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What is Direct Marketing?

Direct marketing is a form of advertising and marketing that attempts to boost sales, circulate brand awareness, and establish direct contact with existing, and potential customers along any communications channels that seem favorable. Some direct marketing techniques include SMS messaging to mobile devices, email campaigns, interactive consumer websites, online display ads, database marketing, printed fliers, catalog distribution, promotional letters, targeted television commercials, response generating print media advertisements, and outdoor advertising media like billboards.

Messages in direct marketing campaigns are heavily data-driven, they focus on the needs and wants of specific audiences, and typically include methodologies for tracking and measuring results like response traffic, conversion, and revenue at as many stages of the sales funnel as possible. For that reason, direct marketing messages yield the best results when combined with analytics tools capable of recording campaign progress from beginning to end, software suites built for data visualization and results reporting, and actionable segments — calls to action — coded into the language.

What is Direct Mail Marketing and Direct Mail Advertising?

Because there are now so many channels available to circulate marketing messages, there are many subcategories of direct marketing, such as email marketing, telemarketing, broadcast faxing, and social media marketing. However, direct mail marketing and direct mail advertising form a significant portion of the channel-agnostic direct marketing industry. It’s a widely practiced strategy that involves the delivery of printed advertising and marketing messages including, circulars, coupon envelopes, catalogs, CDs, credit card applications, and other commercial merchandising materials to a targeted audience of postal mail recipients. Advertisers often refine direct mail practices into targeted mailing in which mail is sent following database analysis to select recipients who are considered most likely to respond favorably.

The basic step-by-step breakdown of a good direct marketing campaign:

  • A marketing team analyzes data on people and/or business entities in the form of names, contact information, demographic information, purchase habits, and company history to develop criteria to identify a target audience of customer or prospects whose members share certain common interests, traits, or characteristics.

  • Marketing messages are designed, outlined and/or drafted to address the audience, individual customers, or prospects directly.

  • Communications channels such as phone, email, websites, direct mail, broadcast media, or print media, are decided upon based on determined marketing KPIs, and projected ROI related to specific comms channels, and the expected audience response behaviors related to those specific media.

  • Marketing messages are sent out across the chosen communications channels promoting a specific call to action, such as to call a free phone number, mail in a response to order, or click a link to a website.

  • Resulting traffic is tracked to determine ROI and measure the success of the campaign.

Challenges to Direct Marketing

The advantages to direct marketing are widely known by marketing professionals throughout most industries. However, direct marketing campaigns that utilize the wrong communication channels, poor message strategy, and/or target an inaccurately compiled demographic audience may generate very few leads, or they may only generate poor quality leads. Obviously marketing and advertising departments do not wish to waste budget resources engaging with customers, and prospects who are not interested in their product, service, or brand. Direct marketing campaigns need to rely on the following parameters to be successful.

  • The List

Lists compiled from industry-specific, or demographic-specific pools yield several times higher response rates than lists compiled from general populations. If you think about it, to use lists from broad population samples is to make the same mistake as general advertising right from the outset. At that point you can’t expect response rates to be any better than advertising response rates.

  • The Offer

An offer that is worth taking the time to respond to will yield triple the average results of a bad offer.

  • The Timing

Calculating the right time to launch a direct marketing messaging campaign will double response rates compared to those of a poorly timed launch.

  • The Easy Response

Opening as many response channels as possible dramatically improves response rates. For example, if you’re sending messages via direct mail, include somewhere in the printed materials, a form that can be returned by mail, a phone number that can be called, a mobile-friendly website landing page to visit, and on that page include a contact form. You might also consider a QR code that leads to a unique custom URL, which can be setup in google analytics in five minutes or less to easily measure response traffic against normal traffic. And if there is a form to fill out on the landing page, be sure not to fall into the TMI trap. Keep the range of information the form asks visitors to provide, as short and simple as possible. Names and email addresses should be more than enough in most cases.

  • The Creative Process

If there’s one thing that has carried over from the days when print media was king, it’s that creative messages and thoughtful design still improve response rates.

  • The Media

On the subtextual level, the medium is a big part of the message, and choosing the correct one(s) makes a huge difference. Personalized SMS messages, and emails work well, but acquiring that information from new customers might not happen until after the first direct marketing campaign. In fact that should probably be one of the KPIs in the campaign. For making first contact with prospects, high quality direct mail marketing has the highest chance of generating responses.

On average, the best planned direct marketing campaigns yield nearly sixty times the response rates of the most poorly planned campaigns.  


Who uses it?

Direct marketing, direct mail marketing, and direct mail advertising are practiced by businesses of all sizes across every industry.

Why is it useful?

Direct marketing is attractive because there are many quantifiable metrics, like campaign response rates, that can me be measured and tracked directly. Old-school advertising, however, relies on indirect measurements, and favors outright calls-to-action across a general audience base, whereas direct marketing circulates targeted messages that provide customers a kind of value, or build emotional awareness and engagement with a brand and its audience. Because general advertisements don’t connect directly with audiences, they rarely generate significant revenue, while well-executed direct marketing campaigns can yield significant positive returns on investment. And each direct marketing campaign reveals which customers, and prospects responded to a clear call-to-action. Moving forward, the kind of lookback data generated by one direct mail marketing campaign can be used to direct modifications, and adjust KPIs in subsequent campaigns.  

How can BB Direct help?

BB Direct provides mailing lists and email lists that are specific many different industries. Marketers looking to create direct marketing campaigns targeted at any audience affiliated with the auto industry for example, will be equipped with arguably the most important direct marketing tool, a list of prospects who are likely to be interested in your product, brand, or service.