13 Times When Direct Response
Is Your Best Marketing Direction
Now an "ole timer", Jim Kobs provided the foundation for
these thoughts. The first time Jim shared these ideas with me it was sometime in the
early to middle '80's. I included them in my book Power Direct
Marketing. Today I feel it is time for an update. And expansion.
Perfect for a Baker's Dozen.
Direct Marketing is still a step-child inside many companies. Recently
I was working on a project where the President actually said he didn't
believe in DM - and felt the program his very own Marketing Director
was leading would fail. Of course, he then did just about everything
he could to make certain it would not succeed! Difficult situation
when the leader walks another path.
So, what are the key factors that will make your Direct Response program
work? Here is my collection ... 13 Times When Direct Response Is
Your Best Marketing Direction.
1. When you can clearly identify your target audience
Fairly standard stuff here. There are scores of ways to aim your message
at the right people. Direct mail lists, E-mail lists, magazines and
newsletters, radio, television, the WWW, take-ones, trade-shows, film,
sales promotion and special events, plus all the telephone/fax options
... and more.
Please note I used the word "people" in the paragraph above.
Because it is people who make decisions. Not companies or associations
or clubs or organizations or groups. I've never sold anything to a
company - only to a person.
So, first you must clearly identify who buys what you sell.
Determine that, and you're on your way to a successful marketing campaign.
2. When you can reach your target audience
Sometimes, once you ID your audience, it is still difficult to reach
them. Especially in the B-2-B marketplace.
i.e., taxi cab drivers. You can certainly identify them. You can "see"
them outside major hotels, at the airport, cruising the streets. It
is a good assumption there is such a "list" - as everywhere
there is a taxi there is a government body regulating them. So, there
must be a list of drivers. Yet, it is very difficult - if not impossible
- to get a message exclusively to this audience.
They don't have an association or society, there is not a special
newsletter or magazine (no Taxi Cab Journal), they don't come
together to stage a trade-show or conference. So, how do you get to
Well, I don't know. I've used this example, because in a time past
I needed to talk to this audience, and never found an effective and
efficient DM way to reach them.
So, "rule" #2 for Direct Marketing is being able to reach
those who buy what you sell.
3. When you have a lot to say about your product and service
Today there is wide array of new, different and unusual products and
services. Many of which are so complex no one person can be expected
to know all the answers to all your questions. Because nobody has
all the answers.
With this handicap, how do you turn your prospect into your customer?
One way is with a loooong DM piece. A detailed letter. A complete
brochure. A full page space ad. A catalog. A web site. A 30-60 minute
infomercial. Or even a combination of these elements.
Short changing your message because "people don't read any more",
not only is not true - it doesn't work. Oh, and please do not be concerned
you'll overload your marketplace with too much. There is no such thing
as too much knowledge (information, yes, knowledge - no!).
People need to know what they need to know - if you don't provide
it they'll shop with your competition.
So, when you need more space or more time to tell your story right
- take it.
4. When your product/service has continuity, repeat sales, and/or
follow-up and follow-on sales
The frequency / loyalty programs, begun in retail, expanded by the
travel industry, are in place and successful, because you get your
customer to return to you time and again.
Grocery stores offer an easy example. We eat on a regular schedule
and need the supplies they offer. Likewise restaurants. Dry cleaners.
Gasoline service stations. Automobile dealerships, and others offering
car maintenance. Hotels, rent-a-cars, airlines and many others in
the travel field each give you a reason to return for more.
The sellers / distributors of supplies, too. Office, computer, hospital
and other medical facilities are organizations who find Direct Marketing
an excellent way to sell and re-sell. The hospital does not need to
see the tissue box, rubber glove and band-aid sales rep - they know
what is available and buy it as needed.
You don't need the copy machine lady to bring you paper and toner.
Software creators will be happy to share their new, upgraded/updated
product idea with you - download it off the Web, or view it from a
Anyone who enjoys repeat sales will benefit from direct response marketing.
