Harvard Business School Executive Education: Balancing Online and Offline Marketing

In today’s digitally disrupted world, traditional marketing methods (banner ads, celebrity endorsements, and radio spots) are no longer effective as they were in the past. Instead, consumers have shifted their attention to social media channels, where they can engage with brands in real-time and allow for more personalized experiences. Marketers must adapt-and-improve their tactics-if they want to succeed in this evolving environment. Fortunately, with a little planning and knowledge, marketers can utilize the advantages of both online and offline marketing to better engage with customers and grow business.

Offline Marketing

Although social media took the digital marketing world by storm, offline marketing has been around since the 1800s. Marketers traditionally use offline methods (such as radio spots, billboards, and print ads) to attract consumers’ attention and gain market share. While the methodologies and platforms might change, the purpose remains the same: to get eyeballs on your product or service and convert those eyeballs into paying customers. Offline marketing is still very relevant today, especially with millennials who value brand loyalty and have a low tolerance for advertisements. Additionally, in today’s world, much of the population does not have unlimited access to the internet so marketers often want to ensure their messages reach as many people as possible. While the effectiveness of these traditional methods might be diminishing, they still serve an important purpose.

Online Marketing

If you’re reading this, I assume you have heard of and used the term “online marketing”. This form of marketing leverages the vast reach of the internet to distribute product and service marketing materials. When a consumer searches for a product or service on a search engine, such as Google or Bing, they are presented with a list of websites that contain the keywords or terms they used in their search. When a consumer clicks on a website, they are taken to a page describing that particular product or service. In this sense, online marketing can be considered a combination of advertising and marketing. Additionally, because a consumer can discover a product or service only through digital means (i.e., the internet), online marketing allows for much more reach and less competition for the brands who utilize it effectively.

Why Should Marketers Combine Offline And Online Marketing?

The combination of offline and online marketing creates a richer experience for consumers. When consumers visit a website, even if it’s not related to a brand they are aware of, they have the opportunity to discover new things about the product or service. Additionally, because many millennials grew up in a digital world, where everything is connected to the internet, they are more comfortable with using online platforms, whether that’s searching for information or ordering a product or service through a dedicated website or mobile app.

Offline marketing has been around for a very long time, and the effectiveness of the methodologies and platforms might be diminishing, but that does not mean these methods and platforms should be ignored. Although much of the population might prefer to consume content on their phone, tablet, or laptop, there are still times when they prefer to visit a website for certain information. Similarly, although consumers might prefer to discover products and services through Instagram or Snapchat, there are still times when they want to learn about a product or service through a website or traditional print ads.

When done effectively, combining offline and online marketing can drive business growth. The more customers a brand interacts with, the more they are inclined to want to do business with the brand. Combining these two marketing methods can help brands gain a better understanding of their target audience and create deeper relationships with them. Additionally, because of the nature of the internet and the amount of competition, marketers should always be looking for ways to improve their methods and ensure they are reaching the largest audience possible.

The Importance Of Timing

Timing is essential when combining offline and online Marketing. When marketing offline, it is important to distribute print ads and radio spots at the right time. One of the first things marketers should do is analyze the competition and determine the best time to distribute their ads. There are usually 2-3 months before, during, and after the Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays, so taking that into consideration, marketers should begin distributing their ads around October or November to have the maximum effect.

Similarly, when distributing online ads, marketers should consider the type of content their target audience is consuming and when they are most likely to be engaged with the content.

The idea is to combine the best of both worlds and have the ad appear at the right time for the right audience. Ideally, this will result in increased engagement and higher click-through rates for the ad, leading to incremental revenue and business growth.

The Importance Of Measurement

Measuring the success of your offline and online marketing efforts is extremely important. When using online marketing, it is essential to track the results of your campaign. The more you can measure, the more you can improve. With online marketing, it is easy to track the results of your campaign because you can see the number of clicks, visits, and conversions. This means you can determine the effectiveness of your ads by comparing the results for a control group.

With traditional offline marketing, measuring the results of your campaign can be more difficult because you cannot track the results of individual print ads or radio spots. You can, however, measure the results of events, such as sales referrals, brand awareness, and public relations activities.

The combination of online and offline marketing allows for greater precision and ability to track results because you can measure the effectiveness of individual ads and events. Additionally, with the internet creating such a wealth of information, it is easier to access the precise results and figures you need compared to analyzing the overall effectiveness of a campaign, which can be difficult because there are so many factors at play.

In order to succeed in this digital age, marketers need to adapt and improve their methods and platforms. Fortunately, with a little planning and knowledge, marketers can utilize the advantages of both offline and online marketing to better engage with customers and grow business.