Should Small Businesses Still Use Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing offers a wide variety of benefits to small businesses and can be the answer to almost any advertising objective. Here’s what you need to know about traditional methods of advertising and how your small business can still use these methods today.

What Is Traditional Marketing?

Traditional marketing refers to any type of marketing that isn’t online. It’s a broad category that encompasses many forms of advertising such as: print, broadcast, out of home, direct mail, and phone. Traditional marketing is the oldest form of marketing, and print is the oldest in this category. Print advertising has been in use since ancient times, when Egyptians created sales messages and wall posters on papyrus. 

Radio broadcasts have been around since the 1900s, and the first commercial broadcast aired on November 2, 1920. Television, the next step in entertainment technology, was quicker to adopt advertising, with less than ten years between its inception and the first television commercial in 1941.

Up until the development of the internet in the 1990’s, the only type of advertising methods were traditional. 

Types of Traditional Marketing

In order to choose which type of traditional advertising will best suit your small business needs, you need an understanding of each medium.


Print advertising is good for geographic selectivity, it offers the ability to target specific locations that you think are most lucrative. For example, if you have a fishing gear store in Vaughn, you could put an ad in a fishing magazine that gets delivered in the Vaughn area. 

Print also offers editorial support. In magazines and newspapers, there is content surrounding the ads. In this instance, a luxury automobile ad that is targeted at business executives can be placed in a section where the content of the newspaper or magazine is talking about topics that those business executives would generally read. 

Magazines are considered a “class” medium vs a “mass” medium. Since they are more specialized in content (ex: an entire magazine dedicated to healthy foods, fashion, or sports) so it is easier to hit certain psychographic variables. They also have a higher quality of production as well as an added benefit of having tax incentives.



Advertisers can use a combination of sights and sounds to create maximum impact on the viewing audience. This is one of the most effective ways to deliver a strong message since you can play on different emotions or feelings through genres like comedy, satire, tragedy etc. This medium also has a high reach, especially during prime time.

A disadvantage is that it is quite expensive. The cost of a prime time T.V commercial on CBC can be as high as $52,000 (during the Stanley Cup playoff game), and on the CTV network it can be as high as $62,000 (during a leading show like The Good Doctor). T.V also has a lot of clutter because you are competing with other commercials back to back. 


With radio, you have the option for target market selectivity. Since certain stations play specific music (country, news talk, oldies, top 40s etc) each station will appeal to a different demographic of people. Consequently, advertisers can use a profile-matching strategy and select stations with audience profiles that closely match their target market. 

Even in smaller markets where music formats change within a single station and the audience flow varies by day, the advertiser can schedule radio commercials at the appropriate time of day. This ensures your dollars will not be wasted reaching people outside the target audience. 

The low cost of radio advertising attracts local clients for whom advertising would otherwise not be affordable. Production costs are much lower than they are for television, and changes to copy can be made on short notice. The basic cost for each spot is also relatively low. 

Direct Response

Direct Mail

The use of direct mail is versatile because it allows the advertiser to personalize the message with the prospect’s name, add long explanatory copy along with reply cards and contracts. They also offer a high degree of coverage since the mail can be distributed to designated postal codes anywhere in Canada. Therefore, direct mail offers precise reach because you know exactly who is receiving your mail and if they fit your target market profile. 

However, direct mail can be expensive when considering the cost of production. You need to rent or purchase mailing lists with people’s names and addresses, you also need to print the letter as well as buy the envelope. The total cost can be higher than it is for other print alternatives. However, the selectivity of direct mail reduces waste circulation. 


Direct response telemarketing or outbound telemarketing refers to calls a company makes to customers to develop new accounts, generate sales leads, and close sales. The primary advantage of telemarketing is cost. Compared with other traditional marketing methods and the cost of sending a salesperson to make a business call – telemarketing offers considerable savings. In comparison to direct mail, the response rate for telemarketing is about 100 times higher. 

Of course one of the main disadvantages is that most consumers voice displeasure with outbound telemarketing. In an age with caller ID, it may be harder to reach those audiences, as they are less likely to pick up the phone.

Out of Home

OOH includes posters (a.k.a billboards), backlit posters (a luminous sign), transit shelters, digital video displays, street-level advertising, wall banners and murals, and mall posters. The advantages of OOH include target reach and frequency. 

