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Direct Marketing Cheat Sheet


Whether or not a business is limited to a so-called ‘niche’ customer base, or able to market its goods and services to a broad spectrum of prospects, depends on a complex set of variables. Economics, politics, and social factors all play determining roles, and nothing in the free market system is ever static, or certain, or permanent.

That’s why it’s incredibly important for marketers to stay up to date, not just on the latest technological developments in marketing channels like the recent ‘mobile-geddon’ for example, but also on best practices for employing those channels as well as the potentially shifting tastes and preferences of target audiences.           

Those who work in the marketing industry understand that  direct marketing involves equal doses of art and science. So, in that spirit, we’ve compiled a slick little direct marketing cheat sheet that outlines some of the finer points of employing six of the most popular direct marketing channels.


According to the CMO council, the average American company sends out 1.47 million emails per month. But let’s not assume that figure means spam emails are a sound marketing practice. Unlike spam, proper email marketing reaches out to make contact with customers who have already communicated some type of potential interest in their company. Seventy percent of marketers polled report that email marketingyields a valuable ROI. That’s because good email marketers understand the finer points of the craft, like how using the recipient’s first name in the subject line improves click-through rates.

Postal Mail

Did you know there are some people who believe we should mothball the U.S. Postal Service? The basic rationale behind that idea states that ‘snail mail’ is an antiquated method of communication that should no longer be funded by taxpayers. We could go on about this topic at length. But suffice it to say, that perspective is woefully misinformed, and not just from a social standpoint. As a marketing tool, postal mail allows variation in presentation—personal letters, pamphlets, etc. It is a physical piece of content that the consumer can touch, which creates a tactile connection that is more difficult to dismiss than email. By using databases of gathered information that is compiled into consumer mailing lists, direct marketers can target specific demographics to generate higher-quality business leads. In 2013, an average of 65% of consumers over age 15 made a purchase as a direct result of direct mail. This equates to approximately a 4.4% success or response rate.


Telemarketing has been stigmatized as a purely scam-driven marketing channel. However, telemarketing can be an effective way the expand businesses by selling to audiences well outside a business’s normal territory. The stigma of telemarketing might make it kind of a tough sell. And it must be done at very low overhead to be worthwhile. To make telemarketing a successful endeavor it’s important to start with clear objectives. The caller should know what the desired end-result of each call is before picking up the receiver. Also, outsourcing call centers instead of keeping everything in house can save both money and time in the long run.

Mobile Text (SMS) Marketing

Each day millennials touch their smartphones an average of 43 times. That number seems a bit conservative. Nevertheless, the explosion of smart mobile devices has made SMS marketing—marketing text messages sent to people’s smartphones—the shiny new toy of the marketing world. Delivery is fast, easy, direct, and feels personal even if the message doesn’t address each recipient by name. What’s not to like? To really dial in an SMS marketing campaign, it’s important to remember to ask customers to opt in. Messages received from unknown numbers can feel very invasive. Also, pay attention to timing, especially as it pertains to target audience. When targeting sports enthusiasts, for example, avoid messages during big games, but consider sending relevant texts during halftime.

Social Media Marketing

Last year’s shiny new toy, and still a heavyweight contender among direct marketing tools, social media marketing is a really effective channel for increasing brand exposure. In the U.S. 34 percent of customers report that they only use social media to follow favorite brands and retailers. Social media channels encourage ongoing interactions and dialogues between companies and their consumers, building stronger relationships. But what really draws the art and science aspects of direct marketing together in social media is the fact that several social media platforms have tools that can be used to analyze customer engagement.

Direct Selling

Direct sales grants the opportunity for businesses to build personal relationships with customers. Data-driven marketingenables salespeople to learn more about their audience, and create a relationship with customers to make interactions feel more meaningful and generate a feeling of loyalty. Although some marketers in the direct selling space report significant sales numbers from their methods, many customers approach the idea of direct selling with a certain trepidation. The main reason is because, if not done carefully, direct selling can erode the line between personal relationships, and transactional relationships. People find that creepy. To avoid any negative labeling, make sure that sales representatives are explicitly instructed to use standardized marketing vocabulary and presentation, in order to reinforce marketing messages with customers. Use care when encouraging direct sales consultants to sell to their friends and family. While this approach can reach new customers who may not shop at retail stores that carry a certain product, some people are put off by this approach.


Direct marketing cheat sheet

Postal Mail