What is Direct Marketing?

Direct marketing sends targeted messages to a specified group of people.

Remember getting weekly calls by rambunctious telemarketers? They knew your name, and they had something to sell. That’s direct marketing — although the intrusive kind.

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Direct marketing is useful to businesses everywhere. Several mediums are used, including…

  • Fliers
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Television ads
  • Magazine ads

Nowadays, email marketing is a strong method of direct marketing. You give your email for a service or product and they’ll send you messages about the company.

To understand what is direct marketing in a better way, let’s look at it from the prospect’s point of view.

What direct marketing looks like when you’re prospect

If you’re a target of direct marketing, you’re in the company’s database. They have your name and a method to contact you directly. In many cases, especially with email, they need your explicit permission to have this information.

You’ll receive messages about their company through the contact information you provided. At the end of the message the company will want you to “do something”. This is their call-to-action.

In most cases, they want you to follow the call-to-action — buy a product, learn about a service, sign-up for something new. The company’s aim is to get a positive response.

Response rates are the butter of direct marketing. High response rates tells the company they’re targeting the right people, with the right message, through the right medium.

Great results start with the database. The database is the bread of direct marketing. Ever try to email someone and it bounces back? You don’t have the correct email (anymore). Your database isn’t up to date. And that would ruin a response (rate) since the message can’t be delivered.

Direct marketers keep a clean, up-to-date database of prospects. Besides your name and contact info, they also add other personal traits, such as social class, religion, ethnicity, and background history. They use this information to segment you into a smaller, concentrated list.

A smaller list means the message they send will be tailored for you. They’re trying to speak to you directly — not everyone. The more personal and specified the message is, the more likely you will respond.

But direct marketing will fail with an incomplete database, a poor message, and a questionable call-to-action.

The pros of using direct marketing…

With an up-to-date database, you can contact prospects and send messages to a diverse group of people.

You, as a direct marketer, are allowed into a prospect’s personal space. You now have a personal way to talk with them. This is a much stronger method of communication than putting up an online ad and attempting to get their attention.

With direct marketing you have their attention — even for the few seconds it takes to read your message. Utilize that time.

And responses to your messages can be easy to measure. They either respond positively to your call-to-action — or they don’t.

The cons of using direct marketing…

While responses are easy to monitor, they can vary. A customer can say “Yes!” now but not follow through. They may also say “Yes!” much later. This fluctuation leads to doubts. Which prospects are truly interested? And which ones have flip-flopped?

And since direct marketing requires precise response measurements, fluctuated responses can lead to failed campaigns.

Failed campaigns are costly — if you fail often. Failed responses are due to:

  • Outdated databases
  • Poor method of communication
  • Unclear call-to-actions

Depending on the medium and how you write the message, your direct marketing approach can become spammy.

You’re looking for a response and sometimes, no response is a response. But silence is difficult to measure. So, in some ways, it’s “better” to be spammy and get a real response. Even if it’s negative because you can use that to re-tune your messaging.

But spamming can damage the image of your company.

So, should you use direct marketing?

If you’re a startup or small business, direct marketing is a dream for small budgets. Instead of throwing money at a wall to see what sticks — direct marketing will have you focussing on prospects and getting specific results.

But it requires plenty of A/B testing. That means tweaking the message, the subject line, and the call-to-action to see which version gets the best result. This takes a lot of time. As does gathering appropriate information for your database of prospects. And keeping that database updated.

But it doesn’t hurt to try direct marketing.

When done right, you have a personal communication method to get prospects to do what you want. Direct marketing offers stronger results than other forms of marketing.

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