Online vs. Offline Marketing: Which Is Better for Your Small Business?

Date: November 17, 2016

New reports look to answer whether old-school methods still matter in the digital age.

So many marketing options, so little time. How should owners choose? Go offline and do something familiar? Or maybe shift online and capitalize on a trend? 

Many owners are saying why not both: 68.8 percent of small businesses are simultaneously using online and offline marketing, a recent Vistaprint Digital survey found. Online marketing, as the name suggests, involves promotion via using online ads, as well as posting on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Offline, perhaps obviously, is just the opposite: billboards, business cards, fliers, and so on. 


Among small business owners who use online marketing, 53.3 percent said the main way they market their business online is through social media, followed by maintaining a website (32.7 percent). Online advertisements (6.6 percent) and online directory listings (5.0 percent) are also options.

For offline marketing, 51.1 percent of small business owners overwhelmingly use business cards as their main promotional method. But 11.3 percent primarily use print advertising, 11.1 percent use posters or flyers, 7.3 percent printed brochures, and 6.7 percent use signage. Nearly 13 percent answered “none of the above.” 

Although the survey found small business owners use both online and offline marketing, is one method better than the other? There doesn’t seem to be a strict right or wrong answer. A Social Media Today infographic lays out the perks of both offline and online marketing: 


  • Easier to target a specific audience
  • Physical information gives higher chance of getting an actionable response
  • Tangible and tactile 


  • Cost-effective
  • Ease for statistical measurement
  • Instantaneous tracking and measuring
  • Faster implementation
  • Greater flexibility
  • Target audience closeness

But Alicia Glenn, a product manager for Rich20Something Media, wrote a piece in Entrepreneur that aligns with the survey’s findings. 

“Every business needs an online strategy to thrive today,” she wrote, adding that old-school tactics aren’t useless: “Offline marketing + social media marketing + local directory listings + content marketing = successful business.” 


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