How Small Businesses Can Put a Modern Twist on Traditional Marketing
Small Businesses
Launch Strategies

How Small Businesses Can Put a Modern Twist on Traditional Marketing

Malaika NicholasMalaika Nicholas

July 19, 2021

If there’s one thing we can all agree on in this politically-charged climate, it’s this:

Consumers hate ads.

Before the Internet, small businesses would have to rely on print ads, TV spots, direct mail, and other traditional marketing channels to get their products and brand in front of the masses.

But in this day and age, does traditional marketing still make sense for small businesses marketing on a shoestring budget?

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Traditional Marketing

When we talk about traditional marketing, we usually talk about offline advertising tactics, including but not limited to:

  • Direct sales (i.e. attending tradeshows and conferences, door-to-door sales, cold calling, etc.)
  • Direct mail (i.e. letters, flyers, postcards, brochures, printed coupons, etc.)
  • Print advertising (i.e. billboards, newspaper ads, magazine ads, etc.)
  • Radio Ads
  • Broadcast Ads (i.e. radio, television)

Unlike digital marketing, traditional marketing channels is an effective way to create brand awareness by giving brands greater exposure to a large audience with different demographics.

More importantly, however, recent studies show that traditional marketing allows brands to develop trust with their audience and interact with consumers on a more personal level.

For instance, a recent MarketingSherpa study found that when making a purchasing decision, 82 percent of consumers say they trust print advertising and 80 percent trust television advertising, followed by direct mail ads, (76 percent), radio ads (71 percent) and “out-of-home advertising” (69 percent).

The MarketingSherpa study also found that consumers are more likely to engage with traditional advertising–50 percent of consumers say they “often” or “always” watch ads on TV from companies they are satisfied with, 50% also read direct mail ads, and 48 percent read print ads picked up in-store.

Another advantage traditional marketing has over digital is that consumers often find online ads, quite frankly, annoying.

In a comprehensive study conducted by HubSpot, 73 percent of respondents dislike online pop-up ads that require you to click a tiny “X” to remove from the screen. In addition, 70 percent of respondents dislike ads on their mobile phones, 57 percent dislike pre-roll video ads, 43 percent dislike online banner ads, and 40 percent dislike Facebook ads.

In contrast, the HubSpot study found that respondents were less likely to dislike traditional ads, including TV ads (36 percent), billboard ads (21 percent), and magazine/print ads (18 percent).

Now, this doesn’t mean that your small business should completely stop running Facebook ads and begin investing in radio ads.

In fact, for many small businesses, traditional marketing channels simply don’t make sense.

For one, traditional marketing channels are usually more expensive than digital marketing channels. For instance, Lyfe Marketing measures the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) on various media channels and found that direct mail is the most expensive form of advertising available today, with a CPM of $57, followed by television ads ($28), magazine ads ($16), newspaper ads ($16) and radio ads ($10). In comparison, they found that social media ads were the cheapest with $2.50 CPM.

Why are traditional marketing channels so expensive?

There are usually additional costs that small businesses have to consider. For instance, to send a postcard to customers, small businesses will have to budget for design, printing, and postage costs.

Moreover, traditional ads generally have to be created weeks or months in advance, making it difficult to make changes in response to timely events.

Given the pros and cons of both traditional and digital advertising, why not combine both?

In this blog post, I’ll outline some digital advertising tactics inspired by traditional advertising platforms that are engaging and proven to boost customer acquisition and sales.

Instead of Buying Radio Ads…

Purchase sponsored ads on podcasts! According to The Mission’s Marketing Trends report on podcast advertising and sponsorship, about $17 billion is spent on radio ads every year, although podcast advertising barely broke $200 million last year. By 2020, an estimated $500 million will be spent on podcast advertising.

Podcasts can give your brand exposure to a very unique demographic. Recent research found that podcast listeners are typically highly educated and affluent millennials! Better yet, research from IAB suggests that podcast listeners often respond to calls to actions better than traditional radio ads!

Podcast Advertising/Sponorship
Photo Credit: Marketing Charts/The Mission

If you want to run ads on podcasts, you have two options, according to the IAB’s Podcast Playbook.

