Useful Traditional Marketing Techniques for Your Small Business

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Digital marketing may seem very attractive to small businesses, but traditional marketing still has some valuable techniques to boost your activity.

“Marketing is the process of bringing the supply to the demand.” That’s the gist of what I learned in business school many years ago. Of course, this was before Google, Amazon, and the digital revolution.

If anything, Google revolutionized marketing. Google brings the demand to the supply, inverting the order and disrupting marketing.

Illustration of the traditional vs. digital marketing path between supply and demand.

Google disrupted marketing by taking demand and bringing it to the supply, while traditional marketing was dedicated to doing the opposite. Image source: Author

Overview: What is traditional marketing?

Your mission as a marketer is still preparing your supply to reach the demand, or in simpler terms, for your business’ products and services to reach your target market. Put yourself in the users’ shoes to best plan how you can guide them through the decision stages leading to a purchase.

Much of that activity is laid out in marketing plans which organize the way you communicate, interact, and build connections with customers. Once you have established the connection between your business and your audience, marketing is also about managing that relationship.

Traditional marketing vs. digital marketing: What's the difference?

Google disrupted marketing, but the digital revolution brought more changes. Most traditional advertising is progressively digitizing. Even billboards are becoming digital, animated, and sometimes interactive.

Remember the scene from the film “Minority Report” where Tom Cruise is being targeted with advertising on interactive billboards? Whether we like that future or not, it is closing in on us. It allows for new ways of understanding and targeting audiences, for new ways of working, and for new economic models.

Table showing the characteristics of both traditional and digital marketing.

The digitalization of marketing changes the way we target audiences, the way we measure success, the communication formats we use, and even the economic model of advertising. Image source: Author

Today most types of marketing campaigns already have a strong digital dimension. Advanced campaigns take elements from both digital and traditional marketing and blend them into an integrated marketing approach.

In such a strategy, the marketing workflow includes both digital and traditional processes. Using both allows you to maximize the outcome of your communication strategy.

5 traditional marketing techniques for your business

Marketing for small business can be a vast territory to cover and one in which not everything is useful for your type and size of business.

Let’s move beyond the basic concepts and look at some of the more concrete traditional marketing methods which can be useful for you. These marketing techniques can have a digital dimension as well and even be integrated in a wider strategy, but they can also work as standalone approaches.

1. Out Of Home (OOH)

The claim for the best billboard in the world was made by Carlsberg. It took the form of a billboard with a real beer tap in the center and carried the slogan, “Probably the best billboard in the world.” This was to remind users of the famous Carlsberg slogan, “Probably the best beer in the world.”

We mentioned how billboards are digitizing, but most of them are still just billboards. They fall into the category of “out-of-home advertising.”

Billboards are not exclusive to nationwide brand campaigns. If your business has a physical location, billboards or other out-of-home placements can be useful to point users to your address or remind them of your service when they are nearby.

2. CRM-powered loyalty programs

The strongest loyalty program powered by customer relationship management (CRM) has to be Prime from Amazon. It is so valuable that Amazon’s users pay to be part of it. And they gain real benefits with record-breaking delivery times, an impeccable focus on customer satisfaction, and additional services such as video and music on demand.

Yet it can be a challenge to make loyalty programs generate real loyalty from customers. Certain CRM types will allow you to build a loyalty scheme like Amazon’s based on creating value for customers.

For many, the first step may be to find the right CRM software for improving the user experience before adding an additional layer of loyalty management to the equation.

But a loyalty program doesn’t have to be so ambitious, nor does it have to be based on CRM tools. It can be as simple and inexpensive as small member cards with stamps for every purchase and a bonus when you reach 10 purchases.

3. Sponsorship

Does the name Felix Baumgartner ring a bell? In 2012, he flew 39 kilometers into the stratosphere and skydived and parachuted back to Earth. It was an extreme experience made possible by Red Bull’s sponsorship.

The event generated such great media coverage for Red Bull that no paid media campaign could have reached the same goals. And it cemented Red Bull’s image as an extreme sports drink and a benefactor.

Those are the advantages of sponsorship -- image and visibility. Sponsorship can be available to all sizes of businesses and can have varying impact. It carries great value to consumers as it makes things possible for people. And whereas the brand visibility may be limited, the perceived value of the brand is high.

Whether you have the budget to sponsor a local sports team, an event, or a world traveler, the important thing is to find a great fit between the brand and the activity. There may also be an opportunity to simply provide your product or service in exchange for visibility.

4. IRL Networking

“Your Network is Your Net Worth” is the title of a book by startup advisor Porter Gale. The best way to predict your future wealth is by the quality of your network rather than the value of your financial assets.

The smaller your business, the more important the network of the business owner. Your network, directly or indirectly, brings in a lot of business contacts.

This does not mean you should focus on selling your services to your family and friends. Rather, it means you should constantly build and expand your network to include people who have business sense for your activity.

A lot of networking happens on social media today, but from traditional marketing you should pick up IRL (In Real Life) events. Participate in awards, speak at conferences, attend trade shows, and find relevant networking groups where entrepreneurs meet up and exchange ideas, contacts, and services.

5. Gadgets and business cards

To better reach advertisers, Google has formed a network of certified businesses. The Google Partner network is made up of agencies of various sizes. Google uses this network to drive advertising sales and sometimes uses gifts and rewards to incentivize its partners.

The gadgets are always branded and create a positive brand impact for Google. Many of the gadgets Google created were so popular that people would buy them from an online store as well. Selling objects that promote your brand is net profitable advertising.

In today’s world where sustainability and environmental responsibility are becoming more important for businesses, you shouldn’t fall into the trap of throwing cheap publicity gadgets around.

But the concept of providing something tangible and useful that carries your brand is a great way to build brand awareness among the right people.

Tangible assets are where digital marketing by definition can’t have an impact, yet the touch and feel can create a positive and lasting impact on your audience.

Business cards are another tangible brand asset which has become less important due to social networks but which can be a useful marketing tool in offline environments.

Business cards and flyers can be distributed in a non-business setting and end up in people’s pockets. In digital marketing, you have easy access to information, but it can also be easily forgotten. Tangible assets may be more costly, but they have a longer life and a stronger impact on your prospects.

Digital or traditional is not the question

For a small business, digital marketing is attractive because it appears more accessible and promises lower costs. In reality, only serious investment in marketing will bear fruit whether it’s digital or traditional.

Therefore, the question is not whether your marketing is digital or traditional. It is whether it is impactful and drives your business forward.

Traditional marketing is more authentic than digital and can create a stronger impact than digital on billboards, in tangible assets, in loyalty, in sponsorship, and in real life.

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