A Brief History of Direct Marketing and Its Application For Business Owners

Most people think they know what direct response marketing is all about. When you say the words ‘direct marketing’, most people don’t even heard the word marketing. Instead, they hear the word mail, as in direct mail, junk mail, or just plain old mail marketing. But direct marketing is much more than the tangible material used to make the marketing piece. It’s a way of marketing that’s measurable, accountable, and trackable.

Direct mail has been the workhorse of the marketing world since Montgomery Ward launched its first catalog in 1872. Back then, the idea of offering a world of goods through the U.S. Postal Service was revolutionary. To our farm dwelling ancestors, for whom shopping was a three-day trip with wooden cart and horse over rough terrain, ordering coal burning stoves, ice boxes, dresses and harnesses through the Montgomery Ward, Sears, and other catalogs was a blessing.

What helped the start of the direct mail industry? The U.S. Postal system, with its ability to reach nearly anyone, anywhere, was the catalyst for the direct mail surge. The growth of mass-produced items, America’s rapid expansion and reconstruction period after the Civil War also helped fuel the rising middle class and their appetite for newer, better and more fashionable things.

Direct mail continues to rise in prominence, supported by the famous catalogs. Direct response print ads soon joined the world of direct response. Print ads captured the imagination, attention and wallets of people for decades. Direct mail letters, with their classic Johnson boxes, postscripts, and multiple inserts also made their debut in the 20th century, followed by the ubiquitous donation requests and credit card offers of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Direct response television, in the form of infomercials and commercials for products, added demonstrations of products to the direct marketing world. With the advent of cable and satellite television, channels solely devoted to direct marketing products, such as HSN (Home Shopping Network), QVC and others bring beautiful, useful products into our homes and follow all the basics of direct response marketing.

Today, the growth is online. Although initially getting a bad rap thanks to spammers worldwide who send us such gems as advertisements for medications, drugs, and sexual enhancements, email marketing is now a respected player in the world of direct response. Display advertising, surging ahead of the older banner advertising, remains a prominent means of capturing attention and click throughs, especially when it’s placed next to relevant articles and content.

The latest tool added to our direct marketing toolkit is the use of keyword searches, both natural and paid, to enhances responses and online marketing. Measurable, accountable and trackable, keyword marketing is the latest interactive marketing technique to help businesses worldwide acquire, retain and create loyal customers.

Some marketers lump social media marketing and web 2.0 technologies in with direct response marketing. While these are valid forms of online marketing and can prove quite effective, they are not pure direct response marketing. It is difficult to quantify the exact return on investment (ROI) of Twitter, Facebook, and other social marketing campaigns. It’s also nearly impossible to track responses from each so-called campaign. Social networking is more about making connections and fostering relationships. Like trade show and event marketing, it is about reaching people and starting or cultivating relationships rather than marketing activities with measurable outcomes.

Key Takeaways

This brief history of direct marketing and its current status clarifies the changing world of direct marketing. Examining the marketing mix, managers need to ask the following questions to determine if a direct response campaign is the right tool for the job:

o Will we gain by understanding exactly where our responses come from?

o Will it benefit my company more by cultivating relationships with many, or dialogues with a few?

o How will we use customer data Secure it? Manage it?

o If we gather the data from the campaigns, will we use it?

The marketing mix is often a blend of various tactics to reach many and converse with a few. Direct marketing of one type or another is usually part of the marketing mix. Deciding how much of a part is predicated upon how much one needs to cultivate actionable, measurable transactions with customers.

Direct Marketing Tools

In business, whenever you identify a new market that you know is going to be receptive and fruitful for your product and service then you also are soon faced with the problem that advertising in that market is not easy to obtain. This is due to the fact that most of the best publications are terribly expensive and it is possible that your advertisement might not appear for at least a few months.

In the face of such issues, direct marketing tools can come to your rescue. Direct marketing tools provide you with an effective way to carry out a test of the market relatively fast, at a much more reasonable cost and with convincing certainty. It would help you to determine whether this market was indeed the goldmine that you hoped it to be. You can use direct marketing tools like marketing databases that help you to generate a target list for a campaign of direct mailing. Obviously direct mail also works with the use of purchased lists. Direct marketing tools provide large companies with the capacity to go after defined markets with offers that are specialized. Apart from that, for smaller companies too using direct marketing tool has a variety of attractive advantages.

Direct marketing tool allow you to target recipients in a very precise manner. You can study your responses in far more accurate way and thus get better results that you can rely on. Direct marketing tools also give you the flexibility to build campaigns that fit your budget comfortably. Tools for direct marketing give you the edge of prompt results. In times today when marketing is becoming more and more competitive direct marketing tools can help your business get the edge that is required to realize success.

Direct Marketing For Success

A Denver direct marketing agency can create a direct marketing campaign for your business that can be customized to meet a variety of needs from small to large. Your company can benefit from database creation, data analysis, creative program execution and even maintenance. The many options for business to consumer interaction and control are endless and will benefit your business tremendously. By working with a Denver direct marketing company you may be able to take your company to a new, highly efficient level that could increase sales and revenue.

You should ensure that the Denver direct marketing company you hire has in place the best and most successful specialists that have proven track records for turning profits for small as well as large companies.

