Direct Response Marketing: Make Immediate Marketing Returns

by Josh Barney
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Discover everything you need to know about direct response marketing.

On an average day, we’re exposed to 4,000 – 10,000 advertisements. 

Many of them achieve their aim – increasing awareness, keeping their business top of mind and planting a psychological seed for your future purchases. 

But, how many of them drive immediate action? 

cta button direct response marketing
Buttons like this are found in direct response marketing – and they drive immediate actions from their audiences. 

As a small, medium or start-up business, advertising can feel like a maze, with a thousand different directions and seemingly ‘must-use’ strategies. Many of them are pricey, irrelevant and much more suited to an established brand with a large advertising budget. 

In this article, I’m going to introduce you to direct response marketing, and as you’ll come to understand, it’s cheap, targeted and suited to businesses who need to make returns from their marketing budget. 

Let’s start with an introduction to direct response marketing…

What is Direct Response Marketing? 

Direct response marketing is the act of presenting a targeted audience with a specific message that is designed to drive immediate action. 

This ‘immediate action’ benefits the business, for example, a purchase, an exchange in contact details, a telephone call or a referral. 

Direct response marketing relies on three important elements: 

  1. A clear line to your target audience – this can be via channels like advertising space, email or post
  2. An offer – direct response advertising does not work unless you have something to offer your target audience
  3. A call to action (CTA) – a call to action tells your audience to take immediate action

Before you begin work on your next advertising campaign, think about these three elements.

Create a direct response campaign that aims at specific channels, makes an irresistible offer to your target market and calls them to take immediate action. 

If you’re short on ideas, stick around – you’ll find plenty in the remainder of this article. 

Direct Response Marketing Examples

If our direct response marketing definition wasn’t clear enough, or you’d like to see it working in practice, here are a couple of examples. 

The first direct response marketing example is from one of our own Facebook campaigns. This is one of a number of ads that we’re split-testing for a lockdown marketing training offer. 

facebook ads direct response marketing

Within this direct response marketing campaign, you can see how the three elements combine to drive immediate action: 

  1. Our direct channel is targeted Facebook ads – using saved, custom and lookalike audiences 
  2. Our offer is the opportunity for any business to generate more leads with a 3-day training course
  3. Our CTA is the ‘Learn More’ button at the bottom of the ad, besides the text ‘Level Up Your Lead Generation This LOCKDOWN…’

Another direct response marketing example is from the food supplement company Huel. In their Facebook ad, they make a purchase offer: 

facebook ads huel direct response marketing

In this ad, they use: 

  1. Facebook as their direct channel
  2. An offer for the product – highlighting its benefits
  3. A ‘Shop Now’ CTA to drive purchases 

What Direct Response Isn’t…

You’d be forgiven for seeing our direct response marketing examples and assuming that they were the same as any other ad campaign. 

Many businesses are moving towards a direct-response approach to marketing, particularly those on smaller budgets who’re aiming to make immediate returns on their campaigns. 

However, the vast majority of ads are not direct response. They‘re ads that are designed to remind, cajole, increase awareness and keep their brand top-of-mind above industry competitors. 

Here is an ad from Coca-Cola that isn’t direct-response:

Ads like this one are shown on television to a wide-ranging audience, who are not targeted or specific. There is no offer, and at no point do they ask or tell you to take action. 

There’s no doubt that campaigns like these are smart, effective and drive long-term success for the company – the problem is that they don’t make much sense for a small or growing brand. 

And it’s for this reason, that many small businesses either have a warped view on advertising or blow their marketing budgets on the wrong types of campaign. 

indirect advertising bmw
An example of an ad that is not direct response from BMW.

If you’re a developing brand, think smart and make your marketing budgets work for you. Move away from the big-budget-style campaigns you see on television, towards a direct response marketing approach. 

There’s plenty of room for indirect campaigns in future. 

What Are The Advantages of Direct Response Marketing?

Direct response marketing has a number of advantages over traditional advertising – especially when it’s used online. 

Digital marketing has made advertising accessible for all, levelling the playing field for many small and medium businesses, who’re competing for their slice of the market.

leading advertisers worldwide 2019
Amazon spent more than $11 billion on ads in 2019, making them the biggest spenders worldwide (source).  

Here are 5 reasons why I’d recommend adopting a direct response marketing approach with your next digital campaign: 

Targeted Audience

With tools like Facebook Business Manager and Google’s advertising suite, you’re able to target users by their interests, behaviours and actions online – presenting you with the opportunity to reach only those who are most relevant to your offer. 

Facebook’s advertising platform has a wide range of options in their Events Manager that can be used to target users by the pages they visit, buttons they press and options they take on your website – giving you the keys to an even more targeted audience. 

facebook events manager

If you show ads to people who visit a specific page of your website, and no one else, you can make a much more personalised offer and call to action, which will have a higher conversion rate.

Specific Offers

When you present offers to a targeted audience, you can make them ultra-specific. 

