Digital Marketing Vs Direct Marketing

There are multiple forms of marketing. Until the last decade passed, direct marketing was the only way for a business to spread its message to consumers. With technology now taking the forefront, businesses need to adapt and do so with digital marketing.

There’s no doubt to truly build a business your team, whether it’s just you or hundreds, needs to be marketed to the masses. Marketing is a way to spread news, knowledge, and offerings about your business. When utilized correctly people begin to take notice and start to convert to your customers. A business grows when this process amplifies.

This article is a guide to understanding both what digital and direct marketing are and how you can use both to scale your business fast.

Understanding digital marketing

Digital marketing takes place on some form of screen medium. This can be a phone, computer, television, digital billboard, etc… This type of marketing often involves digital graphics that persuade a user (someone on the other end) to click, tap, call, or visit in person.

Digital marketing can also come in the form of video and animations. Some examples of digital marketing you probably experience in a given day include:

  • Television commercials
  • Radio sponsorships/commercials (advertising through sound)
  • Digital billboards
  • Display advertising on websites and phones
  • Websites themselves
  • Sponsored content (blog posts, affiliate marketing, social media, etc..)


Digital marketing is a rapid medium that is particularly cheap to produce and is capable of reaching very large audiences with little effort. Many businesses will utilize some form of digital advertising in their lifespan. Often a combination of digital mediums is the best path for success.

The advantages of digital marketing include:

  • Reach a much larger audience.
  • Quick to produce
  • High return on investment
  • Easier to target a specific niche if that’s your business goal.
  • Often interactive and allows a user/customer to click or tap to discover more information.


With the ability to quickly produce digital graphics a huge perk there is often some flaws that come up on the path to success.

The disadvantages of digital marketing include:

  • While you can target customers local to you, it’s often not as impressionable. By this, I mean users near your location would probably fair better from receiving both direct marketing and digital marketing combined.
  • Often times digital advertising just looks bad. To save money some companies won’t focus on a design that will actually lure a potential customer in. This often renders the whole process useless. Don’t fall victim to this!
  • Often times the exact path to turn a lead into a customer is flawed through digital marketing. Do your research on your ideal customer. Figure out their pains and find a path of which they would most likely follow to convert to a customer. In the digital world, this could mean finding out what problem is looking to solve using your products or services. From there you can position your marketing to target that pain and draw unique consumers in.

Understanding direct marketing

Direct marketing typically involves tangible types of mediums that get put into a potential customers hands. This can also be billboards, signage, decals, and much more.

Direct marketing has existed long before digital marketing. Many business men and woman would take to the streets to post flyers, hand out coupons, install signage and even go door-to-door trying to make a sale.

This format is tried and true and often works to this day. How much mail do you receive that you really didn’t ask for? This is direct marketing.


Direct marketing has its advantages and here are some of them:

  • The power of persuasion is stronger in the form of direct marketing. Having something tangible or even verbally presented to a potential customer makes them more apt to focus on the subject for longer periods.
  • Signage, flyers, and mailers all have a way into our daily lives. If you drive a specific course to and from work, for instance, you often see the same adverts on your journey. You may not take note of these at that time but your brain has a way of remembering certain details like business names, their offers, and even their branding if executed well.
  • Instead of just closing a browser or application direct marketing is put in front of you. Sure you can toss that mailer in the garbage but you did take the time to probably glance it over first. I know I do.


Direct marketing has its fallbacks. We live in a faster-paced world than we did over a decade ago. Marketing has had to catch up to our increasingly digital lifestyles.

Disadvantages of direct marketing include:

  • Direct marketing is a rather old-fashioned format that less and fewer people are focusing on went it comes to promoting their business
  • Direct Marketing isn’t cheap. To print ads, coupons, mailers, flyers and more comes with a hefty price tag. If you opt to go this route be sure it’s within your budget.
  • There’s no user invoked process with direct mailing aside from hoping they might visit your website or call you directly. Many customers do this and that’s why direct marketing works but often it’s a 50/50 shot in getting a customer to take action. Digital marketing offers an easier way to get a user to at the very least visit a promotional website for whatever product or service your business may be advertising.

Best of both worlds

In our own experience, we found that both digital and direct marketing combined produces the highest yield in conversions. We typically recommend our clients take to digital marketing for the sake of reaching a wider audience. We also recommend they utilize direct marketing to reach their local audience on a more personal level.

In the end, your business will thrive if you understand your customer. Use these steps to get started:

  1. Be clear about what you are selling and why. Make a plan and stick to it.
  2. Once you finalize your plan do research on your ideal customers. Figure out their pain points and what they “need” or “want” in your niche of products and services. You can get this information in many ways but the best is to just ask directly. I’ll save this technique for another article.
  3. After gaining new data you can make a better guess as to how to approach marketing what it is you have to offer. If your business’s products or services perform better than others be sure to take note of this and advertise it.
  4. Decide which form of marketing you are most interested in. We recommend investing in both digital and direct marketing. This can include print mediums(flyers, mailers, brochures, billboards, vehicle decals, and tons more), display ads, sponsorships (radio, tv, podcasts), and events.
  5. Be consistent with your message and branding (contact us to help with this). If you message isn’t consistent the path in which a potential customer will take to become a new customer can be broken. This, unfortunately, renders the whole process useless!
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Russell is the founder and owner of Severity Design. Severity Design is a digital marketing studio located in Elgin, Illinois, a Northwest Suburb of Chicago. We help small businesses get the word out and gain attention.
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