Direct marketing is a sub-discipline and type of marketing that allows businesses and marketers to communicate directly to the customers. There are two main characteristics which distinguish it from other types of marketing.
It attempts to send its messages directly to consumers, without the use of intervening media.
It is focused on driving purchases that can be attributed to a specific “call-to-action.” This aspect of direct marketing involves an emphasis on trackable, measurable results regardless of medium.
The term “direct marketing” is believed to have been first used in 1961 in a speech by Lester Wunderman, who pioneered direct marketing techniques with brands such as American Express and Columbia Records.
Direct marketing has now become very popular among the big as well as small companies due to its direct approach. A properly executed direct marketing plan can become very much effective as it clearly shows the number of potential customers responded to the direct campaigns.
Direct Marketing Methods
The following methods or mediums are mainly used for direct marketing to connect directly with all the customers. Any medium that can be used to communicate to a customer can be used in direct marketing.
1. Business to Consumer (B2C)
The most commonly used medium for direct marketing, in which marketing communications are sent to customers using the postal services. Trial magazines, prospect of colleges along with the application form, pre-approved loan application forms are mailed to homes and business in order to communicate directly with the customers.
The term “junk” refers when someone receives an item of mail that is not targeted or relevant to them. Bulk mailings are a particularly popular method of advertising or marketing used by marketers for financial services, travel and tourism, home product and education sectors.
Here Emails are sent to a bunch of mail ids to communicate or connect with them. In most of the cases, the email list contains almost same types of customers. Here all the product and promotional details are specified in the mails for which the responses can also be tracked very easily. Email marketing is also an efficient medium to reach a huge number of customers within a very short period time at a very low cost.
Other Popular methods of direct marketing are
Online Ads – Used by different companies to connect to online users by posting advertisement on internet. Easy way to connect to a particular customer segment by placing the ads on the sites which they visit the most. Also easier to check the reach by analyzing the click and response of the customers.
Social networking sites – Marketers use this media to reach to a huge number of customers within a very short time. Mainly used to spread awareness for either a brand or new event. Facebook is being used for the same nowadays where we can easily identify the popularity by checking the number of likes and user participation on the page.
Mobile SMS – Used by different bulk SMS services provider or different local search engines like Just Dial to market about different products. Sometimes banks and mobile operators add descriptions of their new products in the necessary informational SMSs they sent to their customer.
Tele-calling – Tele calling team does cold calling to customers to connect with them and identify the potential customers
Voice Mails – Used by different businesses or companies to market about their product through IVR system
Coupon Services – Used by different discount providers and food coupon providers like Sodexo
2. Business to Business (B2B)
Business products and services have long used direct mail to promote themselves. Traditionally, this is done using any of the two ways.
Direct sale uses a salesperson in a retail store to directly market a product. Retail store direct marketing is mainly suitable for products that are easy to sell and consumers are familiar with the details of the product.
Direct salesmen are used for products where Door-to-door communication and proper demonstration is required. Eureka Forbes used the same technique to sell its Aqua guards. Here salesman goes to individual households and provides complete demo of the product and there is a scope for detail interaction with the customer.
Advantages of Direct Marketing
Measurable – Its effectiveness can be measured directly. For example, if a marketer sends out one million solicitations by mail, and ten thousand customers can be tracked as having responded to the promotion, the marketer can say with some confidence that the campaign led directly to the responses.
Targeting – The most important aspect of direct mail was its ability to precisely target previous customers. If a suitable list was available, it could do a good job of targeting prospects.
Personalization – Direct mail can address the customer personally and be tailored to their needs based on previous transactions and gathered data.
Optimization – Because of its direct accountability, direct mail can be tested to find the best list; the best offer; the best timing (and many other factors). Then the winning tests can be rolled out to a wider audience for optimal results.
Analysis – The bulk mailing is large enough to allow statistical analyses. These enable better selection of offers and lists for future mailings.
Accumulation – Responses (and non-responses) can be added to the database, allowing future mailings to be better targeted.
Cost – Cost is lower compared to other popular advertising medium like Newspaper, TV channel etc. Use of Cloud computing and latest Email/SMS services have made it cheaper compared to other mediums.
Disadvantages of Direct Mail
Direct mail leads to “junk mail” or “Spam Mail” which can annoy the customers and the recipients of the email.
There can be huge waste for direct marketing through postal services
Repeated email about one product can irritate or annoy the customer which can backfire for the marketers
Encourages hacking and breach to privacy as email addresses and mobile numbers become important for the marketers
Legislation Regarding Direct Marketing
Direct telemarketing or direct promotional SMSs have been banned in some countries including USA and India for customers who register their names in the Do-not-Call list. For Emails, there is no such restriction as of now but it is very much lower effective direct marketing medium compared to Mobile SMS or telemarketing.