Should B2B companies still advertise the old-fashioned way?

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For many startups, advertising means digital – AdSense, Facebook, Twitter, retargeting, etc. It’s a landscape they know and like, particularly given how many activities can be tracked and analyzed.

What about traditional media such as radio, television and print, which have lost much of their luster as digital marketing becomes more popular?

Is traditional media something that startups should consider? Is it something they can afford? And who should be looking at traditional media – B2B or B2C companies?

Tapping into the power of traditional media may appear to be old-school given the rapid growth of digital advertising. But it is important to remember that traditional media is still alive and attracts a significant audience. As a result, it would be rash to dismiss traditional media as a potential advertising platform.

For B2B startups, deciding between digital and traditional advertising really comes down to how potential customers research and make buying decisions. Enterprise customers, for example, may include trade magazines and newspapers as key parts of the buying journey.

Knowing how your customers behave and how they make purchases puts the spotlight on having well-articulated buyer personas. A B2B startup without strong customer insight can easily miss opportunities to capitalize on traditional media to raise brand awareness with target audiences.

Mitch Solway, former vice-president of marketing with ClearFit, said it is important to remember that the lines between traditional and digital media are becoming distorted. TV programming, for example, becomes content for YouTube, newspaper articles instantly appear on websites, while radio programming fuels podcasts.

As a rule of thumb, Solway said startups have to look at how their target audiences consume content. “If people are consuming traditional media, it makes sense to advertise on traditional media.”

Radio love

At ClearFit, Solway said the company aggressively advertised on radio, including the Howard Stern Show.

“Radio allows you to reach a whole new audience,” he said. “The vehicle is the office for many people. These are people who live in their cars; people such as contractors and salespeople. These are people who aren’t doing Google searches, spending time on Facebook, or even email. “

Solway said ClearFit thrived using radio for a variety of reasons, particularly because it was less cluttered than the Web. “You get to deliver your message, and there aren’t six ads below you. And you get 30 to 60 seconds to tell your story. With radio, it’s all about storytelling. “

One of the ways that ClearFit integrated radio into digital was giving people a discount code that they could apply if they sent a text message. This allowed ClearFit to measure the effectiveness of its radio campaigns.

So how do startups decide whether traditional advertising makes sense strategically and economically?

Like anything, it comes down to crunching the numbers. Solway said startups need to calculate acquisition costs to decide if traditional radio makes sense. At the same time, he said, traditional media provides non-measureable benefits, particularly the ability to raise brand awareness.

Solway said radio is probably the easiest medium to access because production costs can be reasonable. Different versions of a campaign, he said, can be created within a short period of time, which offers flexibility and options based on what works best.

“Traditional media is evolving to be relevant,” he said. “Traditional media makes sense when it is targeted and it is what consumers are accessing.”

Flickr photo via Creative Commons license

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Mark Evans

Mark Evans

Mark Evans help startups and fast-growing companies tell better stories (aka marketing). His strength is delivering “foundational” strategic and tactical services, specifically core messaging, brand positioning, marketing strategies and content creation. Find him via his blog