Direct marketing is a channel-agnostic form of advertising that allows businesses and nonprofit organizations to communicate straight to the customer, with advertising techniques that can include cell phone text messaging, email, interactive consumer websites, online display ads, database marketing, fliers, catalog distribution, promotional letters, targeted television commercials, response-generating newspaper/magazine advertisements, and outdoor advertising. Amongst its practitioners, it is also referred to as Direct Response Advertising.
Direct marketing messages emphasize a focus on the customer, data, and accountability. Hence, besides the actual communication, creation of actionable segments, pre- and post-campaign analytics, and measurement of results, are integral to any good Direct Marketing campaign. Characteristics that distinguish direct marketing are:
A database of names (prospects, customers, businesses, etc.), often with certain other relevant information such as contact number/address, demographic information, purchase habits/history, company history, etc., is used to develop a list of targeted entities with some existing common interests, traits or characteristics. Generating such a database is often considered part of the Direct Marketing campaign.
Marketing messages are addressed directly to this list of customer and/or prospects. Direct marketing relies on being able to address the members of a target market. Addressability comes in a variety of forms including email addresses, phone numbers, Web browser cookies, fax numbers and postal addresses.
Direct marketing seeks to drive a specific “call to action.” For example, an advertisement may ask the prospect to call a free phone number, mail in a response or order, or click on a link to a website.
Direct marketing emphasizes trackable, measurable responses, results and costs from prospects and/or customers—regardless of medium.
Direct marketing is practiced by businesses of all sizes—from the smallest start-up to the leaders on the Fortune 500. A well-executed direct advertising campaign can prove a positive return on investment by showing how many potential customers responded to a clear call-to-action. General advertising eschews calls-for-action in favor of messages that try to build prospects’ emotional awareness or engagement with a brand. Even well-designed general advertisements rarely can prove their impact on the organization’s bottom line. The demonstrable result of Direct Marketing is the reason for its increasing popularity.