The Basics of Direct Marketing



Where advertising is general (though it can be targeted somewhat), direct communications are straight from you to your intended recipient. It is a technique that means you put your message right in front of the person you want to speak to whether that’s:

  • in their email inbox,

  • on their doorstep,

  • even when they log into their account on your website.

Think of newspaper advertising, this is a much more general, wide-reaching form of advertisement. Your message in a print ad will be seen by a mass of people and it has to recognise the fact that it will be seen by all sorts of people. Direct marketing, however, is when you are communicating with someone in their bubble, where you can be laser focused with your message. It is traditionally understood as direct mail, putting envelopes and self-mailers through letterboxes. These days there are many more channels, email, SMS, account management messaging, etc. If you are engaging in a 1 to 1 communication, it is direct marketing.

With modern technology, you can personalise the content in your communications. Targeting helps you to focus on the right people, personalisation helps you to communicate in ways that really engage your recipients, which in turn improves results.

Costs can vary. For example, the unit costs of email campaigns are significantly cheaper than postal campaigns. That doesn't mean they will be as effective though, as mail has a much higher engagement rate and stays with the recipient for days, meaning the dwell time on your brand and message is significantly higher than the easily deleted email.

Different techniques have different advantages and disadvantages, but what all direct communications methods have in common is their ability to allow you as a business to speak to your customers as though you are face to face and engage them with messages that mean something specifically to them. It is also worth saying that using a variety of both direct marketing and other marketing channels together can help to deliver a greater experience and drive more positive behaviour.


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