Definition

direct marketing

Contributor(s): Karolina Kiwak

Direct marketing is a type of advertising campaign that seeks to elicit an action (such as an order, a visit to a store or website or a request for further information) from a selected group of consumers in response to communication from a marketer. The communication itself may be in any of a variety of formats, including postal mail, telemarketing, direct email marketing and point-of-sale interactions. Customer responses should be measurable: For example, the marketer should be able to determine whether or not a customer offered a discount for online shopping takes advantage of the offer.

History of direct marketing

Direct marketing was initially started by Montgomery Ward in the 19th century. Ward pioneered mail order catalogues in 1872 for his mail order business. With this move, Ward succeeded in removing the middleman and benefiting the customer by being able to reduce prices.

The term "direct marketing" was coined in 1967 by Lester Wunderman. Wunderman is considered the father of contemporary direct marketing and is the man behind the creation of the toll-free 1-800 number, as well as many other customer loyalty programs.

Challenges and solutions for direct marketing

One of the main challenges that comes with direct marketing is overcoming the image of junk or spam mail/email, which can result in ineffective and costly campaigns. In order to minimize frustration, companies can use opt-out lists or utilize a preference list that allows customers to have more control over what they receive in the mail. Another solution is creating a targeted campaign with an accurate database, which also helps reduce advertising budget waste.

Direct marketing channels

The following are the most common forms of direct marketing channels:

  • Email marketing
  • Online tools
  • Mobile
  • Voicemail marketing
  • Direct mail
  • Insert mail
  • Couponing
  • Telemarketing
  • Direct response marketing
  • Direct selling
  • Grassroots/community marketing

Effective audience for direct marketing

The most effective customers for direct marketing are customers that have opted into mailing lists or have expressed interest in a company's products. However, nontargeted blank mailings are also acted upon at a high percentage.

This was last updated in October 2016

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