The first is a “baked-in” ad, which is “an advertising message that is a part of the podcast content and therefore lives within the content for its lifetime. This message is often ‘host-read,’ a unique opportunity that leverages the host personality for brand endorsement.”

The second type is a “dynamically inserted ad”, which are pre-recorded and then added to the podcast by an ad-server.

I highly recommend selecting a “baked-in” ads. If you’re advertising on a top 50 podcast, your CPM could be anywhere between $25-100, which is a bit pricey when compared to radio ads with a CPM of $12-16 for adults between 18-49. As an alternative, you can start your own podcast! Need help getting started? Read this beginner’s guide from Buffer on how to start your own podcast.

Instead of Buying TV Ads…

Invest in influencer marketing! Influencer marketing allows influential social media users to promote your product or service to their audience.

Influencer marketing ads can be in the form of a video sponsorship, a pre-roll ad, or even more effective, a testimonial-style video about your product or service.

If you’re trying to get in front of a millennial audience, influencer marketing is a good way to go. In fact, according to a study by the McCarthy Group, 84 percent of millennials did like or trust traditional marketing. According to a study from Defy, however, 85 percent of millennial respondents watch YouTube regularly, and 58 percent don’t mind watching ads from their favorite YouTube personalities.

YouTube influencers can get your brand exposed to a massive audience–for a price, of course. According to Digiday, YouTubers with more than 500,000 subscribers can charge about $2,000 per 100,000 followers, per video. For macro-influencers with more than 1 million subscribers, a sponsored video could cost anywhere between $25,000 – $50,000.

Youtube Influener marketing
Photo Credit: VIBE Social

If paying thousands of dollars for a sponsored YouTube ad isn’t a part of your marketing budget, there are some alternative options you should explore.

Target micro-influencers.

Micro-influencers aren’t your average celebrity or industry expert. They typically have 1,000 to 10,000 followers and demonstrate their knowledge about a particular interest area. With a more targeted follower base than macro-influencers, sponsored posts from micro-influencers have better engagement rates. Better yet, micro-influencers are more affordable. A survey from Wersm found 97 percent of micro-influencers surveyed charge less than $500 for a branded post.

Sponsor an Ad on Snapchat or Instagram

As an alternative to YouTube, consider sponsoring a post from an influencer on Snapchat or Instagram. According to Digiday, a sponsored ad on Snapchat starts $500 for 1,000-5,000 views per campaign in 24 hours. As for Instagram, a sponsored post from a micro-influencer with less than 50,000 followers can cost about $250. For macro-influencers, that figure jumps to $1,000 per 100,000 followers per Instagram post.

Instead of Sending Direct Mail…

Send automated handwritten direct mail! Add a personal touch to your direct mail by sending a letter or postcard with a thank you note, a birthday surprise, or a special promo code.

In a digital world where our inboxes are full of salesy marketing emails and spam, a customized postcard is an effective way of differentiating your small business.

More importantly, automated direct mail services are significantly cheaper than traditional direct mail (which typically has a CPM between $26 – $27). According to Webpage FX, setting up a direct mail advertising campaign in 2018—which includes graphic design, paying a direct mail provider, the cost for paper, envelopes, stamps, ink, etc, and the “cost to continue”–can cost a business thousands of dollars each year.

In contrast, there are automated direct mail services with cheaper prices, like which charges $0.89 per card, or send them in bulk with Bond, which charges $3.50 for 500 – 999 notes. automated direct mail
Photo Credit:

Instead of Cold Calling…

Integrate a live chat application into your website and landing pages, or create a chatbot specifically for messaging platforms, like Facebook messenger.

According to predictions from Gartner Research published by Forbes, by the year 2020, 85 percent of consumers will engage with businesses without ever interacting with a human representative.

Live chat applications for websites
Photo credit:

In fact, brands are increasingly adopting the use of chatbots, like Pizza Hut who allows customers to place orders via its Facebook Messenger chatbot. The most advanced chatbots are powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

Although anything that mentions AI can seem intimidating, here are some ways small business owners can create and utilize chatbots and live chat features.

Create a Facebook sponsored messages

Sponsored messages are a relatively new feature, where brands target in-context ads to re-engage people who have already communicated with your brand via Facebook Messenger. Notably, brands who have experimented with Facebook Messenger ads have seen surprising results thus far. According to a report from AdStage, in Q3 2017, the average CPM of Facebook Messenger ads was $17.13, the average CPC was $1.27 (they also found a majority of advertisers earned CPCs less than $1.00), and the average CTR was 2.31 percent. 

