What is Direct Marketing? A Guide To The (Most) Cost Effective Marketing Strategy

Direct marketing is the act of reaching out to prospects and potential customers through a direct communication channel.

At its simplest level, there’s literally nothing more to direct marketing, but like anything else, you need to dig a little deeper into all its moving parts to truly master direct marketing.

In the remainder of this guide, I’ll be explaining all things direct marketing so you can get a real understanding of its benefits.

What is Direct Marketing: A Little More Depth

Direct marketing is the act of directly reaching out to prospects and potential customers via a direct communication channel.

There are a few key elements of this definition that can help us get a much clearer understanding about what direct marketing really is and how you can optimise it…

‘…directly reaching out…’

direct marketing email example

Direct marketing is not like advertising, lead generation or social media marketing, it involves ‘directly reaching out’.

This means that every communication involved in a direct marketing campaign should include segmentation and personalisation.

For example, if I was speaking to a crowd of passers-by, I’d be unable to call out to any of them by name, whereas, if I was sitting in a room with one person, I would be able to.

‘…prospects and potential customers…’ 

specific target market

A direct marketing campaign is not sent out to everyone, it’s sent out to a very specific group – these are people who should, by their previous actions, have an interest in your targeted campaigns.

For example, if you are selling a sports energy drink, by targeting regular gym goers you are much more likely to make sales than if you were to try to sell to anyone and everyone on the street.

‘…via direct communication channels…’

beginners guide to digital marketing strategy

Direct marketing is not ‘direct’ if your communication channel isn’t direct as well.

There are a number of channels that allow for direct marketing and as the number of digital communication channels expand, so do your options.

Traditionally, direct marketing involved face-to-face meetings, sales letters and telephone calls. However, it now also includes email and live chat.

At a real stretch, it’s even possible to pull in retargeted social media ads as direct marketing campaigns.

Why Direct Marketing?

The strongest appeal of direct marketing is its high conversion rates in comparison to other types of marketing.

This is because of the lineal, targeted and personalised nature of direct marketing.

^The clue is in the title after all^

A direct marketing campaign allows you to go straight to the people who are most likely to convert on your offers, and are thus, incredibly cost effective.

direct marketing cost effective

Think about it, which of these campaigns will convert more people:

  • A marketing campaign that reaches 5000 new prospects who have never seen or heard of you before
  • A direct marketing campaign that reaches 500 people you know and can reach out to personally, with prior knowledge of their interest in your industry

The 2nd campaign, despite reaching just a tenth of the 1st will always provide you with more customers.

However, if digital marketing was as easy as simply setting up a direct marketing campaign and letting it run, there’d be no need for agencies or marketers (or this guide).

The Key To Direct Marketing

The most important step towards success with direct marketing is in the accruing of prospects that you can reach out to, and the depth of your knowledge and relationship with these contacts.

know your marketing list

When you truly understand every prospect on your direct marketing list, you are able to contact them at the right time, with the right offer, in a personalised manner, via their preferred channel.

Is there any better way to approach a potential customer than with a marketing offer that ticks all of those boxes?

Here they are in a list, so you can’t miss them:

  1. Right time
  2. Right offer
  3. Personalisation
  4. Right channel

The two steps towards being able to tick off these four elements are (as previously mentioned):

  1. Accruing a list of contacts to reach out to directly (aka ‘lead generation’)
  2. Building a relationship and understanding each one of them, so you can properly segment your list

Lead Generation and Direct Marketing 

Perhaps the most fundamental step in a high converting direct marketing strategy is at the lead generation stage.

Anybody with the right information can generate leads however, the key to generating good leads is to find a way that qualifies them.

lead generation and direct marketing

By qualifying them, you must develop a method that shows their interest in your product, service, offer or industry.

For most digital brands, the answer is in lead magnets or free trials.

BTW: If you don’t already know about lead magnets, make sure you check out this complete guide to lead magnets, and discover how we use them in this collection of lead magnet ideas.

For example, if I was selling a pet healthcare service, I could create a downloadable PDF that reveals some valuable dog healthcare tips.

The people who downloaded this guide would automatically qualify themselves as somebody who:

  1. Owns or is interested in owning a pet
  2. Cares about the health of their pet
  3. Wants to learn more about pet healthcare
  4. Is specifically interested in dogs
  5. Is happy to read this information, instead of watching/listening to it

This is a lot of information – and it’s the beginning of the segmenting and learning process that will help increase your conversions…

Relationships Building and Direct Marketing

It is the obvious next step, and quite often very effective, to simply make an offer to a lead with a direct marketing campaign at this point.

And I’d recommend doing it – especially while you are still hot in your lead’s mind.

But what if they don’t convert? Or they aren’t ready to buy what you’re offering just yet?

A great alternative to simply plying a cooling lead with more and more offers in your sales funnel is to simply try to learn more about them, so you can better market to them in the future.

In the pet example, the next logical step would be to try to learn more about their dog – its name, breed, age, health – anything you can to help personalise your future direct marketing campaigns around their needs.

The same holds true for any other industry looking to implement a direct marketing strategy, for example a B2B company should try to learn more about the business they’re pitching and a personal trainer should always try to learn more about an individual’s health goals.

The better you understand a lead, the more you can personalise your offers and the more successful your direct marketing campaigns will be.

Qualify -> Learn (and build relationship) -> Pitch

At its most simplest, these are the only three steps you should be considering when creating a high-converting, low cost direct marketing campaign.

Answer these questions:

  • How can you qualify a prospect for your specific offer or business?
  • How can you learn more about them and build a closer relationship/understanding?
  • How can you tailor everything you’ve learnt up to this point to make an offer that perfectly suits their needs?

Direct Marketing Mistakes and Misjudgements

I’ve seen and heard many businesses, entrepreneurs and marketers make false claims about their marketing lists.

The strength of a marketing list is never in its size, it’s in its ability to generate an income.Click To Tweet

I would much rather have a list of 10 people which generates £500k per year, than one with 100,000 that generates just £50k.

The size of the list does not determine the success of a direct marketing campaign.

^This is very important^

A marketing list is only worth anything if it is qualified, engaged and segmented – and if you’re interested in creating these high-converting, low cost direct campaigns, this is what you MUST be aiming for.

marketing list size and return

One more mistake that I must touch on, before concluding this guide to direct marketing, is over-using direct marketing.

When you’ve built an awesome list that you can segment, personalise and contact directly, the last thing you want to do is kill it.

That means timing your direct campaigns carefully for each segment of your list, whilst keeping them interested and aware of your brand.

When using email as your direct marketing communication channel, try to ensure that your contacts get used to opening your emails by regularly providing them with relevant, insightful or entertaining content.

At Einstein Marketer, we keep our five-figure list open rates at 20-35% by providing a valuable newsletter or recommended guide every single week – think about how you can do the same for your contacts.

Direct Marketing Conclusion

Direct marketing can be overcomplicated by those who are trying to sell you their services, when it really doesn’t have to be that way.

Think about how you can generate a qualified list and continually learn more about the contacts you’ve accrued.

When you understand this, you’ll be able to personalise every direct marketing campaign to always reach the right person, at the right time, with the offer, via the right channel.

And when you can do this, costs will lower and your conversion rates will soar on your direct marketing campaigns.

Want more marketing strategies, tactics and advice? Check out one of our most popular digital marketing guides: 

Director of Content at Einstein Marketer
Josh is an award winning content marketer and the Director of Content at Einstein Marketer, previously working as a content manager, freelance copywriter and marketer. He writes, edits, proofs and strategises content for Einstein Marketer's agency and their clients, sharing the most successful tactics and strategies 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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