Showing specific offers to specific audiences is a high returning way to advertise. For instance, if you know that I’m an expectant mother, it’s a great time to offer products for newborns. 

ikea magazine ad
This ad from IKEA wasn’t direct response but it was clever. The magazine ad featured an area that when urinated on by a pregnant woman, would reveal a voucher for a new cot. This ad gained plenty of publicity! 

Similarly, if you know that I’m a small business owner who has recently viewed content about generating more leads, it’s a good time to offer lead gen software or training. 

Think about it – the more you know about your audience, the higher percentage you’re able to convert. This means creating targeted advertising audiences and personalising offers to them. 

Drives Immediate Action

The most attractive thing about direct response marketing is that it drives an immediate action from the audience. 

The message isn’t there for the audience to think or consider, it’s there for them to take action from, which is a great thing for businesses who are sceptical or new to advertising. 

facebook ad cta direct response

Remember, not every ad was created to sell – many are created to generate leads, drive traffic, book calls and encourage referrals. 

Think about the sole aim of your campaign as one specific action and create a direct response marketing campaign with a call-to-action that asks audiences to take it. 

Measurable

The results of a direct response marketing campaign can be seen in the short-term, allowing you to measure their results and adjust them appropriately. This means trackable ROAS numbers. 

Within 3-7 days of a direct response campaign starting, you can see what’s working, what isn’t and where there’s most friction. 

average conversion rates facebook ads

Analytical tools like Google Analytics, give you the keys to trackable goals and website visitor behaviour – showing you exactly what’s happening on your landing pages (if you’re using them). 

But, the very best thing about having measurable campaigns is that when you find a winning formula, you can scale it up. In other words, you can increase your spend and results alongside it.

Learn more about this in our guide How to Scale Facebook Ads.

Low Cost 

In addition to being tough to track and making very little difference to your ROAS, a traditional brand awareness campaign can be very costly. 

This Pepsi ad featuring Britney Spears is the world’s most expensive ad ever, coming in at $90,000 per second when it was shown at the Superbowl in 2002 (Source).

Direct response marketing is anything but. 

Think about it like this, which one of these would cost less: 

  1. A brand awareness campaign seen by 50,000 people, with only 500 of these being relevant to your brand
  2. A direct response marketing campaign seen by 500 relevant people

Yes, you’re going to reach more people with 1 and it may eventually make an untraceable return in a year or two’s time, but, 2 is going to be much cheaper and immediately effective. 

Businesses with smaller budgets need to make every penny count. Thanks to the targeting abilities of modern digital advertising platforms and the analytical tools that measure their success, you can do exactly that. 

How Can You Use Direct Response Marketing Online? 3 Tactics and Examples

Direct response marketing doesn’t solely rely on advertising – there are many other direct channels that you can use to make offers to prospects. 

Ads should play a big part in your marketing campaigns, but you must find a way to maximise the returns at every step of your target market’s journey. 

Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.

Henry Ford

Here are 5 tactical examples of direct response marketing that you can start today. 

Facebook Ads

Facebook ads are arguably the cheapest, most targeted and highest returning forms of advertising available online – making them perfect for businesses of all sizes and ambitions. 

facebook events manager marketing guide

They allow advertisers to track a variety of decision-driving metrics, in addition to keeping ad costs down and having a proven track record of calling on prospects to take immediate action – making them the place to start with direct response marketing. 

As you saw in our examples, Facebook is an easy first step into direct response ads. In order for you to succeed, you must optimise a number of elements of your Facebook ads, including: 

Audience Targeting 

Facebook’s advertising platform allows for interest-based, custom and lookalike audience types. 

facebook advertising audiences

These options allow for highly-targeted audiences, based on demographics, locations, behaviour online and even how users have interacted with your website and social profiles. 

If you need to learn more about setting-up audiences like this, check out our Facebook Audiences ebook

Creative

A Facebook creative is the image or video used in the ad. Its selection could be the make or break of your ad campaign. 

Social media newsfeeds are highly competitive battlegrounds, with advertisers fighting hard against posts from friends and family. 

eye catching facebook ad creative

The creative is your first opportunity to beat the competition and catch the eye and imagination of your target audience. 

If you can’t gain a prospect’s attention, you’ll never illicit a direct response to your ads. 

Copywriting

After you’ve gained a prospect’s attention, you’ll need to keep it with some compelling copy. 

Copywriting is a fine art, but try not to overthink it if you’re working on your ads alone. 

facebook ad copywriting

Focus on how your offer can take your target market from where they are, to where they want to be, and use stories wherever possible. 

Discover more about Facebook Creative and Copywriting.

CTA

Direct response marketing doesn’t work without a call-to-action, so it’s massively important that you focus on yours. 

I’d always recommend including a closing line of copy at the bottom of your ad copy that says something like: 

  • Click the link to get [the offer]
  • Click below to learn more
  • Visit the page now
  • Get yours today

These are generic options, but they make the point. Tailor the closing line of you copy to call your audience to take your desired action. 