This medium has the ability to provide advertisers with the opportunity to reach a very large amount of a market’s population in a short period of time. Since it stays stagnant in one location, some consumers who live in the area will be exposed to the same advertisement multiple times, therefore making it more memorable for them. 

This medium also has targeting flexibility, so advertisers who only want to hit certain areas have the ability to do so with OOH. 

When the cost of OOH advertising is evaluated in terms of reach potential (reach potential meaning the opportunities for exposing consumers to the advertisement) the medium is an efficient media buy. Using Toronto as an example and assuming an advertiser purchased a standard outdoor poster for a four-week period at a 50-GRP level. A gross rating point is a standard measure of media delivery in advertising. One gross rating point is the equivalent of reaching 1% of the total potential audience with one advertising message). 

We would then calculate the CPM – the cost of reaching a thousand people – as follows:

cost per thousands equation

This represents the cost of reaching a thousand people once. Therefore, when the daily travel patterns of people are considered (and thus the potential for multiple exposures) the cost of OOH advertising improves. 

The disadvantage of this medium is that it does not break through the clutter. Your advertisement will always be competing with something that is beside it (usually more ads). Another disadvantage is the production cost for finished materials can be pretty high.

Digital Marketing vs Traditional Marketing

With the rise of social media, traditional marketing is often overlooked by advertisers. However, it still plays a large role in the consumers’ daily life. Here are some of the pros and cons of traditional marketing.


Traditional marketing is normally impactful and easy to understand. Especially with mediums like T.V, and radio where you can easily bring emotion into your content. With printed mediums, your ad has more permanence. Many people collect magazines or newspapers – meaning they will be holding onto your ad for a longer period of time (whereas a digital ad is scrolled past and forgotten very quickly). 

Another pro is that traditional forms of advertising are more memorable. Seeing something in real life that is big and directly in front of you will stand out in people’s heads more than something that is the size of a phone screen. 

Also, perhaps your target market does not use social media, it would therefore be more advantageous to use traditional marketing.


With traditional marketing, it is harder to measure the success of your campaigns. When doing digital marketing, you have access to intelligent tools that track the progress of your ads. Normally, traditional advertising is also more expensive. 

Traditional methods have no way of gauging consumer reaction. Unlike digital marketing where you can see right away if a consumer liked or disliked your ads, comparing historical data to ongoing metrics.

Relevancy today with modern technology

We can’t forget that we live in an internet age, no matter how impactful traditional marketing is, the internet is integrated in almost every aspect of our lives. According to ClickZ, “Internet users now make up 57% of the global population. On average, people spend 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day.” This offers a wide range of opportunities to create a social media marketing campaign to connect with your audience. 

Print Advertising Techniques for Small Businesses

As mentioned above print includes magazines and newspapers, but there are a lot of other marketing channels for print materials that could be useful for small businesses. Let’s take a look at a few of them to see how they can reach new customers and why they are beneficial to your small business

1. Stickers

Stickers create brand awareness because people use them as accessories on their computers, walls, desks etc. They turn clients into advocates and best of all they are inexpensive. You can give these away at events, at the point of purchase, or even in the shipping package.

2. Flyers

The great thing about flyers is that they are versatile. They don’t necessarily have to be about a promotion or sale. They could have brand adjacent content that would be interesting to the reader. Once you figure out where you want to distribute your flyers, you know that the people you are handing them out to will be your exact demographic. 

3. Calendars

A calendar is a great way to have a permanent display of your small business 365 days a year. You also have the opportunity to pick images that are exciting and relatable to your target, making your small business more memorable. This is popular among real estate agencies and grocery stores.


If you know your consumer enjoys reading, bookmarks are cheap things that can be used to promote your small business. Bookmarks are something you know will not get thrown out because they have a functional purpose.

5. Catalogues

Potential customers will look through your catalogue of products and/or services when they need it (especially if you have an older target market). Catalogues are still a great physical way of connecting because customers will rarely throw them out. Remember that touch memory is stronger than just reading about your company. Clients will continue to refer to them when they are looking to buy something.

Advertising is a crucial part of owning a small business because you need to get your name out to your target market and become recognizable. However, it can also start accumulating in costs quite quickly. For this reason, knowing how to  claim advertising expenses is important so you can ensure your dollars spent on ads is not going to run too big a hole in your pocket. 

Quickbooks Online is an accounting software that can help maximize your tax deductions for small businesses, like your advertising costs for both traditional and digital marketing efforts! Small business owners can try it for free today. 

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