What is direct marketing?

Small business team working on a direct marketing campaign

Direct marketing, including email campaigns, text marketing and leafleting, are all excellent ways to promote your small business.

Direct marketing is about making direct contact with existing and potential customers to promote your products or services. Unlike advertising, direct marketing campaigns allow you to target particular people with a personalised message.

Direct marketing can be a cost-effective way to generate sales, so it’s ideal for small businesses. Direct marketing methods include mailings, leaflets, email, phone calls and text messaging as well as direct messaging on social media.

Why use direct marketing?

Direct marketing allows you to generate a response from targeted customers. A direct marketing campaign with a clear call to action can help you boost your sales, increase customer loyalty, recapture old customers and generate new business.

Direct marketing can be evaluated and measured precisely. For example, you can send out test marketing emails directing customers to specific landing pages on your website. You can analyse results to see which email was most successful.

Whether you are targeting business customers or consumers, direct marketing can deliver results. Choosing the right communication method is vital. Individuals will prefer different ways of contact, so make sure you take account of their preferences.

How to create a direct marketing campaign

Your database is at the heart of any good direct marketing strategy . It must be up to date and accurate. Check your mailing list regularly - remove duplicate entries, correct any mistakes and always delete the names of people and businesses who have asked to be removed. It is your responsibility to check that your direct marketing activities are within the law and comply with GDPR .

The information you hold on your database is marketing gold dust. It can tell you about your customers' buying habits and reveal other useful information such as age, gender and location. You can use this data to divide your customers and prospects into smaller groups and target them with special messages. You can build a profile of your best customers using a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) and actively seek new contacts matching that description.

Measuring the results of direct marketing

With any direct marketing campaign, you can calculate a break-even point - the number of sales you need to make to cover the cost of the marketing. In addition, you can work out the cost per response and the return on investment. This analysis will enable you to tweak your campaigns in order to improve your results.

How to get results from direct marketing

  • Decide what your objectives are, such as targeting new customers or making more sales from existing customers.
  • Decide on the best direct marketing method for your business, such as a leaflet drop, text messaging or email marketing campaign.
  • Identify your target audience.
  • Establish your budget; consider how much each response will be worth to you and the likely response rate.
  • Build a mailing list and keep it up to date.
  • Ensure that your use and storage of personal data complies with the Data Protection Act 2018 (the UK’s implementation of GDPR).
  • Write a clear, attention-grabbing message selling the benefits of your offer with a clear call to action.
  • Personalise the communication to avoid the appearance of junk mail or spam.
  • Make responding easy, provide links to website landing pages and offer an incentive to buy.
  • Plan the timing of the mailshot to maximise the response.
  • Use test mailings to establish response rates and to compare the effectiveness of different messages or mailing lists.
  • Prepare for the likely response; make sure you have the staffing and stock to deal with a potential surge in sales.
  • Analyse the results; update your mailing list for any email bounce-backs or opt-outs.
  • Adjust your marketing message and methods once you have established which methods work best.

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