Making the Shift from Traditional to Digital Marketing

Making the Shift from Traditional to Digital Marketing

Big Ideas

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November 19 2021
Big Ideas
Author: Jessica Antony

Making the Shift to Digital Marketing

The past year has been an exercise in adapting and pivoting our approach to business in a variety of ways. With the closing of many businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the reduction in traditional means of marketing — like in-person meetings, tradeshows, and conventions — we’ve all had to adapt to new ways of getting our message in front of the right audiences. While this has undoubtedly been overwhelming in a lot of ways, shaking up your marketing strategy can in fact be a benefit. Shifting from traditional to digital marketing allows you to see your marketing strategy in a new light and access people in new and innovative ways. Keep reading for ways to capitalize on a digital marketing approach to stay both relevant and in touch with your customers and clients.

Traditional vs. Digital Marketing

Before we get into the ways in which you can pivot to digital marketing, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the differences in these approaches to accessing your market. Traditional marketing is any kind of marketing that occurs offline. Whether it’s via newspaper ads, radio spots, billboards, direct mail, window displays, or telemarketing, traditional marketing is the oldest form of reaching your target audience. Many of us gravitate toward these methods because they’re tried, tested, and true – especially for specific audiences. Billboards and print ads are more permanent than online ads, for example, and newspaper ads are potentially seen by a huge swath of the local population.

Until the development of the internet in the 1990s, traditional marketing was the only option when it came to advertising and promotion. This doesn’t mean, of course, that traditional marketing is out of date – print, direct mail, and other forms of traditional marketing are still very effective in a lot of cases. As writer and designer Jennifer Bailey notes, “The immersive experience of an impactful TV commercial and the tactile nature of a copy of Rolling Stone magazine are as important today as they were 20 years ago because of their lasting effects on your memory. Subconsciously you attach yourself to their brand emotionally, meaning they will stay at the top of your mind.” That said, there are ways in which that impactful experience can be developed in an online environment.

Digital marketing is, as you might have already guessed, any kind of marketing that’s done online. With this type of marketing, you’re making use of channels like social media, email campaigns, online ads, and websites for your marketing strategy. Given that so many of us use the internet regularly, digital marketing has an incredibly wide reach. As we come to rely more heavily on our online connections and virtual means of doing business, digital marketing has become an even more direct, fast, and convenient way of reaching customers and clients.

Not only are we online to communicate with one another, but we all make use of the internet when it comes to purchasing new products and services. As Sherpa’s CEO Marty Fisher explains, “over 90% of purchase intent is informed through an internet search.” He continues: “So, think about it, when was the last time any of us made any sort of a consequential purchase without grabbing our phone or grabbing our tablet, computer, whatever, and getting at a Google search and typing something in? It’s not just, what can I buy from you? It’s, when are you open? Where are your locations?” If your customers are doing their research online, why not meet them there?

The Benefits of Digital Marketing

While traditional marketing is more permanent and can be quite impactful and memorable, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced our ability to make good use of this approach to reaching customers. We’re no longer meeting in person, shopping, or commuting as often as we were even a year ago. We’re all online far more than usual, keeping in touch with family and friends and working or doing business remotely. This means that a pivot to digital marketing is not just a smart move, but a necessary one.

This isn’t bad news, though. Traditional marketing is, after all, more expensive and harder to measure. As well, you don’t get the same kind of direct interaction with your target market with a print ad as you would with, for example, an email blast. And, according to the Digital 2020 Global Review Report, there are not only more people online – 4.54 billion people in 2020, a 7% increase from the previous year – but people are spending on average 6 hours and 43 minutes online each day.

So, what are the benefits of accessing this massive online audience?



While traditional marketing reaches broad audiences, with digital marketing you can truly home in on your target audience and speak to them directly. Perhaps you’re working in the agricultural industry and you’re trying to target Alberta farmers with soybean crops. Digital marketing can help you pinpoint that very specific audience by creating a highly customized campaign that allows you to reach the most niche (or vast) audience you choose, depending on where you want to go with it.



Digital marketing also broadens your interactions with potential customers – with this approach you’re not just trying to find your audience, but they’re finding you through your website, social media channels, and online ads. In this way, digital marketing has an edge over traditional marketing because it opens those one-on-one interactions. “Businesses can have full control of their audience growth and see real-time results of each facet of that campaign,” explains marketing writer Kayla Carmicheal. Having the opportunity to interact with your customers through social media comments, videos, or surveys means that you can build stronger relationships with your existing and potential customers, better understanding their changing needs. This is especially important in industries like agriculture where pain points can change year over year.


With traditional marketing, it’s difficult to determine if your efforts are having a lasting effect. Digital marketing allows you to measure your strategy and determine if the Google ads, email blast campaigns, or content marketing you’re posting are working the way you want them to. You have access to information about who and how frequently people visit your website or landing pages, and if those visits are converting to sales. Meeting a new grower at a tradeshow, for example, gives you the benefit of a face-to-face interaction, but it’s very hard to know if the marketing material they left with had a positive impact. With endless possibilities for testing and tweaking your online approach, you can fine-tune your digital strategy to effectively reach your target audience.



Traditional marketing is, in a word, expensive. Print ads, billboards, and telemarketing come with a price tag that simply cannot compete with the cost of digital marketing. And, when you’re already faced with a reduction in business or staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying restrictions, a reduction to your marketing budget is certainly welcome. The cost of digital ads, for example, is based on their performance, while the cost of print ads is set by the publication without any guarantee that your target market will see them or that they’ll have an impact. And with a price tag somewhere between $2000 and $16,000 to run a print ad, you’re banking on a lot of chance. Digital ads allow you to track their performance and either pull or boost them based on that performance. Digital marketing also means that you can forgo the costly trips to tradeshows and one-on-one visits to customers where they live and work.




Using Digital Marketing to Meet Your Customers Where They Are

With all the benefits of digital marketing, how can you put it into action? One way to approach a shift to digital marketing is to think about how you can leverage it to meet your target customer at each stage in their buyer’s journey.



Social media posts, content marketing, and well-placed digital ads help to drum up awareness in a cost-efficient and adaptable way. As our CEO Marty Fisher notes, “more than 50% of the search for products is now actually done in social channels.”



Testimonials, user reviews, and effective landing pages will illustrate to that target customer that you can solve their pain points.



Video demos, content-rich websites, and digital resources will help your customers feel confident in their decision and even recommend you to their networks.

While it may feel like the shift to digital marketing has been in part out of your control due to the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ways we do business, this shift is not a bad thing! Moving your budget from traditional marketing strategies over to digital has a number of benefits, ranging from cost to targeted reach. There are several ways you can develop a digital strategy to get your product or services in front of your potential customers and, as always, we’re here to help! Get in touch with one of our digital marketing experts today to help develop and execute a digital marketing strategy that will save you time, money, and effort while growing your business and leaving you even more adaptable for whatever the future brings.


Our Chief Client Officer, Glenn Cressman, has decades of Marketing and Sales experience under his belt. If you understand the need to shift your organization to a more comprehensive digital landscape, giving you a significant edge over the competition and need help executing your desire - contact him today

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