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Direct marketing: what is it and how does it work?

Direct marketing describes marketing activities that speak straight to a person with a strong call to action, and when executed well leads to breathtaking results.

Life is full of direct and indirect messages.

We know we’re doing a good job at work when our manager says, “Great work on that report!” But we also indirectly get the message that we’re performing well at work when we’re given more autonomy or responsibility.

We’re indirectly told that our kids need us every time we cook a meal or do the laundry, but we’re directly told they need us when we get the late-night call asking us to pick them up because the sleepover isn’t going so well (ah, the joys of the teenage years).

Marketing is exactly the same, with effective marketing strategies incorporating both indirect and direct marketing techniques.

Direct marketing describes marketing activities that speak straight to a person with a strong and immediate call to action, and when executed well leads to breathtaking results.

What is direct marketing?

Direct marketing includes marketing activities that involve communicating directly to your customer, and it’s one of the most effective ways to market.

In fact, if you’ve opened your email today, chances are you’ve already come across one of the most common forms of direct marketing: email.

Indirect marketing, on the other hand, communicates to consumers via a third party, such as advertising media or event sponsorship, and is more about long-term brand building and awareness.

Essentially, direct marketing generally eliminates the middleman, which makes it immediate and deeply personal.

What are some examples of direct marketing?

Most common direct marketing activities include email newsletters, phone calls, targeted social media ads, and text messages.

In fact, any type of marketing that is brought directly to you can be classified as direct marketing. While it’s easy to think of digital communications such as SMS and email as the most widely used, many businesses are finding success with highly personalised printed material, such as a letter or catalogue, which is posted to their customers (you remember snail mail, right?).

How does direct marketing work?

On any given day, we experience a mass of advertising and marketing.

We drive past billboards, we sit through ads on TV, we see flyers in shop windows. Some of them we pay attention to; others we don’t.

The strength of direct marketing is that rather than relying on you happening upon them, these marketing efforts are delivered straight to you.

The key to successful direct marketing is data and personalisation. The greater and more extensive the data, the more you are able to personalise your direct communication. And the stronger the personalization, the better the results.

Say, for example, a woman wants to buy a cocktail dress for a wedding. She visits an online store she has purchased from before, and browses several items before having to run off to a meeting. The store she was looking in combines the data they have on her (email address, past purchases, sizes of past purchases) and adds the data collected from cookies (style of dresses, sizes, etc).

By the time the woman comes back to her desk there’s an email waiting from the store, addressing her by name and making recommendations based on her past purchasing history and recent browses.

If the woman doesn’t make a purchase, you can bet in a couple of days she’ll receive another email with further recommendations, as well as a 10 per cent discount code.

How does direct marketing differ from other types of marketing?

So, we know that direct marketing essentially involves a business asking customers to purchase from them. This differs from other forms of marketing, which hits consumers at different stages of the buying cycle and has a less urgent call to action.

For example, some forms of indirect marketing seek to provide information about a product or service; others exist entirely to elevate brand awareness.

Indirect marketing is more “here’s who we are, what we offer, and why we’re the best company to choose when you need what we offer”. It’s about building loyalty and awareness.

Direct marketing is more “we’ve got it, you want it, let’s get this deal done”.

What are the pros and cons of direct marketing?

We know that personalisation yields great results, and we know that when it’s used in direct marketing, the benefits are measurable – but there are plenty of other reasons direct marketing is so popular.

To begin with, compared with things like television advertising, it’s pretty inexpensive. It allows businesses to communicate directly with customers, and for them to gain a greater understanding about what marketing efforts their clients respond best to. It’s easy to track and measure campaigns, and even tweak campaigns mid-flow.

When it comes to cons, most have to do with the bulk. People can start to get annoyed with the sheer number of email direct marketing materials they receive, so it’s crucial that whatever you send is targeted, relevant and of significant use to the recipient.

With so many direct emails being sent out, it can also be tricky to stand out from the crowd, which is why the best results come from engaging a marketing professional with specific expertise in direct marketing.

Speak to the marketing professionals

Direct marketing can take many different forms, each performing a specific function and speaking best to different audiences.

Assemblo is a full-service marketing agency based in Melbourne, with extensive knowledge and experience in direct marketing campaigns that deliver great results.

To find out how we can help your business, give us a call on (03) 9079 2555 or send us a note via the contact form below.

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