What is Direct Marketing?

Direct Marketing started back in the 1870’s when Montgomery Ward invented mail order and sent out the first direct to consumer catalog. The idea was to cut out the middleman and be able to offer goods and services directly to customers, hence the term Direct Marketing.

Today Direct Marketing is much more than catalogs, it includes Email, Online Tools, Direct Response TV like HSN, Couponing, Insert Media, FSI’s, Mobile Marketing, Telemarketing, Social Media, Display Ads and more.

What makes Direct Marketing different from Advertising, Public Relations and other forms of marketing?

  1. Direct Marketing is sent directly to a customer with an offer of goods and/or services. It might also be a request for action as with donations or community involvement.
  2. Direct Marketing generates a response from the customer. This could be a purchase, a click through, a catalog request, an email signup, a donation or any other trackable action.
  3. Direct Marketing can be measured and tracked. The biggest difference between advertising and Direct Mail is measurability. An advertising campaign might show that the company placed 10 ads which, based on circulation estimates should have been viewed by 100,000 people and after waiting a few months they would see that sales in the following quarter were up 5%. The ad campaign may have had a direct impact on that, or not, there is no way to know. Direct marketing is measurable. Direct marketers would know they mailed 100,000 pieces to 10 target deciles each varying by [age, gender, location, income etc.]. The return might be 3.02 for the first decile, 2.3 for the second decile and so on. The cost of the mailing would be subtracted from the sales generated and the mailing’s exact profitability would be determined and all future mailings would be optimized with the information learned from the response generated.
  4. Sophisticated Direct Marketing is part of a larger initiative that has created target groups based on variables. As an example: By reviewing the response from a direct mail campaign direct marketers will determine which variables should be considered to get the highest returns from future mailings or initiates. These variables might be age, income, location, interests, gender, education and so on.

Direct Marketing is more labor intensive than advertising, it takes planning, testing and analysis to be successful but you know exactly what is working and what isn’t.

Today Direct Marketing is estimated to be over half of all expenditures in the US. It is bigger than both television and print advertising. If you would like to learn more about direct marketing visit Catalog University. Besides a wealth of great classes taught by industry experts there are free classes to get you started. You can sign up for one of Cat-U’s free Pub Talks, take a Catalog Video Tour, or listen to a Catalog Story.

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The Catalog Blog covers opinions and information on all things catalog. Have something to add? Leave a comment below. Catalog University is devoted to helping you get ahead in the fun and fascinating world of catalogs. If you want even more information about cataloging, including FREE Pub Talks, be sure to sign up for the Cat-U mailing list. We will never share your name with 3rd parties.

Sarah Fletcher
President/Creative Director Catalog Design Studios
Co-Founder Catalog University