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What is Direct Marketing? That's a question we get asked a lot here at Leaflet Distribution Team.

There are many varieties of marketing types and strategies and they often crossover multiple types at once because of the choices involved.

In this article we will discuss the umbrella term of ‘direct marketing’ and how it can be successfully employed as part of your advertising campaign.

What is Direct Marketing?

Direct marketing is the broad term for any sales pitch involving direct contact with a customer as opposed to other businesses.

For example, advertising in a newspaper is not direct marketing, but handing out leaflets or email campaigns is direct marketing.

Most advertising is considered direct marketing because it is attempting to create a personal emotional connection between a customer and the brand, and it covers both digital and traditional advertising.

There is no intermediary such as an advertising company to create the advert for you.

Direct marketing has a great number of benefits because of the emotional connection the marketing campaign seeks to establish with a customer.

However, there are right and wrong ways to go about a direct marketing campaign. Here we will list the reasons a company should engage in direct marketing, and later we will discuss some common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

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Advantages of Direct Marketing

1. Has a targeted audience

In all cases of successful direct marketing, it has been because the customer has been selected based upon pre-existing criteria.

It would be of no use to advertise your local food delivery service one hundred miles away as it would be outside of your catchment zone.

People who frequent social media sights will receive ads based in information derived from what they read, what they like, dislike, comments and the people or things they have followed.

Click-through rates or similar positive responses will be higher if the marketing is directed at a specific audience.

2. Engages with the customer

Much of direct marketing involves a call to action; to click a link, to buy a product, to call a phone number.

People are often encouraged by direct appeals for their attention, which is why charity adverts tend to attack the emotions of the viewer or reader.

In these cases, they interact with a person’s natural tendency toward empathy, but in general cases of advertising, it is best to appeal to an anticipated need, curiosity or even pride.

Any response is a positive indicator of interest and their data can be used for future campaigns even if they do not buy something on their first visit.

3. Cost effective

Subsequently, your marketing budget will become more effective because you have already selected a group who is more likely to buy your service or product. There will be a higher return on investment, since the likelihood of making a sale to someone on a carefully selected list of criteria. 

4. Often measurable

Direct marketing usually employs a way to give feedback, or can otherwise be assessed for effectiveness. For e-mail, phone, physical copy or coupons you can track the number of people who unsubscribe or click through links to your products or website.

Tracking may be best effective with coupons as you will be able to see a direct impact on whether or not your campaign has an immediate effect, see which deals and services are most used and exactly who is using them.

5. Opt-in choices

Any person who joins an optional subscription service such as an e-mail or catalogue subscription is already telling your business that they would like to buy your product if you can find a way to sell it to them.

The list of people who opt into your marketing strategies is a prime candidate for becoming a future repeat customer.

Types of Direct Marketing

1. Brochures, catalogues, leaflets and flyers

These forms of direct marketing have a physical component; namely, the leaflet/brochure etc. and can provide a memorable, tangible reminder of your business and its services.

This form of direct marketing can further be broken down into active and passive advertising. The most effect of which is active marketing because it provides face-to-face interaction with potential customers. 

2. Newsletters

Newsletters can be physical or digital, and we will cover both in broad strokes. Newsletters are often based off of a subscription or opt-in service, and as such as sent to people who are likely to be interested in the content.

This is not always true, as some newsletters may be location based services instead, but either way, the newsletters are most sent to a specific audience the company has in mind.

Newsletters can also be based on school or company affiliations to encourage brand loyalty. These companies may sell your information to other companies in order to increase intra-brand co-operation and benefit one another.

This is not the most ethical method of marketing, but it can be useful. If the data is shared consensually, then there should be no concern about unwanted soliciting.

3. Coupons

Coupons and similar codes are best used for a limited time frame such as a spring sale or for locally based businesses. A restaurant can advertise online or via leaflets and publicise their business through offering rewards for becoming a customer or a repeat customer.

This has the benefit of both a temporary sales boost as special offers will encourage people to take a risk on something they would not usually purchase, and bringing the company to a wider audience.

They may become loyal customers if you provide a great service or unique experience to them.

