An introduction to online and offline marketing

28 September 2021

8 min read

Please be aware that this is a guide only and you should seek specific advice for your business*

Are you looking to learn more about marketing your business online and offline?

Online and offline marketing both have their pros and cons and different ways of marketing can help to deliver against different goals for your business. Online marketing is using the internet to promote your products or services using web channels such as Google and Facebook and offline marketing is using traditional media such as radio and newspapers.

Choosing which marketing strategies to use can seem overwhelming with the amount of options available. Here at The Co-operative Bank we want to help your business grow and thrive, so we'll take you through the benefits of both online and offline marketing, including how to choose the right strategy for your business.

How to choose the right marketing strategy

Before you choose which marketing methods to use, a good first step is to consider your customers and the best way to reach them. This includes understanding who they are, what they like to do, what websites they like to visit and where they spend their time. You should also consider the best way to present your business to them and what messages will resonate best.

It's important to be realistic about how much you want to spend on promoting your business and what time you can give to marketing alongside your day to day responsibilities, so you can choose the marketing activity that is best suited to you.

Setting out what you want to achieve is also an important part of developing a marketing strategy. What is the outcome you're looking for? Is it keeping your customers or gaining new ones? When do you need to see the impact of that for your business?

Thinking about these outcomes will help you to choose which areas of marketing to focus on based on whether you want to grow sales quickly or whether you want to increase awareness of your business. The messages you use and where you promote this message will vary dependent on what you want to achieve.

What is online marketing?

Online marketing is using the internet to spread a message about your brand, product and services to reach potential customers. It can also be known as digital marketing, internet marketing or web marketing.

Online marketing includes areas such as:

  • Social media marketing (such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram)
  • Email marketing (sending messages to existing or potential customers via their email address)
  • SEO (getting people to your website from search engines such as Google without paying for it)
  • PPC (paying for adverts that appear on search engines)
  • Display advertising (using graphics on other websites or apps to advertise your business)
  • Affiliate marketing (using another website to promote your product or services and paying them a commission)

You can learn more about the different types of online marketing with our useful guide.

The purpose of using online marketing is to reach your target audience at a time when they are on the internet during leisure or work-time.

What are the benefits of online marketing?

Online marketing can typically cost less than more traditional forms of marketing such as radio or TV advertising. Large numbers of customers can still be reached with online marketing but usually for a lower cost.

It's also easier to measure how well online marketing is working for your business because of the amount of data that can be tracked such as visits to your website and sales. Online marketing can also make it easier to target specific customer types and learn what's working and what isn't.

Some of the disadvantages to online marketing is that it can be more competitive than traditional advertising. Whilst it can be easier to reach your customers, it's also easier for competitors to reach those customers too. People online can be exposed to hundreds of messages on a daily basis, so it can be hard to stand out.

For online marketing to work for your business, you need to understand your customers' needs and wants to communicate how your product or service will work for them. This is to ensure the budget you are using for marketing provides you with a return on investment.

What is offline marketing?

Offline marketing is using advertising to reach customers when they are offline and not using the internet. For example, when customers are in physical stores, watching TV or reading a newspaper. It can also be known as traditional marketing.

Many businesses use a combination of online and offline marketing to reach their customers in an effective way. This is because the traditional high street model is changing and using both online and offline marketing methods can help to reach customers with multiple messages about your business.

Offline marketing includes methods such as:

  • TV advertising (advertising during ad breaks or products placed in TV shows)
  • Radio (promoting your business during radio ad breaks)
  • Leaflets (using flyers to spread a message about your business)
  • Newspapers and magazines (buying adverts or sending products for review)
  • Outdoor advertising (such as billboards and posters)
  • Events/Networking (promoting products or services with in-person interactions)
  • Word of mouth advertising (when customers talk about a company's product or service to their friends)

Offline marketing can be a great way to reach a lots of customers and promote your business.

If you'd like to learn more about specific types of offline marketing you can read our guide here.

What are the benefits of offline marketing?

Offline media still plays a major role in people's lives and although it can be easier to see results such as how many people have visited your website with online marketing, your potential customers are still spending time offline. For example, in the UK alone, people still spend an average of 23 hours per week listening to the radio.

Using offline marketing can help to build trust faster in your brand and product. Businesses that use high-quality traditional advertising can help their brand appear more trustworthy due to the investment involved. In the UK, 42% of adults stated television is where they are likely to find advertising that they trust in comparison to 6% for YouTube and 5% for Social Media.

A disadvantage to offline marketing can be that it costs more. There are costs to create the designs for a billboard or point of sale items as they need to be printed. Many businesses also now want to reduce their amount of waste into landfill as society becomes more focused on the wider impact for our planet.

Measuring how well an offline marketing campaign has performed can also be more difficult as you can't accurately track the marketing activity back to a sale in the same way as online marketing.

Choosing your marketing channels

Before choosing the marketing channels to promote your business, considering your budgets, the wants and needs of your customer, objectives, unique selling points (USPs) and message can help you to make strategic decisions about which marketing activities are likely to work best.

Whilst online and offline marketing can be effective by themselves if they fit your marketing goals, using them together can be more effective depending on the amount of money you are prepared to invest in marketing.

A study by Forrester's Communication Index has revealed that customers gain the most value when a mix of online and offline marketing us used, so using a blend of activity is recommended if you have the budget. Even if you don't have the budget for high impact, offline marketing such as TV, you can still have great success with lower budgets if you carefully consider your customer and message.

Choosing which marketing channels to use is also dependent on what permissions you have from the individual to market to them. For example, if you're carrying out direct marketing (sending emails, letters or making calls) you need to make sure that you are doing this compliantly. For further information about making sure that you're marketing in a compliant manner you can read this guide from the Information Commissioner's Office.

Evaluating the success of your marketing activity

After running any marketing activity, it's important to review how it has performed. Have you seen more customers visit your website or stores? Have more people followed you on social media? Have you seen an increase in sales during the time your marketing activity was live?

Looking at the results before and after your marketing activity has taken place can help you to see if it is working. You can also look at shorter term impacts such as week on week or longer year on year results. If a channel isn't performing and providing a benefit that you can measure, it's worth considering if it'll remain in your future marketing strategy.

Finding the right blend of marketing can really help your business to grow and thrive. Just remember to think about your customer and then test and learn until you find what works for your business.

Further marketing resources

If you want to learn more about marketing your business, here are some free resources:

Hubspot's Marketing & Business Resources includes free eBooks, guides and templates on a wide range of marketing areas.

Google's Digital Garage has free courses and certificates in digital marketing, data and technology to help build your skills.

Google's Skillshop includes training on Google products as Google Analytics and Google Ads.

Here at The Co-operative Bank we care about you and your business. For further support, visit our Business Exchange for more useful guides and articles to help you grow your small business.

*While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by The Co-operative Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. This is merely a guide and each business is unique in its requirements. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.