In addition to this, you’ll also need to think about the CTA button on your ads – another very important aspect of direct response marketing. 

facebook ad cta direct response marketing

Facebook offers a variety of options, including: 

  • Shop Now
  • Learn More
  • Book Now
  • Download

There is no great science to this selection – go with the option that makes the most sense.

facebook call to action

If you’re offering a download, choose ‘Download’, if you’re making an offer to a cold audience, go with ‘Learn More’. 

Landing Page

If you’re running a campaign that takes prospects away from Facebook onto a landing page, you’ll need to ensure that it is optimised to convert, as well as being congruent with your ad. 

This means making the landing page similar in feel and language to your ad. Use similar colours, build trust with social proof elements and drive action with calls to action! 

Learn more about landing pages in our guide to Above the Fold Content.

Email Marketing

Email is a straightforward way to adopt direct response marketing.

It’s often said in digital marketing that most of a brand’s long-term value is within the marketing list. Direct response marketing proves it. 

Source

A fundamental part of any small business’s marketing strategy should be lead generation. This means collecting the contact details of people who are interested in your product/service. One of the best ways to collect qualified leads is with a lead magnet. 

When you have a list of email contacts, you can reach out to them with new offers. 

email marketing examples

As long as your email includes a CTA and offer, it qualifies as direct response marketing. 

This type of direct response marketing is low-cost (after the list has been built) and high-converting (if you’ve built your list properly). 

If you’re going to succeed with email as a form of direct response marketing, you’ll need to keep the following tactical advice in mind: 

Qualified

Collecting leads is actually not that difficult – anybody can do it. 

The difficult thing is collecting leads who are genuinely interested in what you sell. 

The best way to do that is to offer your audience something that is very relevant to your industry, in exchange for contact details. This is known as a lead magnet. 

lead magnet definition

For example, if i was selling IT training, I could offer a free downloadable IT training book to prospects. The people who took the offer would prove that they are interested in learning more about IT training and that they’re action takers. 

This is an example of a qualified lead – the future success and growth of any business is dependent upon them.

Learn more about how we use Facebook ads to generate qualified leads, or discover 8 lead magnet ideas.

Nurture 

We’ve all been on those email lists where businesses relentlessly bombard us with offers. 

In this situation, we either start ignoring the emails, mark them as spam or unsubscribe. This is the last thing you want to happen to your marketing list. 

In order for you to keep your list engaged and opening your emails, you need to nurture the list. This means sending them out quality content and information. 

email marketing nurture

When you do this on a regular basis, your audience are much more receptive to broadcasts and are likely to open your direct response emails when they arrive. 

I’d recommend a ratio of approx 10:1, in favour of content to offers. 

The Email

If you have a receptive list, your next battle is to get them to read the email copy, so they’ll click on your CTA. 

The most effective ways to do this are to open with stories, questions or intriguing stats. Whatever you choose, aim to draw the reader in and through the text. 

Source

Keep your email relatively short – if there’s a lot more to say, do this on your landing pages – and focus on one key reason that your contact should want to take immediate advantage of your offer. 

The CTA

Opinions differ about the amount of times you should include a CTA in a direct response marketing email. 

That being said, my recommendation is 3. This is where they should be placed: 

  1. Anchored in the text near the top of your email body copy
  1. In a clear CTA button or text that’s placed somewhere in the bottom ¼ of your email
  1. In the P.S. below your name

This easy email CTA structure capitalises on prospects who are ready to click immediately after opening it, those who want to read the body copy and others who read every last word and need an extra prompt.

Try it in your next email campaign. 

Content Marketing

In addition to being used as a lead magnet, content is another sure-fire way to harness the power of direct-response marketing. 

Its application here is simple – create great content that attracts relevant audiences and then make offers to them. 

Typically, this involves writing content (like this) or recording content on video, or within an audio file. 

This content acts as qualifying content. In other words, the content pulls an audience who clearly have an interest in what your business provides or sells. 

content marketing example einstein marketer
Why would somebody watch this video if they weren’t interested in business and marketing? 

For example, if I wrote a blog about running, what are the chances that somebody who visits and reads that blog has an interest in running equipment? 

By using content like this, you can insert offers within the copy (similarly to native ads), add pop-ups, slide-ins and sidebars. 

Although most of the positives from content marketing are often indirect, there are many possibilities to make a direct and immediate return too. 

Learn more about this in our guide about the Content Marketing Funnel

Direct Response Marketing – Are You Ready? 

Direct response marketing campaigns gain immediate, measurable and scalable results – making them a favourite with growing businesses. 

The main components of a successful direct response marketing campaign are:

  1. The marketing channel
  2. The offer
  3. The CTA

Start by focussing on these three elements and how they’ll tie together – after this, everything else should be primed for immediate action. 

If you need any further help or advice with your next direct response marketing campaign, leave a comment or subscribe!

Josh is the Founder of We Imagine Media, an award-winning content marketer and best selling author. He creates and strategises content, sharing the most successful tactics with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links (above) so he can get back to writing as himself.

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