The goal of the program is, of course, to have a positive effect on your bottom line. You want to gain an edge over your competition and organize your business so that it operates like a well oiled machine. The benefit of a direct marketing campaign can be as simple as turning your expenditures into successful investments for your company.

Look for a Denver direct marketing company that has years of experience under their belt, one that can show you results it has given to companies that are like yours. You want someone who knows what customers to target, that have done the research in your field and are able to execute a plan of action that will start earning your business money right away.

Direct marketing tools can provide a way for you to interact with your customers on a higher level, develop long term relationships as well as the right campaign for creating new prospects.

The Denver direct marketing firm you hire should have a direct and responsive advertising campaign, a customer relationship management program and the ability to create databases to manage and analyze the information about your customers as well as your company.

Before you hire a Denver direct marketing campaign you should understand a few things, you need to know exactly what your goals are beforehand so you can discuss with the specialist on how to achieve them.

Decide what the goal is, what you need the direct marketing campaign to accomplish. You want to ensure that your image is created and upheld properly, so decide what type of message you would like to portray. You should decide if you are going to be marketing products or if you just want to bring awareness about your company and what it does.

Do your research. The direct marketing campaign will have the majority of the research done for you, but you should understand the basics about your customers. You need to understand what they are looking for, what they expect and what triggers them to make a purchase or use your company’s services over the competition.

Be strategic about your advertising campaigns, a good direct marketing campaign will use many pieces of marketing to create the whole picture.

Make sure that you or your company is favorable among the demographic you are targeting. You want to have something people want, otherwise no direct marketing campaign can help.

Details should never be overlooked, even the smallest. Have information on your primary contacts correct and stored in a database. This is very helpful when you are speaking to a client and if they say something like their wife is in the hospital, you can say “I Hope Glenda is feeling better”. Make it personal. Take notes!

When creating marketing materials, be sure they will be noticed. December is a bad month for delivering flyers or other mailed material; mailboxes are already overloaded, so keep your mail campaigns set aside for other months.

Whatever you do and whoever you do it with, always follow up. You never want to take for granted that you or what you said will be remembered, follow up on any conversation or contact you have to ensure you both have the details correct on the steps ahead. With marketing campaigns, do not just send out an email and expect that it is going to be answered, make a phone call, send a follow up email, make contact with your contact or they will no longer be a contact!

The Direct Marketing Star of 2009

Direct mail and websites must be consistent. Especially if the consumer receives direct mail and decides to go online to respond.

But in 2009, I think you have to identify whether it’s direct mail, or your website, that plays the starring role. Only a few years ago there was little question that direct mail was the “center of the direct marketing universe.” But I think that is rapidly changing. Online is rapidly becoming the “direct marketing center of the universe” with its unique ability to support inbound marketing efforts. Not long ago, I would have said that a website supports direct mail. Today I think direct mail supports a website. I’m not sure you can “integrate” direct mail and your website, but there certainly must be continuity and consistency of offers.

That having been said, demographics of your customers must be considered. The parents of Baby Boomers tend to be readers and, I believe, will continue to read direct mail. They aren’t known to be web-savvy so they may rarely consider using the web to conduct additional research and transact business.

Baby Boomers are more likely to blend direct mail and the online experience. But I think there should be a huge concern to anyone using direct mail who is pushing response to a website. When a consumer reads direct mail, and you point her to your website, she might research other offers for identical products using keywords and key phrases that organically bring up competitive offers. If the direct mail offer didn’t sell her on doing business with you, she might find a competitor online, who has optimized their website, and get a better deal than you were offering. Which begs the question: if you are using direct mail, do you really want your customer to go online when they can be so easily distracted, and through organic search easily find and buy from your competition?

And the younger the individual, in their 20s and 30s, the more likely the web is where they go for community, social interaction, shopping, and entertainment, and research before they buy something offline. Any of us with teenagers or twenty-somethings see them mostly ignoring direct mail-and even e-mail solicitations. All they need comes from a computer screen, speaker and keyboard or, more and more, their cell phone they’re using for texting and surfing the Web.

Online search, cutting across most age groups, is where the marketing action is to find your website. If your website isn’t optimized, you might as well not exist. If you’re not capturing email addresses for email marketing, you’re leaving money on the table. If you’re not adding content every week, your organic website rankings will slowly sink. If you’re not thinking mobile technology, you’re missing lots of young people. If you want to keep your customer or donor plugged into your company, you need to do so with blogs and social media. And by all means, get Google Analytics tracking what’s happening on your website so you can see your results. It’s amazingly sophisticated and useful in its reporting, and it’s free.

The rules of direct marketing engagement have shifted. While direct mail and websites can, and must, co-exist, their roles are different today as consumers migrate more and more online. The economics of marketing online, and the desire of consumers to do business online, have, in my opinion, permanently shifted how we will market this year and beyond. It’s less and less of us pushing our wares to consumers and businesses. It’s more and more consumers and business searching for what they want, and that means as marketers it’s essential to get smart quickly about inbound marketing methods-positioning ourselves to be found-and the online experience.

Direct marketers that don’t recognize this fundamental shift now risk lagging behind when the economy perks back up. It takes months, even years, for search engine optimization techniques to grab a foothold. And, tomorrow’s strategies may be different from today’s, as that world is evolving quickly. So your challenge as a direct marketer is how to manage that shift so you retain your position in the marketplace and not let it be eroded by some smart Internet-savvy upstart who outmaneuvers you.