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A direct marketing primer for the beginner

Posted by Tom Power on September 24, 2014

If the title of this blog post prompted you to click and read more, you’re most likely either new to marketing in general or eager to add a new arrow to your marketing quiver. In either case, learning about the basics of direct marketing can help you get started quickly and on the right foot.

To begin with, despite what you may have heard, direct marketing is more than just direct mail. While its roots are in traditional mail order, direct marketing has grown beyond that to encompass a host of new technologies, customer relationship-building techniques and performance measures. Today, companies of all kinds use direct marketing, which now accounts for 25% of the U.S. marketer’s budget, surpassing newspapers and broadcast TV.1 Some might even argue that digital media is really direct marketing, increasing this number even more.

By applying direct marketing’s proven principles, you can personalize communications for your prospects and keep in step with your current customers’ evolving needs. The following direct marketing best practices can help you get over newbie jitters and knock your marketing efforts out of the park.

1. Deliver a strong offer.
If your offer is personalized and relevant, you can earn better response rates. The offer can be applied via email, content marketing, promotional landing pages, in-store displays, and print and digital catalogs — basically everything from traditional print to mobile apps.

The offer should also be clear and concise. According to the Customer Relationship Management Trends online community2, the offer is more attractive if it:

  • Fulfills a need
  • Has good perceived value vs. competitors
  • Is practical or unique
  • Is appropriate for the customer
  • Is clearly connected with the brand

2. Make your message relevant.
A study completed by Accenture Interactive and AYTM Market Research found that 60% of marketing is untargeted and irrelevant.3 That should be no surprise to you if you give your email inbox a cursory glance now and then. In fact, the average person receives 9,000 emails per year.4 All those messages can’t be personalized and all that clutter can be easily correlated with wasted marketing dollars.

Jacobs & Clevenger has conducted both in-market testing and research, and the findings are clear: Customers prefer and respond better to personalized communications. This includes everything from:

  • Personalized greetings
  • Personalized information (e.g., the car you own)
  • Personalized URLs
  • Personalized messages referencing your locale (town, city, state)
  • Personalized offers (not one-size-fits-all giveaways)

Improve relevancy one segment at a time. If your communications are meant to reach a wide audience, make sure you can use all the audience data available to tailor your messages. What works for a tween early adopter of technology won’t ring true for a middle-aged business owner. Take the time to study your audience, figure out what makes them tick and design communications that are as relevant as possible (from each message and call-to-action to the dimensions of an envelope window and web banner).

You can craft customer personas to better understand your audience or create a working model to help predict the probability of an outcome for your direct marketing efforts. Predictive modeling is a great direct marketing technique to help you spend your dollars more effectively, whether you are sending out emails or printed mailing packages to your database audience. And when it comes to databases, the right investment there can make a huge difference in reaching qualified leads and increasing response rates.

3. Create a clear call-to-action.
Your call-to-action needs to clearly state what customers need to do. Show customers how to sign up, check in or take some kind of action. An end or expiration date related to the offer helps get the message across: Acting now is much better than letting the offer slip away, no matter how much customers may like to procrastinate.

On top of that, a call-to-action has to map back to your marketing objective. Want more people to sign up? “Enroll now” is an appropriate call-to-action. Do you want to generate leads and provide engaging content? Try something like “Learn how product/service will help.” Straightforward messages make a difference. Given that digital communications let customers browse and engage as they please, strategically repeating the call-to-action is also a sound practice when producing digital deliverables.

4. Measure the response.
Look at every channel as an opportunity to spread your message AND measure results. Digital direct marketing is ahead of the curve when it comes to measurement. While direct mail’s response devices and business reply cards are still used to good effect, the advent of digital marketing has made measurement much more immediate, accessible and efficient.

Once you know how well your marketing efforts are performing, you can tell if you are on your way to reaching your goals. If they’re not working well, you may want to test alternative solutions and measure again. Test, measure, evolve and repeat. That way you can stay relevant to your audience.

New webinar. Techniques to optimize your communications to drive action. Sign up now. To maximize these best practices, we recommend you work with an experienced partner. Contact Jacobs & Clevenger to leverage decades of direct marketing and digital experience. And to enhance your communications and increase response rates, sign up for our free webinar: Improving Performance and Optimizing Your Communications.


Topics: Direct Marketing

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