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
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
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
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.
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
Digest and the article archive on the NMOA website.