Published July 17, 2006

Direct Marketing Strategies & Tips

Businesses have built their success on direct marketing strategies. All of us are familiar with receiving what is commonly dubbed "junk mail" in our mail box from direct marketers. Direct marketing can work - and does work - with the right strategies. And with email, direct marketers are moving into the electronic realm.

Traditional direct marketing has been studied and tested for decades (it's an industry that is almost 100 years old) and a fairly good formula has been found:

  • Mailed pieces need to be addressed to a specific person, not to "home owner" or "recipient".
  • Direct marketing letters work well if they are long- 4 - 6 pagers, ideally.
  • There needs to be a call to action.
  • There should be a sense of urgency (like a promotion that expires within a specific time period).
  • It should be very, very easy to respond (like: check "yes" on the pre-stamped postcard and send it back).

Aside from those technical details, one of the only ways that direct marketing can continue to work today is with the loss leader: a free (or heavily discounted) giveaway that is attractive enough for people to send away, allowing the direct marketer to follow up with additional products that can be sold.

That may work for the traditional direct marketing approach, but the rules are different for the email marketer. First, let's be clear on one thing: no spam! We are not talking about unsolicited emails, but rather an opt-in program only. If you plan on using direct marketing with email, how you can be successful?

  • Use email to build relationships, not to offer products. Sometimes an opt-in email might take the form of a catalogue, but it is far more effective if it takes the form of a newsletter that helps the prospect think about your company over time.
  • Avoid long text: keep it short and put in plenty of links. (The links will help you measure who reads what).
  • Like direct marketing, there should be a call to action and a sense of urgency.
  • By its very nature, email is easy to respond to.

While you may want to use a loss leader for this type of marketing, the real opportunity lies in offering valuable information to people through an ongoing newsletter with the eventual goal of trying to get them to buy your product from you.

Additionally, you need to make sure your email direct marketing has the following things:

  • An opt-out link in order to be compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • Accurate headers (To:, From:, and Subject lines)
  • Text and html options so people can view your message however they'd like.

Direct marketing is still a valuable part of business but the rules have changed for email marketers.