What Is Consumer Direct Marketing?

by Andra Picincu ; Updated November 21, 2018
Junk mail

In 2016, more than 121.2 billion pieces of mail were sent to U.S. households. Around 79 million included advertisements and other marketing materials. Over 70 percent of recipients usually scan or read some of the direct mail marketing materials, and this is just a small part of direct marketing. No matter your niche or type of business, you can reach out to customers through mail advertising, TV and newspaper ads, brochures, flyers and more. These strategies work best when companies use targeted lists of potential and existing clients.

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  • Customer direct marketing involves promoting your goods and services directly to the target audience. This advertising method can take various forms, such as direct mail, email, TV and radio ads, telemarketing and couponing.

What Is Consumer Direct Marketing?

Customer direct marketing or direct-to-consumer marketing is a form of advertising that involves promoting your goods or services directly to your target audience. Companies can send out direct mail, product samples, bundles and kits, catalogs and text messages. Their goal is to persuade customers to take action. Customer examples include stay-at-home moms, cooking enthusiasts, retirees, tech aficionados, students and anyone who might be interested in what you have to offer.

Decades ago, this advertising method was limited to physical marketing materials, such as leaflets, catalogs and brochures. Modern technology has changed everything. Today, consumer direct marketing companies and business owners can leverage the internet to reach their target audience. For example, you're using this form of advertising every time you promote your services on Facebook and other social networks or when you send promotional emails to your clients.

Despite the proliferation of digital advertising, direct mail is still one of the most popular forms of customer direct marketing. In a survey, 42 percent of respondents said that they read catalogs received in the mail. Approximately 36 percent of customers age 18 to 49 and 56 percent of those over age 65 look forward to checking their mail every day. More than 22 percent of Americans feel positive about receiving advertising cards and flyers by mail.

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Other popular direct advertising methods are email marketing, social media and display ads. Email, for example, has a 122 percent return on investment, which is four times higher than other marketing channels, including social media.

Customer direct marketing can take your business to the next level and help you expand your reach. When done right, it will strengthen your brand and increase sales. It not only allows you to connect with new customers but also helps engage your existing clients and keeps them informed about your latest offers and events.

Before getting started, make sure you understand its benefits and drawbacks. This advertising method has its shortcomings as well. Plus, it requires a deep understanding of the market and customer preferences.

Direct Marketing Examples and Benefits

This form of advertising allows you to send specific messages to your target audience based on their age, location, income, purchase behavior and other criteria. The more you know about your prospects and existing customers, the higher your success rate. Furthermore, you can customize your marketing materials for each group of customers.

For example, if a customer regularly purchases protein bars from your website, you can send him email reminders and discounts on his favorite products. A company that operates in two different cities can personalize its flyers and brochures based on the customer's location. You can also send out surveys to learn more about your audience and then tailor your marketing message to meet their individual needs.

Customer direct marketing also gives you control over the costs of your campaigns. You can spend as much or as little as you wish. Email marketing, for instance, makes it easy to reach hundreds or thousands of customers without breaking the wallet. All you need to do is sign up on Mailchimp, AWeber, GetResponse, Constant Contact and other online platforms, import your contacts and place a subscription form on your website and social media pages. Most services include a free trial and different plans for small businesses, enterprises and marketing professionals. They also feature ready-made templates and subscription forms, so you can start sending out promo emails and newsletters right away.

Companies can also give away coupons to generate sales and turn prospects into buyers. Groupon, for instance, has 49.3 million active customers. More than 1 million vendors have been using this platform since 2008. Local businesses earned over $20 billion thanks to it. This service has a 91 percent customer satisfaction rate and sold nearly 1.5 billion coupons over the years.

Imagine that you own a wellness salon. Consider offering coupons on Groupon to help customers save money on body wraps, spa treatments, manicures and other services. This will allow you to reach people who may not be familiar with your business. They'll have a chance to see what you have to offer and try your services for less. If they're happy with the result, they'll come back and pay the full price. Plus, couponing is a great way to reward loyal clients and promote new services.

Couponing platforms typically charge a commission for each sale. By using them, you'll reach more customers than you would when giving away coupons on your website or in your store. This direct marketing business model can improve customer loyalty and retention, increase engagement rates and generate buzz about your brand. However, be aware that offering coupons too often will devalue your services in the eyes of the customer.

Other direct marketing examples include direct sales, billboards, promotional merchandise, telemarketing, mobile marketing, display ads and more. Choosing one over another depends on your budget and goals. Display advertising, for example, makes it easier to customize your message and measure the results of your campaign. From this perspective, it's more effective than direct mail or TV advertising. With display ads, companies can build brand awareness and target the right customers at the right time on the right platforms. This marketing strategy provides targeting options that are not available through other channels.

Drawbacks of Customer Direct Marketing

Depending on the marketing strategy used, your campaign may or may not succeed. Many customers find direct mail and telemarketing intrusive. Some won't even open your emails. Plus, it can be difficult to make your message stand out when you're in a competitive niche, such as clothing, electronics or diet foods.

Another problem is that the customer data you hold may be outdated, so your emails, phone calls and marketing materials will never reach the recipient. Your customers could relocate to another city or state, change their phone number or switch to a new email account. Furthermore, they may access your website from multiple devices, making it difficult to track their preferences and purchase behavior.

Globally, the number of connected devices per user is expected to reach 6.5 by 2020. This means that a customer may click your ad and access your website from his desktop computer during lunch break, check it again from his smartphone later in the day and place an order from his laptop before bedtime. Unless he is registered on your site, you won’t be able to track his journey and determine the actual results of your campaign.

The laws regarding customer privacy and data protection only make things worse. If you're targeting European Union customers, for example, you cannot reach out to them unless they gave you permission.

Research direct marketing examples so you can determine what works best for your audience. Make sure your messages are relevant and include a strong call to action. Take the time to learn more about your customers' needs and wants and then adjust your marketing efforts accordingly.

About the Author

Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over 10 years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness. She holds a BA in Marketing and International Business and a BA in Psychology. Over the past decade, she has turned her passion for marketing and writing into a successful business with an international audience. Current and former clients include The HOTH, Bisnode Sverige, Nutracelle, CLICK - The Coffee Lover's Protein Drink, InstaCuppa, Marketgoo, GoHarvey, Internet Brands, and more. In her daily life, Ms. Picincu provides digital marketing consulting and copywriting services. Her goal is to help businesses understand and reach their target audience in new, creative ways.

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