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Why direct marketing will never die…and how direct marketing best practices are applied to many different channels

Posted by Sheera Eby on February 25, 2014

I’d argue that direct marketing is more alive now than ever. The core principles of direct marketing are being used across a number of different channels, especially digital channels.

It seems that direct marketing is often misunderstood. Many people equate direct marketing with direct mail. Direct marketing is actually a set of tools and techniques that use targeted communications to drive measurable response and action.

Direct marketing best practices can be applied to a number of different channels to improve response and action. Here are 7 key attributes that define direct marketing. We’ve demonstrated how these direct marketing best practices can be applied to a number of different channels. You can judge for yourself whether direct marketing is dead or very much alive and kicking.

1. Offer or incentive is incorporated and used as a motivator.
Regardless of which channels you are using within your marketing mix, incorporating an offer or incentive will drive more response. A core direct marketing best practice that spans channels is the application of offers and incentives. Limited-time offers are a useful device for email, content marketing, landing pages, digital lead generation and any other channel that is focused on generating an action.

There are a number of ways you can improve your chance of success in designing your incentive or offer. Direct marketing best practices dictate that an offer is focused on motivating a specific action. One of the core attributes of an effective incentive is offering something that will motivate the recipient to sign up or take the desired action. It should be clear that in order to receive the offer, the recipient must take an action. See my article, Attributes that define a good or bad offer, for more on best practices in designing offers and incentives.

2. Every communication includes a call-to-action.
All communications work better with calls-to-action. A direct marketing practice is to ensure a perceived sense of urgency. Urgency needs to be tied directly to signing up or taking the action requested.

Digital banner ads, content marketing pages, email and other communication all work harder with a defined and requested action. Incorporating an action takes a communication touch point that might be considered awareness-oriented and transforms it into response-oriented. A call-to-action can be as strong as “enroll now” or more lead generating such as “learn more or get more information.” The core direct marketing best practice is to ensure your call-to-action ties directly to the objectives.

3. Expiration dates are incorporated into communications.
One of the fundamental proven direct marketing best practices is to provide an expiration date. Why would someone act now when procrastinating is so much easier? If the offer doesn’t have an end date, it simply won’t be as effective. Due dates are a critical element in response marketing. An expiration date ensures recipients know when they need to take action or risk not being able to take advantage of that offer.

4. Measurement is a requirement.
Direct marketing was founded on the principle of measurement. One of the key attributes of direct marketing is to ensure a mechanism to measure results. The principle of measurement is now fundamental in most of marketing. Digital marketing channels have made measurement more accessible and efficient. The momentum behind measurement is one of the main reasons we believe direct marketing and its applications are stronger than ever.

5. Inclusion of multiple calls-to-actions.
Digital media, and the sheer number of messages that people are targeted with, underscores the urgency in making response easy for the user. A standard direct marketing best practice is to provide a call-to-action multiple times within the communication. The proliferation of digital media reinforces the need for multiple points of access and ease to get the user to the next step.

6. Everyone is on overload; relevancy is now king.
The average person gets 9,000 emails a year, and that number is conservative for many of us.1 Digital media has increased the number of messages that inundate prospects and customers, further underscoring the need for relevancy and personalization. Direct marketing best practices dictate that communications be delivered in the most relevant and meaningful manner.

Today, relevancy is the only hope marketers have to get users’ attention and their response. J&C has conducted several communication preference research studies. And we have universally found that customers prefer and have come to expect personalized communications. Furthermore, tests show that personalized information, including personalized URLs (PURLs), empower and reinforce your communications.

7. Targeting and segmentation enable relevancy.
A direct marketing best practice is to leverage segmentation and targeting to improve relevancy. Generic communications that are mass-oriented aren’t employing direct or any form of response marketing. Personalization and relevancy are two cornerstones of direct marketing. Direct marketing learnings demonstrate that communications with personalization and relevancy are significantly more effective and produce superior results compared with communications without meaningful and accurate personalization.

Predictive modeling and other targeting techniques help ensure optimal spending of marketing dollars. By leveraging these techniques, marketers can increase efficiency and eliminate waste. This is a fundamental direct marketing best practice and an important distinction from general market advertising. If you are emailing or direct mailing to your entire universe, leverage predictive modeling to focus your marketing dollars more effectively.



This article demonstrates that direct marketing principles apply to a number of different channels. Do you believe your communications are optimized for response? Do you feel your communications could be more response and direct marketing oriented? Sign up for our webinar: Improving Performance and Optimizing Your Communications.


1. Lyris

Topics: Direct Marketing, Best Practices

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