Direct marketing: The essentials

All you need to know about direct marketing and how it could benefit your growing business

Direct marketing is any type of marketing activity aimed at a targeted group of consumers or businesses that has a call-to-action or direct response mechanism included, such as a telephone number, an address, a website link, a mobile text prompt, or a coupon.
The background

It covers a range of media including direct mail, inserts, door drops, email, mobile, and direct response advertising, such as press ads and DRTV (direct response television). It promotes your products or services, boosts loyalty among your customers, and enables you to capture information such as names and addresses for your customer database. As it elicits a direct response to a specific call-to-action, direct marketing campaign results can be accurately measured, so you can make every penny count. You can work out how many people responded, how many converted to a sale, and what that is worth to you.

The process

A successful direct mail campaign relies on the quality of your mailing list. Get this wrong, and you will waste time and money. Build a list in-house from your existing customer database, as names and addresses captured this way can be more easily verified and you can tailor your direct marketing according to your customers’ previous purchases or preferences.

Need to know

If you need to source an external list, seek out a recommended supplier that you can buy or rent a list from. There are details of consumer and business suppliers (who both own and/or manage the data) on the Direct Marketing Association’s website. Find out what sectors these list suppliers specialise in and the other companies they supplied lists to. How many lists do they manage or own and what response rates have they seen with these lists? Getting a list broker on board can also help you to negotiate competitive costs, especially if you are planning a high-volume or niche mailing campaign.

Pros and cons

Response rates to direct marketing campaigns can vary enormously – the more you profile your customers, the better your chances of success. Do you know the age, gender, income, geographical area or home type of your customers? If you are targeting businesses, find out sales turnover, number of employees, the technology they use and where they are based.

If you are gathering, storing and using information for direct marketing use, you must comply with the Data Protection Act. Some individuals or businesses may not want to receive any direct marketing information from you unless they have given prior permission. Check out the Direct Marketing Association’s website and the Information Commissioner’s website for more details on direct marketing compliance.


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