Direct Marketing, Mail Order, and E-commerce News from the National Mail Order Association


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Direct Marketing Is NOT the Adult Phrase
for Direct Mail
by Ray Jutkins

Early in the 1970s the term "Direct Marketing" was created. Since then, it has come into accepted use.

But what is it? What does the term "Direct Marketing" mean? And, more importantly, when does it work best? A definition first: Direct marketing has a number of characteristics; these are the four keys:

1. It is an ACTION-oriented discipline. Your audience is supposed to do something! They receive your direct mail, see your ad, and receive your telemarketing call. As a result, they are supposed to take action: Complete the order form. Call the 800 number. Cash in the coupon. Come to your office. Visit the trade show. Do something — take some action.

2. Direct marketing is MEASURABLE, which means you can measure and analyze what happens. You know your results. You count how many people send you an order. How many by mail. How many by phone. How many visit your office or your trade show space. You know what happens.

You can determine who took action, what kind of action, and what it means to your sales success. Direct marketing is measurable.

3. It is a PERSUASIVE tool. It is not passive, it is active! You are trying to persuade your prospective audience to do something. A direct marketing piece must be written and designed with that fact in mind.

Direct marketing’s purpose is not to educate, although it might do so. It is not to create an image, or position you in the marketplace. It is not to make your audience aware of you or what you offer. It is not to generate interest. Direct marketing is to persuade your audience to do something, to take action.

The creative process, the copy and the art must be written and designed to get you action. All the rest is less important in direct marketing.

4. Direct marketing must lead to a SALE, or be the sale. If you are in the mail order business, offering your products through a catalog, solo mailings, or print ads, you use direct marketing to complete a sale. If you need telephone contact before the sale, to demo your product, to explain, to tell your complete story, you use direct marketing to gain you a lead or to build traffic to your storefront. In all cases you are looking for the same thing: A sale! Direct marketing leads to or makes the sale.

When can you use direct marketing in your business? Where is direct marketing best? Here are eight times when you can use direct marketing techniques to your advantage:

1. When you can clearly IDENTIFY your target audience. There are tens of thousands of mailing lists available. There are literally thousands of magazines and newspapers; hundreds of radio and television stations; plus more telephones in North America than in any other place on earth. So it is highly likely you will be able to clearly target your audience; specifically identify those characteristics against those people and/or companies you wish to reach.

If you can do this, then direct marketing is an excellent tool.

2. When you can REACH your target audience! It does no good to be able to ID your audience on paper, but not reach them. It is easy to talk about people who have two jobs but is there such a list? Or a publication reaching that group? What about people who work out of their homes? Lots do, and you can certainly talk about it. But can you reach them?

3. When you have A LOT TO SAY about your product or service. This also applies if your offering is expensive, unique, unusual, different, or new. Many times a page in a magazine or 60 seconds of broadcast won't cut it. You need more space, more time. Direct response, making good use of direct mail and the telephone, particularly, may allow you to tell your whole story.

4. When your product/service has continuity, REPEAT SALES, and/or follow-up and follow-on sales. If you want to build a database of buyers, in order to justify your promotional program, then direct response is the way to go.

Most successful businesses where direct marketing plays a role are built on repeat sales. Sometimes you "buy" that initial sale, even at a loss, in order to gain a customer who, over time, will return a profit.

5. When you need to CONTROL the entire selling message or process. If you use an independent distribution system or network, or an independent sales force inside or outside, you can use direct marketing to make sure the message is consistent with your plan.

6. When you want to build a predictable MODEL that can be repeated. You are introducing a new product or service, or changing a position or image of a current product. And you need a model you know can be repeated to achieve present sales objectives.

7. When your product/service DOESN'T FIT other distribution channels, sell direct. It isn't glamorous, it is too complicated, it doesn't sell itself, it needs lengthy explanation, it is too low priced to be interesting to other channels. So, you sell it direct!

8. When you want LESS VISIBILITY in the marketplace. Direct marketing is an excellent testing discipline. You don't want to be seen nationally (or even regionally) yet; you are in a test situation. You have a new market/product introduction, a new Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code, or new geography. Use direct marketing if it's anything different, when you want to test first and then roll out later.

Direct marketing has become an accepted and important part of many company plans. It isn't the cure to every sales and marketing ill. But as a discipline it can get and keep your prospects and customers buying from you.
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About Ray Jutkins, October 3rd, 1936 — January 6th, 2005. Ray was one of the NMOA’s most generous contributors. Over the years Ray supplied the NMOA with hundreds of tips and articles for members. This is just one of many. Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa. Keep an eye out for more of Ray’s marketing tips and how-to articles in the pages of Direct Marketing Digest and the article archive on the NMOA website.

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