Traditional advertising is still effective in a socialized world

In today’s data-driven marketing world, it’s becoming more popular for marketing departments to question the effectiveness of traditional paid advertising (i.e. print ads in trade magazines). Traditional advertising tends to a big investment and does not produce the same level of analytics that many digital platforms can, so it makes sense to question the effectiveness. However, advertising in the traditional form is still an important part of the brand-building process, and when done with intention it really can do an effective job of generating leads. 

Developing effective advertising

In recent years, we’ve conditioned ourselves to question anything that can’t be measured in a line graph, pie chart or be liked/shared digitally. This leads people to believe that traditional advertising isn’t as effective because it’s more challenging to measure than digital advertising. Most of the time, that belief isn’t correct. Marketers just need to do a better job of upfront planning and have measurement tactics in place to gauge the performance of a traditional ad campaign.

To effectively advertise in more traditional channels, you need to start with a goal. Your goal should address two questions:

  1. What do you want to communicate?
  2. What action do you want the audience to take?

Once you’ve answered those questions, you need to decide how your advertising will be measured and what are the appropriate benchmarks for success.

When you advertise in a digital space, the outlet will provide you with all the analytic measurement information — it’s convenient and easy. Traditional advertising efforts, such as print ads in a trade magazine, are harder to measure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include them in your marketing plan. You simply need to decide what kind of results you’re looking to achieve and then develop a campaign — brand building or lead generating — that will get you those results. 

Brand building vs lead generating


One of the most common mistakes marketers make is placing a brand building advertisement and then complaining that it did not do an effective job of generating sales leads. 

If you’re not sure what the difference is between a brand building and a lead generating advertisement, you just need to grab your favorite trade publication. Open it up and look for the 4-color advertisements that feature the “equipment hero” shot and conveys 1 to 3 important quality points — that’s branding. These ads will grab the reader’s attention because of their big pictures, bright colors and bold fonts. With so much going on in the main part of the ad, readers typically don’t make it to the fine print where the call-to-action (if there is one) can be found.

Now for a look at lead generating advertisements — these ads start by asking readers to take action. For instance, they often highlight a special deal or new financing options in big print and lead the reader to believe they need to call/email/text/message NOW for more information. The best examples of these are in the back of the publications where all the 1/4th and 1/8th advertisements are published. Read the headlines, and you’ll understand what we’re talking about.

When you publish a lead generating advertising campaign, your follow-through is just as important as your call-to-action. If you’ve managed to inspire the audience to take action (call/email/text/message for more information), you don’t want to simply send them to your website homepage and risk having them get lost before you capture their information. You need to set up unique landing pages and/or dedicated phone numbers to track their interest. This process also needs to include a quick response and immediate follow-up from your marketing and/or sales team to the customer, acting on the leading before the reader (i.e. potential customer) loses interest.

Measuring advertising effectiveness

To measure advertising efforts, we suggest that you do more in-depth research, such as surveys or focus groups. Several years ago, one manufacturer we worked with used to survey attendees at customer appreciation events. The results of that research provided insight about what messaging stuck with readers (they were able to repeat them back to us) and what publications were the most effective. Another way to measure these efforts is by conducting focus groups at trade shows. Several trade publications would be happy to help set up a focus group of their readers, and the results of this kind of research will help you refine key messaging. 

Surrounding potential customers

Discovering new ways to reach the same people has always been an important part of marketing. Social networking, blogging and digital advertising has allowed us to reach customers in a lot of new ways. However, until you can say with 100 percent certainty that your potential customers are no longer reading magazines or newspapers, listening to the radio or watching TV, there will always be a spot for traditional advertising.