5. When you have a "family" of products
It's even more entertaining these days to go to a concert. Not only
do you enjoy the music of your favorite group ... you get to buy memorabilia.
Of course, the music is being sold on compact disk for you to take
home. And there are shirts, hats, books, drinking glasses, sheet music
and all sorts of other logo merchandise. There is a "family"
of products offered by your favorite musical group.
Ditto almost every product category. Many of you know I ride a real
bike - I ride a Harley-Davidson. Wow, what product offerings they
make available. A several hundred page catalog of accessory equipment
- more ways to spend money when I buy "safety chrome", gadgets,
convenience items and other "stuff" for my bike. Plus, there
is a second catalog of nothing but clothing options.
Harley does not sell by mail-order ... they do make certain their
rider/owners know what is available. And offer marketing incentives
to drive riders to the local dealer for the purchase. Let me tell
you, it works! I know. I ride. I buy.
If you have a group of products - a "family" - you can offer
it direct. Your buyers will appreciate the convenience.
6. When you need to control the entire selling message or process
When you introduce a new product, upgrade a current service, change
by adding to or taking away from something already in the marketplace,
when you bring something different to market ... in each of these
instances, you may wish to control the message and the selling process.
i.e., you do not want your sales reps to "wing it". You
want them doing exactly the right thing at the right time.
Not more - not less.
This calls for control - frequently through a cooperative effort between
marketing and sales. Leads are generated, qualified, and then the
sales pitch is made. Many times the first 1:1 face-2-face contact
comes after a telephone exchange. Sometimes a computer or video
presentation is made. Sometimes everything is on the web - and the
rep walks the prospect through point by point.
The key point is marketing gets directly involved with the selling
process. These two groups work tightly as a team. Something they should
always do - in this example it is what makes for success.
7. When you need to build a predictable model that can be repeated
again and again
Similar to #6 above ... in this case you control things up front -
build a model that can be repeated again and again - and the field
The simple example is a fast-food restaurant introducing a new product.
The kitchen develops it - a small group of stores test it. Marketing
launches it - all in the test mode. You learn what works, what does
not. When you have a winner it goes system wide - with everyone knowing
what to expect.
This concept also works especially well for independent sales rep
networks, dealers and distributors. Where the factory creates the
program, tests it, and rolls out everywhere to everyone. For just
about every widely distributed product or service... from computers
to banking, from insurance to retail, DM can do the job.
8. When your product and service does not fit other distribution
channels - or your distribution is spotty
Maybe what you offer isn't glamorous. It doesn't sell itself. In fact,
it's boring! Yet, it fills a niche, fulfills a need.
Still, you have trouble getting distribution. Perfect for direct.
Low end software is one example ... a serious business product that
costs less than $100. Maybe a specialty offering in a specific field.
Maybe something for the newest Mac. Tough to get on every shelf, as
your market is spread and small. Just what works well for direct.
i.e., almost every business category has a magazine or newsletter
(most often more than one), and an association or society with a web
site to go with it. Excellent ways to make your mark with a direct
When others don't understand you - you can get the right message to
the right people - directly.
9. When you need less visibility in the marketplace - when it's not
yet time to be seen
You have something truly new or different. You're way out of the box
for your field. You're not ready to talk to the entire world - yet.
You're not sure how this change in thinking in your industry is going
to be received - and you need to learn. Before you take your message
to "everyone". So, you test price. You test offer. You test
packaging. You test in combination with complimentary products. You
learn from your marketplace.
To do this, you go direct. Direct mail is perfect. Targeted E-mail
can work - with a link to specific web pages not available to others.
Telemarketing and fax marketing can work, too. You learn what works,
what does not. You learn what marketing approach, what price, what
offer gains you the most profitable response.
Direct Marketing allows you to talk to a specific audience - and only
that audience. And even deeper ... to only pieces within the whole
that are interesting to you. You learn, you measure - and then you
When you're not ready for everyone to know about something you're
doing, direct can be the way to go.
