It's human nature to think of things in terms of binary choices. It's easier to plot a course of action when there are only two paths, but reality rarely grants us such a luxury. This is clearly true in the world of marketing and advertising. There are a multitude of advertising methods that business owners can use to reach their audience, and it can be difficult to decide which is the right tactic for them.

Television and the digital media have both consistently proven themselves to be among the most effective forms of generating leads and revenue, with many small business owners thinking they must choose one or the other. A recent study from Clutch and R2integrated shows that a growing number of large businesses are using a multi-channel marketing strategy. This suggests that businesses, large or small, without such a strategy risk missing out on customers.

The two firms released "The 2016 Enterprise Marketing Survey" recently, which 'addressed how companies work with marketing agencies and marketing technology platforms'. The survey respondents were from relatively large companies. This means small business owners can get a rare glimpse of the tactics larger firms are using to make their business marketing succeed.

The study involved 500 marketers at US companies with more than 500 employees with nearly half of the survey respondents companies with more than 1000 employees. And nearly nine out of 10 (88 percent) respondents were at the 'manager' level or higher. These larger business have the money to spend on television ads, but most have recognized the need for online marketing.

According to the researchers, "while survey respondents indicated TV is their number-one priority channel, the study also found that nearly 85 percent of companies have a website, and almost 80 percent are active on social media". This is understandable since it's content marketing (e.g blogging) and social media marketing are less expensive than traditional media ads. And when used properly, these methods can be just as effective at creating brand awareness and generating sales.

There are other reasons why major brands try to coordinate their television and digital marketing campaigns. According to the survey results, brand awareness was evidently a key driver for developing the multi-channel approach for the marketers as nearly 35 percent of marketers surveyed say that brand awareness is their top strategic priority.

The fact that one in four (26 percent) business owners still consider TV to be their primary focus for advertising shows there's value in using traditional forms of media in conjunction with newer, digital ones. This logic works both ways. For example, a small business owner that has relied on local TV ads shouldn't be afraid of adding digital tactics, like email marketing, Pay-Per-Click ads, and social media marketing to the mix.

"Today's buyers expect what they see, hear, or experience on one channel to relate to their next experience with the brand," said Natalie Staines, Director of Marketing at R2i. "Research shows spikes in searches and social engagements, and sometimes direct purchases following TV advertising so it's up to the marketer to be prepared to extend the TV experience into those other channels."

Armed with more internet access and devices than we know what to do with, the modern consumer has higher expectations for small businesses. Many consumers will judge the professionalism of a business by the quality of the site. A potential customer could be lost if a company's site looks like it hasn't been touched in 10 years. Similarly, a business with a flashy site that doesn't work properly could lose customers due to frustration from trying to place an order on a broken site.

Businesses that are using other forms of media for marketing, such as TV, radio or print advertising should also be sure to keep their websites up to date with the latest information on promotions or events. This is sort of integrated marketing strategy is necessary for word-of-mouth advertising to work in the modern day. If someone sees something on TV (e.g. promotional event) then tells a friend, the friend needs to be able to easily find information online so it can be verified and shared. Otherwise, they may assume the ad was mistaken or the event had been canceled.

In short, traditional media and digital media need each other, and this extends to business owners who want to use media to reach potential customers. The survey shows that this is what larger companies are doing and it's something small business owners should consider to.

For more information on the power of digital marketing, read this article on how social media is changing the way consumers get their news.

Published on: Aug 15, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.