains how to get free traffic with Twitter)
  5. You can't change it once it's done. If you print 5,000 fliers and then find an error, you either live with it wear the cost of replacement. Web content is real time (apart from the lead time on article marketing of course), so is easy to change. And it costs nothing to do so
Faced with these issues, it's tempting to wonder why anyone would bother with offline promotion. Surely the web has it beat every which way you look? Of course that's not true. There are reasons to go offline...
  • Some markets still aren't well represented on the web
  • Some media is still better offline (e.g. paper magazines are easier to read and more convenient)
  • The web isn't absolutely everywhere (e.g. billboards - though this is changing)
  • Most people still listen to the radio while driving
I doubt offline marketing will die out completely. There is still a place for brochures, business cards, news papers, magazines, TV, radio and signage. I do think offline will continue to decline, and online will get ever smarter and more innovative.

I also think we've barely scratched the surface of what's possible with Internet marketing, as the social media marketing revolution has demonstrated.

5 comments: said...

Thanks for the article I gave it a tweet

Wayne Davies said...

Thanks Ryan, it's much appreciated.

home business said...

Offline is an Old fashion way to promote or to market a product. but it also adds up to a business. Online marketing now is the most common way to gain attention and so used to market.

Wayne Davies said...

Hi Home Business,

I agree that offline still has a place in marketing. Some target audiences are virtually impossible to find online, and others work better via personal recommendation.

Despite that, I have a personal preference for online. It's fast, less expensive, and a lot more fun.

Thanks for your comment.

Quinton Hoover said...

online marketing can bring in a lot of visitors.. online marketing involves handling hundreds of customers at a time which is not possible offline...hence people prefer to shop online