10. When you have a truly unique, different, unusual, one-of-a-kind
product or service
"There is nothing new under the sun". Not sure when or where
I first heard this interesting quote - yet, I do remember it from
Even if true, mankind is constantly changing what we have. Upgrading,
adding to, taking away or enhancing. Every so often something
truly unique - new - comes along. When you have something your
competition does not have - even if only for a few weeks or months
- you need to get to market. An excellent way is with a direct campaign.
Why? Well, for one reason, distribution is going to be tough with
something so out of the usual it's in a product category of it's own.
And then you need to teach the sales reps about it. Since most sales
people enjoy taking orders, vs. real selling (which is real work!),
that can be a quite a task.
The answer; a DM program that zeros in on those leading edge people
who are most likely to give your "new" a try. Today an E-mail
campaign combined with a significant Web presence could be the way
to launch. Maybe a selection of vertical cable television audiences
is where you aim your message. Maybe you sponsor a special event at
a conference or trade show ... because you feel they will be interested.
When you have something different, try the different media of Direct
11. When your marketplace is scattered across a wide hunk of geography
Mail-order companies and fund-raisers have learned to go wherever
they need to go to get a customer, to gain support.
You may need to do the same.
When your audience is almost everywhere, with few to no concentrated
pockets of customers, direct is an excellent answer. Even when your
product is "common", your customers may not be. So, direct
mail and E-mail, telephone and fax can work for you.
Today I'm using the desk of a friend whose passion is surfing. Charlie
will surf at every opportunity. Before work. After work. On holiday.
Instead of doing almost anything else - he'll go surfing. If you have
a product of interest to Charlie - where do you find him - how do
you get to him?
Well, to begin, most surfers reside reasonably close to an ocean or
sea. Yet, after that obvious fact, what's next? Tough question - tougher
answer. As surfers are like many with an active hobby - they come
in all flavors, denominations, colors, shapes (most surfers are in
good shape!) and sizes. Hard to put a handle on this group. Or most
Yet, again, there is a network. Surf shops. Newsletters and several
magazines. Competitions. Equipment manufacturers use all sources to
get at their audience. And "soft" product sponsors do, too.
Those offering sun tan lotion, beer, snack and health food - they
too go direct. Because mass is not efficient nor effective.
When your marketplace is all over the place - think direct.
12. When you want to expand your reach without bricks & mortar
You're in business. And have been for a while. Successful. It's time
to expand, to grow. Yet, it's expensive - with little to no assurance
of becoming profitable at the new location anytime soon. So, go direct.
Yes, it will take time and money. Direct is not free - even thou that
is a word we use a lot. You'll need to create another level of marketing
and sales - most likely mail-order. It's a discipline with its' own
set of operation and administration "rules". And could be
something you may know very little about.
Still, it's a lot less expensive to walk this way then to establish
a physical building at the corner of Spruce and Goose in a city you
know only by reputation.
Examples; Barnes & Nobel have stores and a major web "store",
too. Ditto Sharper Image. Neiman-Marcus has been in retail and mail-order
- both businesses - for decades. Hewlett-Packard offers customers
many ways to buy from them ... including mail-order. As do most professional
sports teams ... you can buy at the game, in a store, online, via
At least think about it. It's worked for many.
13. When you want to test ... audience, offer, market or anything
for any reason
You know you need to test. Your distribution is solid. Your inside
and outside sales teams are good.
Still, you need to test. Maybe the competition is doing something
different - and you wish to know more. Could be you're bringing a
companion service to market, to go with your largest selling product
... you need to establish a stand alone price as well as a package
One thing that has fallen from grace in DM - it began to decline about
the time the Web came along - is testing as a part of every campaign.
As it once was. "I don't have time" is a frequent excuse.
The other is "I don't have the budget". Both are silly putty
responses ... if you have time to do it, you make time to do it right.
Or you'll need time to do it over! Testing was Direct Marketings middle
name ... it should be again.
If you use Direct Marketing for nothing but testing - you're doing
something good for your marketing program.
Well, that's it. 13 Times When Direct Response Is Your Best Marketing
Direction. Take what works for you - and enjoy the results.