Direct marketing involves selling directly to the customer, bypassing distribution channels and other intermediaries. The marketing principles are the same as in traditional marketing: the product must fill a need; the market must be segmented by geography, income and other factors; and there must be adequate after-sales service and support. Direct marketing tools include advertising, database, Internet marketing and telephone marketing.
Advertising creates awareness and builds brand name recognition. It can pull in customers to physical or online stores. Direct marketing is a form of push advertising that uses fliers, coupons, direct mail, email, social media, television infomercials with callback numbers, telemarketing and door-to-door visits to bring products and services directly to customers.
A database of names and contact information of individuals and businesses is probably the most important direct marketing tool because direct marketing requires direct business-to-customer contact. Businesses can create their own database by compiling a list of clients who visit their stores or buy online, by harvesting email addresses of visitors who have signed up to receive product information or company news by email and by using business directories available from chambers of commerce and other resources. Businesses also can use the service of mailing list vendors.
The Internet is an important direct marketing tool because of its ease of use, low advertising costs and ability to reach a worldwide market. Email remains the primary vehicle for delivering personalized marketing messages directly to individuals and businesses. Social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, complement email marketing because it drives marketing relationships with potential customers. Social media can connect a business with new fans and followers who then can be converted into customers using a direct email marketing campaign.
Telemarketing is a cost-effective direct marketing tool for businesses. Call lists are prepared from telephone and cell phone directories, and an automated system dials the numbers in random order. Using scripts, the callers typically try to sell products or services, such as cell phone plans or cable subscriptions, or build product awareness and demand -- for example, inquiring whether the person answering the call has seen ads for a particular drug and is aware of its potential benefits.
Marketing is subject to certain rules and regulations. Commercial telemarketers are regulated by federal and state laws that establish curfews, do-not-call lists and other requirements aimed at protecting consumer privacy. Unwanted email or spam is a major issue with Internet advertising. Federal and state governments have passed laws that attempt to protect consumer privacy and ensure fair and truthful online advertising practices.
- Business.gov: Getting Started with Email Marketing: “The Most Powerful Tool in Your Relationship-Building Toolbox”; Caron Beesley; January 2010
- Entrepreneur: E-mail Marketing Still Works; Gail Goodman; July 2009
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Telemarketing Laws
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Online Business Law
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