Regardless of its size and sector, every single business has something in common – they all need sales in order to survive. Sales can be in the form of one-off purchases of goods and services or repeat custom from loyal followers, but both of those types of customer will need to know about your latest products and offers in order to know when and where to buy.

This is where advertising comes in, but it can be a confusing subject to get your head around. Firstly, understanding the different types of advertising is time well spent.


See also: Five free forms of marketing


Traditional advertising includes print advertising in magazines, newspapers flyers and leaflets, as well as radio and television ads. Digital advertising encompasses any paid promotion online and includes social media advertising, Google Ads, banner retargeting and online directory listings.

But what are the pros and cons of traditional and digital advertising, and which one is right for your business?

Traditional advertising

The pros:

  • Print, television and radio adverts are far more memorable than their digital counterparts
  • You will get the chance to produce something beautiful that looks just how you want it
  • You have the chance to reach a demographic not found online
  • People will take a little more time to read a print advert, so it may be useful for more complicated offers or products that need some explaining
  • Your advert could stick around for a while and be seen by more people – people tend to keep a glossy magazine for a while and may hand it on to friends or family when they have finished with it

The cons:

  • Traditional advertising can be prohibitively expensive for small businesses with small marketing budgets
  • It can take time to build up brand recognition – people often need to see your brand and products several times to start automatically knowing what you do and who you are
  • There is no reliable way to measure results and engagement
  • Younger customers increasingly get all their information online, so you may not reach them with offline channels

See also: Five ways to make your small business look bigger


Digital advertising

The pros:

  • It is very cost effective - you can easily reach 2,000 people on Facebook for £40.00
  • Digital marketing is scalable, and you can work to a totally fixed budget that suits your current cash flow
  • You can effectively build brand recognition in a relatively short space of time
  • You have the opportunity to reach people on the other side of the planet
  • You will have access to real-time analytics, allowing you to measure return on investment and tweak your strategy where necessary

The cons:

  • Some digital advertising platforms can be complicated for complete beginners to navigate, even for those who are happy using most commonly-found software platforms
  • Those who are not tech-savvy will need to develop new skills to utilise digital advertising and make the most of it
  • Once it’s gone it’s gone – once your allotted time of promotion is done, the advert stops being presented to new people

See also: Which marketing channels are best for your rural business?


If you don’t have a big budget and the luxury of time to see brand awareness build, then you might find digital advertising a better option to begin with and to help boost sales so that you can afford print or radio advertising in the future. It is also increasingly difficult to run a business of any type without having some online presence, so if you need to learn some new skills to go digital, there’s no time like the present.

If you want to reach a range of ages and backgrounds then it may be worth picking a blend of on and offline advertising channels to push your messages out there – let the customer choose how they want to get your news.

The key thing to bear in mind is that the fundamental basics of advertising remain the same regardless of the channel. You need to think about product, price, place and promotion and remember to link everything back to your business goals.

An incredibly cheap last-minute offer for an advert in a much-loved publication is no good to you if that magazine isn’t read by the people most likely to buy your product.

Don’t forget some of the other things you might be able to do to get the word out there about your business:

  • Do you use a van or car for your business? Look at getting it sign written with your logo, strapline and contact details so that everywhere you go you’ll be a moving advert
  • Make sure your premises have your branding on them where possible, as you just never know who might see them and be interested in what you do
  • Look for local events to sponsor, from local shows to sports teams, this is another way to get your business in front of your target audience
  • PR – a good public relations campaign might just help you to get coverage in a publication that would be too expensive for you to book an advert

Tara is our traditional marketing and PR partner, keep checking back here for more.