The Prescription for Direct Marketing Success
By Alan Bayham
comes to advertising their company, most small business owners rely
on a handful of resources: a sign on the door front, a phone book ad
and merchandise bags with their company’s name and logo. A few go a
step further and dabble in radio, local television and newspaper
ads, but their efforts are typically inconsistent and they neglect
to measure the ads’ effectiveness. No wonder so many small
businesses feel they can’t compete with the big national chains.
However, by employing some simple direct marketing strategies, you
can attract more customers and enjoy the long-term business growth
wait a minute,” you may be thinking, “I tried mailing
postcards to customers a few years ago and got zero response. So
direct marketing won’t work for me.” Realize that just because a
previous direct marketing campaign didn’t work doesn’t mean you
should give up. Perhaps you targeted the wrong type of client. Or
maybe the campaign did work, but you didn’t have a proper way to
measure the response, so you mistakenly thought it was a flop.
is that direct marketing can and does work in a number of
industries, for companies of all sizes. For example, consider the
pharmaceutical industry. Up until a few years ago, pharmaceutical
companies weren’t permitted to advertise directly to consumers. They
had to focus all their marketing on physicians. However, now that
the laws have changed and pharmaceutical companies can market
directly to consumers, they’re seeing greater brand recognition and
increased profits. Recent surveys have found that 77 percent of
Americans have seen a pharmaceutical ad on television, and 52
percent of those people said that the advertising made them want to
try the medication. In addition, most drug manufacturers have
systems in place to entice potential users of their products to sign
up for email newsletters, direct mailings, etc. So if direct
marketing works in an industry where the end user isn’t the final
decision maker (the physician is), then it can work in your
you likely don’t have the multi-billion advertising budget that
pharmaceutical companies do, you can employ the following
suggestions to create a successful direct marketing campaign.
Develop a Fan Base: Your fans are your best customers. Not
only do they buy from you often, but they also recommend your
company to others. Look through your customer data and pinpoint who
your fans are. Where do they live? What product or service do they
purchase most often? What problems do they have that your company
can solve? By knowing the type of customer who buys from you the
most, you can target other people in that same demographic. Remember
that the objective of any direct marketing effort is not just to get
a response or make a sale; it’s to build customers. When you market
directly to your fan base, you leverage the 80-20 rule, which states
that 80 percent of your business will come from 20 percent of your
customers. Therefore, identify your 20 percent and then market to
them and others like them.
Select the Right Media:
No one specific advertising
medium is the right choice for every company. Depending on your
customers, you may need to use direct mail pieces, Internet
marketing, radio ads, newspaper coupons, or some combination
thereof. Knowing your customers makes the decision easier.
For example, if you’re marketing a truly broad-based product, then
direct mail will probably not be the way to go. It is too expensive
on a per-thousand basis and takes too long to execute. Television
will probably be a better route. Once you produce a “spot,” the cost
of buying television is less per thousand than direct mail. On the
other hand, if you have a niche or micro-market, television normally
isn’t the best route. For targeting, direct mail and print
advertising work best. The key is to pick the medium that makes the
most sense for your customers and your budget.
Make the Right Offer: An offer is what you are willing to
give and what you want in exchange for a particular response from
prospects. Included in the offer are price, terms, guarantees, and
extras. The right offer doesn’t necessarily mean the one that
generates the most responses or the one that generates the highest
profitability from the individual effort. The right offer is the one
that ultimately contributes the most profit to your business.
are normally categorized by the objective of the direct marketing
effort: Lead Generation (for field sales or telephone follow-up),
Traffic-Building (to a retail location, trade show booth, or Web
site), or Direct Sell to business or consumer markets. In lead
generation, you have both hard and soft offers. The harder the
offer, the fewer but more qualified the responses. Hard offers
generally will ask prospects for considerably more information about
themselves and their buying intentions, ask for an appointment or
demonstration, mention the cost of the product or service, and
refrain from offering any type of gift or premium. Traffic-building
offers normally involve premiums, special discounts, or exclusives.
In direct-sell situations, free trials, samples, premiums, and
discounts can all work to draw attention to your promotion and to
boost response. Whenever possible, offer a guarantee.
offers will help you move customers from being one-time buyers to
fans. Loyalty programs deserve consideration from almost every
marketer. Then, depending on the product or service, you can
consider offers like automatic shipment, membership clubs and
Get a Response and Build a Relationship: You need to break
through all the communications clutter in the marketplace in a way
that’s credible. For example, a drugstore owner can put a photo of a
cute baby on the envelope of a direct mail package to get it opened.
But they have to tie the product to the baby (such as flavoring for
children’s medicine) or it will have attracted attention but not
delivered in terms of marketing.
direct response advertising involves the recipient. In direct mail,
personalization, tokens and rub-offs, stamps, and quizzes all aid
involvement. Good direct response advertising also makes it as
convenient as possible for a prospect or customer to respond. Use as
many vehicles as possible, including toll-free phone numbers,
pre-paid reply envelopes, fax numbers, and e-mail.
Find a Niche or Unique Selling Proposition: Small business
owners must find their unique selling proposition in order to
compete against “The Big Boys.” This could mean free home delivery
or phone call reminders when it’s time to purchase or use a service
again. Another way small businesses can compete with the national
chains is to develop a niche in a target market. For example, with
the aging of the “Baby Boomers,” there are many unmet needs, ranging
from health care to travel to investing to real estate needs.
Pinpoint what’s unique about your company or what niche you fall
into and target that market directly.
Analyze Response to Improve Profitability: One of direct
marketing’s great assets is that you can easily measure its
effectiveness. Using key codes and coupons are great ways to
determine if a particular campaign is working, as is simply asking
people, “How did you hear about us?” The more you can measure your
campaign’s effectiveness, the more you can improve. But the only way
to improve is to test on a continuous basis. Critical factors to
The media used – Which brings in new customers
most inexpensively? Are they “better” customers?
The effectiveness of the offers – Which offers
pull the best response and produce the most fans repeatedly time
The creative approaches – What strategy best
separates your company from your competitors?
The timing – What months are best for the
specific product or service? What’s the ideal time between
efforts for particular prospect and customer groups?
Cure for What Ails You: If lagging sales are putting the squeeze
on your business, or if you simply want to expand your company’s
market reach, then direct marketing may be for you. And regardless
of your personal opinion about pharmaceutical companies advertising
directly to consumers, the bottom line is that it works. In fact,
most consumers report that they appreciate pharmaceutical ads, as it
alerts them to treatment options and makes starting a discussion
with their physician easier. When you start doing some direct
marketing for your company (and measure the response), you’ll be
able to target your message appropriately and reap the most rewards.
Read other articles and learn more about
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and