Topic overview

Direct marketing

Smiling marketing manager using a bright blue headset to contact her customers

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

Direct marketing can be cost effective and extremely powerful at generating sales, so it is ideal for small businesses.

Direct marketing uses a variety of different methods. Traditional methods include direct mail and leafleting, but email marketing, telemarketing and mobile and SMS marketing are also widely used and provide a cost-effective way to reach your customers on a one-to-one basis.

Why use direct marketing?

Direct marketing allows you to generate a response from targeted customers. As a result, small businesses can focus their marketing resources where they are most likely to get results.

A direct marketing campaign with a clear call to action can help you boost your sales to existing customers, 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. You can also test your marketing with sample groups before you roll out the campaign that will deliver the best response rate.

Whether you are targeting business (b2b) customers or consumers, direct marketing can deliver results. Choosing the right communication method is vital. Businesses can be more receptive to receiving sales calls than consumers, for example. Individuals will prefer different ways of contact, so make sure you take account of their preferences.

Getting the most out of your 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 lists regularly - remove duplicate entries, correct any mistakes and, above all, delete the names of people and businesses who have asked to be removed.

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 and actively seek new contacts matching that description by buying or renting new lists.

Direct marketing works because it puts your message in front of people. However, unsolicited letters, emails and texts must only be sent to people and businesses that have given permission to be contacted. The General Data Protection Act is complex and privacy laws are becoming tighter. It is your responsibility to check that your direct marketing activities are within the law.

Measuring the results of direct marketing

While it can be difficult to measure the effects of advertising or sponsorship, in contrast, direct marketing is totally accountable. 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 actual return on investment.

This simple analysis will enable you to tweak your campaigns in order to improve your results. You can also identify those that are most responsive and target them again in future.

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