4. e-mail

This form of advertising is contentious for much the same way as newsletters can be: you may not have consented to receive mail from this company.

If an e-mail based form of direct marketing is employed, it should only be used for those who have either signed up for the service or those who have freely consented to their data being shared with other companies.

At its worst, improperly used e-mail advertising will only garner a negative reputation as a possible scam company or for excessive spamming.

Most people are all too willing to block an e-mail address or unsubscribe from unwanted e-mails because there is often little personal connection between the company and the customer.

However, this tends to apply only to unsolicited contact. If someone has elected to join your e-mail subscription, they have admitted their interest in you and your products.

5. Targeted online display ads

These are often unreliable even if they are targeted. Ads are frequently determined based on information gathered from other sources, and it has lead to internet users being generally wary of any and all advertising.

It is also relatively easy for people to evade your advertising campaign through ad-blockers, deleting history, location and key demographic trackers or declining for their information to be shared.

In addition, ads based on something as generic as location will not necessarily reach your target audience either as it will have to vie with other ads with higher budgets for more space and time.

6. Phone calls

Telemarketing has such a poor reputation that we would actively advise against any form of telemarketing except in a very few situations.

In all of these cases the business must be local and ideally known to the community as a profitable enterprise.

7. Text messages

Again, the best way to use text messages is if your customer has already contacted you by phone and expressed an interest in further communication with you. As with e-mail and telemarketing, we advise against unsolicited contact as it seldom provides any viable leads for your business.

Direct Marketing Strategies

Direct marketing is the most profitable venture for local businesses running on a limited budget because it increases the likelihood of successful sales, so every business should engage in at least one form of direct marketing.

The cheapest options would involve opt-in services, and this may be the best strategy for independent shops or service providers as it is a way to directly inform customers old and new of sales, updates to the business or new products being released shortly.

Opt-in services can also be used to survey customers to see what direction the business should be taken in response to customer feedback and interests.

When engaging in direct marketing, time should be considered as a major part of the campaign. Many small businesses may not find it worth the time or money to call (or cold call) potential customers in order to make sales pitches that may not work.

Conversely, automated systems all too often run the risk of instant deletion without the e-mail, newsletter or message being read.

A happy medium would be something like leaflet marketing or strategies involving the creation of a physical product.

Coupons, leaflets, flyers and newsletters will be a more concrete reminder that your business exists as a viable alternative to other options.

Leaflets are among the cheapest forms of advertising in general once the possibility of domain name fees, hosting fees and other digital costs are taken into account, and it is the best way to make your name known locally without attaching any overt negative reactions to it.

Regardless of the eventual end product of your campaign, you must assess it in a three-part system. First, who are your marketing too? Be as precise as possible.

It is not enough to target millennials or dog owners or home owners; the potential audience is too big. Target employed millennials in your local area who have an interest in live music.

Target dog owners who travel often and need someone to care for their anxious pet in a safe environment.

With our first example, you will be able to refine distribution time to evenings and weekends, to local shops and large centres of employment and other businesses known for having live music or being linked to music or performance in some fashion.

Though it may seem like you are being too specific and reducing your potential audience too much, consider instead that by doing this you are increasing the chances of making a sale through a careful selection process.

Second, what message do you want to create? How precisely can you tailor it to appeal to as many people as possible without losing a personalised touch? If you have been careful selecting your market you can include problems or wants that you know your demographic has.

If you have obtained their data or contact information from another source, consider using that knowledge to customised e-mails or newsletters directly to them without having to rewrite sales copy repeatedly.

Finally, which media will you use? It is always best to take a blended approach in order to gain new customers outside of your original target audience.

The advantages and disadvantages of each media at your disposal should be weighed carefully against one another and the best two options selected.

We suggest using a form of direct active marketing and direct passive marketing as it is a good way to spread knowledge of your company, but also make direct contact with individuals who are more likely to engage your business.

Creating your own marketing campaign is something small or local businesses do every day, but because the scope of their marketing is frequently small and usually targeted alongside that, they do not see that the tactics they are using are the same as ones used by large advertising companies.

As long as you keep your intended audience firmly in mind whilst creating your leaflets or other advertising material, you will be able to maintain a successful business.

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