The process of creating a Facebook sponsored message is very similar to creating a Facebook News Feed ad. 

Install a Live Chat Widget On Your Website

You can also install a live chat widget on your company’s website! Live chat widgets allow companies to provide real-time customer support at every stage of the sales funnel, like answer questions from prospective customers or assist new customers set up a new account. If your company is already using a customer service program, like Zendesk and Zoho Desk, check out their live chat features. Also, look up other chat software programs that you can add to your website, like, Zopim, Olark, LivePerson, SnapEngage, and

Create a Branded Chatbot

If you’re uncomfortable with coding and bot frameworks, spending time building your own chatbot from scratch is out of the question. If you have enough money in your marketing budget, you can hire a freelance web developer to build a custom-made bot for your website or Facebook page.

Alternatively, you can use a chatbot platform to build a bot yourself, without any coding requires using a service like Botsify or Chatfuel.   

Example of Facebook Chat Bot
Photo Credit: TransferWise

To learn how to use Facebook for lead generation, check out our post on Facebook Growth Hacks

Instead of Print Ads…

Use content upgrades! Content upgrades are pieces of useful content a brand offers to website visitors or ad viewers for free in exchange for their contact information. That contact information can be added to an email newsletter list or to your CRM software program.

What content should you use for content upgrades? Try:

  • Technical whitepapers
  • Informational e-Books
  • Captivating infographics
  • Useful checklists
  • Long-form blog posts
  • Instructional videos
  • Pre-made templates
Content Upgrade

While there are other types of content you can use, you must ensure that any content that you use is helpful and relevant to your target audience. Your content should thoroughly answer a question your target audience may ask frequently or help solve or address a major pain point.

Moreover, as a small business owner, you should take into account how much this content costs to make. For instance, a well-written blog post from a freelancer can cost between $100-$200, but a high-quality infographic could cost your hundreds, even thousands of dollars!

If you’re willing to invest the time and resources into creating high-quality content, here are a few ways to use them in lead ads.

Facebook Lead Ads 

A Facebook Lead ad allows you to target your audience with a content upgrade and collect their information without them having to leave Facebook. Check out these recent articles on the Ladder Growth Marketing Blog that’ll show you how to set up a Facebook Leads ad and the results when we tried them for ourselves.

Read how Facebook Lead Ads Decreased Our Cost Per Lead by 80%

Use Lightbox Popups or In-Line Buttons Forms 

You can also use lead generation software programs like Sumo or OptinMonster to create popup lightboxes to promote your content upgrade. You’ll commonly see websites use a lightbox popup with a simple contact form asking for your name and email address in exchange for a piece of content. A less-intrusive option is to use in-line call-to-action buttons that, when clicked, will display a lightbox popup with a contact form.

Content Upgrade
Photo Credit: OptinMonster

Instead of Direct Sales…

Host a webinar! Unlike direct sales tactics that involve a sales representative giving a potential customer a sales pitch about a product or service, digital marketers are using webinars to first educate their target audience on trending topics, share expert insights, and demonstrate how their product

can solve a particular problem.

Then, towards the end of the webinar and only after giving your viewers the value you’ve promised, give viewers a brief pitch about your product or service, and how it can help address a pain point addressed during the webinar.

Lead Generation Webinar

Contrary to popular belief, webinars actually do work! According to Quick Sprout, between 20 percent and 40 percent of webinar attendees turn into qualified leads!

As an alternative to webinars, you can host an online live sales demonstration for potential customers with high-intent. Sales demos aren’t just a walkthrough of the features of your product, but each sales demonstration should be customized to address one or more pain points a customer has, the consequences of not addressing them, and how your product can solve them.

Do you have any advice for small business owners who want to mix traditional and digital marketing tactics and strategies? Tweet us your tips @LadderDigital!

Ladder powers strategy and performance solutions for fast-growing brands

Talk to a strategist →

Growth is a high velocity game.

Sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date with all the latest movements in the field.

More from

796+ open sourced growth tactics used by the best marketers in the world.
Explore our playbooks →