What is direct marketing?

Posted by David Arnoux

What is direct marketing?

In this article we'll answer the question "what is direct marketing?"

Let's start with a super simple definition:

"Direct marketing is when a company, product, service or organisation connects directly with the end user"

Direct marketing usually applies to product and service oriented companies, as well as to non-profit organisations. Direct marketing describes any form of direct communication with and end user or customer as opposed to it's counterpart "mass marketing" which aims to cast a wide net. The Wall Street Journal recently argued that mass marketing will eventually die. The most efficient direct marketing occurs when there is an obvious direct and frictionless effort to reach the target audience. Organisations might use different ways to leverage direct marketing by adapting how they speak with and deliver products to each segment of customers based on their different needs, demographics and behaviours. This might include utilising a primary sales force, adapted catalogues, web sites, customised emails, personalised mail, telemarketing, workshops, trade fairs, along with other one-to one techniques to speak and sell to their clients and customers.

A brief history of direct marketing

The most conventional example of direct marketing is when your in-house sales team individually contacts prospective and established customers via direct mail. Direct mail is described as sending details about a special offer, item or sales statement, service indication, or various other forms of communication to an individual at his/her physical address.

Historically direct mail has existed in the shape of printed materials, but Compact Disc, audio tapes, video tapes, fax email, e-mail, and voice mail were utilized in direct mail campaigns. Rewind a few years back and America Online experienced an extremely successful campaign through mailing out CD ROMs to potential customers. Feels like a pre-historic tactic right? But the same rules apply today as direct mail permitted high target audience selectivity, it may be personalised, it's flexible, and it allows early testing of reactions to take place. An extremely selective and accurate email list frequently determines the success of direct mail attempts to improve response rates and control costs.

What's happening now?

Recently a lot of direct marketing methods have grown, especially with the growth of digital marketing. There is evidence that digital marketing has slowly driven the decline of physical direct marketing strategies such as direct mail. The Internet has revolutionised direct advertising for boosting the way we sell products and services to focused audiences.

growth of digital direct marketing


These are some of the targeting possibilities on some one the world's most used digital ad platforms.

direct marketing via social media

(source: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-to-build-a-better-target-audience-for-your-facebook-ads/)


The Web makes direct marketing simpler, more targeted, more adaptable, more reactive, more affordable, and possibly more rewarding than ever before. Every business must really contemplate the Web as a part of their advertising mix and determine if it's a valid measure for their direct marketing efforts to ensure growth.

In order to test these new methods of direct marketing we believe the futures lies in building growth teams within organisations whose main role is to test new channels. We describe what a growth team is and how to build one in this article.


Written by David Arnoux