Direct Marketing Basics

Types of Direct Marketing - What is Direct Marketing and Does it Work?

Direct marketing is as old as the written word and is a business staple. It is also widely used by those in the nonprofit arena. It is a form of advertising that allows businesses and organizations to communicate directly to customers through a variety of media such as phone calls, text messaging, emails, fliers, catalog distribution, promotional letters and targeted television campaigns known as infomercials. If you have ever been called at dinner time by a telemarketer you have been the target of direct marketing. You're probably also aware that laws prohibit telemarketers from making unsolicited phone calls at inappropriate times of the time whether it's five in the morning at ten in the evening.

Often considered annoying and invasive by consumers, direct marketing is an aggressive form of marketing that works to grow a client and customer base but needs to be carefully planned and implemented.

What is Direct Marketing?

Business people having casual meeting on the aisle
Klaus Vedfelt/ Riser/ Getty Images

Direct marketing is just what it sounds like. A marketing professional is directly reaching a market base (i.e., customers and potential customers) on a personal level (such as a phone call or via a private email message) basis, or on a mass-media basis (in the form of infomercials, magazine ads, etc.).

Direct marketing (often known for its aggressive tactics that attempt to reach new customers, usually by means of unsolicited direct communications) is often used to reach out to existing, or past, customers. A key factor in the success of any direct marketing campaign is what industry experts refer to as a "call to action." What that means is that direct marketing campaigns should offer an incentive or enticing message to get consumers to respond (i.e., act). In other words, as a direct marketer you must offer the people a benefit, whether it is money off their next purchase, a limited time cost coupon, or, for a non-profit, an invitation to an event or membership reduction.

While direct marketing involves the organization attempting to locate, contact, offer, and make incentive-based information available to consumers, there also needs to be a return-on-investment. If handing out flyers to drum up business at your newly-launched pizza parlor doesn't net more customers, it's not worth the employees time. The good thing about direct marketing is that there are so many alternatives that if one approach doesn't work, you can easily switch to another. Instead of flyers, try offering a free beverage for first-time customers and post that on your web site as well as social media sites.

Types of Direct Marketing

While the world of direct marketing is ever-evolving (in a short time span we've gone from facebook to twitter to Instagram to snap chat), there are three main types of direct marketing include:

  • Telemarketing: Direct marketing that involves calling people at home or work to ask for donations, get their opinion and support for your cause or politifal campaign, or solely for sales purposes.
  • Email Direct Marketing: This form of direct marketing targets consumers through their Email accounts. Email addresses can be harvested from websites, social media outlets, industry forums, making purchases online or purchased. Some companies require you to receive announcements in order to use their websites.
  • Direct Mail Marketing: Advertising material sent directly to your home or business though is more predominately used by non-profits. Other types of direct marketing include distributing flyers; door-to-door solicitations; curbside stands; FAX broadcasting; television marketing (i.e., infomercials); coupon ads in print media; and voice mail marketing.

Other types of direct marketing include distributing flyers; television marketing (i.e., infomercials); coupon ads used by print media as well as local businesses such as restaurants, and voice mail marketing in the form of robo calls which are recorded calls.

Does Direct Marketing Work?

That depends on how you define "work." Direct marketing does ensure people know about your business. But aggressive, misleading, or annoying direct marketing can leave people with a bad impression about your business.

Be sure to adhere to privacy and contact laws on a federal and state level because there are stiff fines and penalties for direct marketers who violate direct marketing laws.

Should I Consider Direct Marketing?

Every business owner should consider direct marketing. However, the type of direct marketing that will work for your business depends on your industry, your business ethics, and your budget.