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Which marketing channels are right for your business? Direct marketing campaigns

Which marketing channels are right for your business? Direct marketing campaigns
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Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications by Siobhan Stirling - Sharp Minds Communications
Owner/Director - Sharp Minds Communications Ltd

14 Nov 2017

Done right, direct marketing can be highly effective and very worthwhile considering as part of your marketing strategy.  It gives you a pin-point, personal way of reaching out to your targets.  But it’s not something to rush into.

Creating your mailing list

For successful direct marketing, you first need to find your target audience.  Depending upon how large that is, you may want to focus on one sub-sector first, defined, for example, by location or turnover.  Once you’ve identified them, you need to find the contact details of the right person within the organisation to purchase from you.  You may have a product that will be used by PAs, so you may want to target them; but you may also need to reach out to the budget holder as well.

Creating a compelling campaign

An effective campaign will grab the attention of your targets and, ideally, get them to reach out to you in response, either by looking at your website, contacting you or placing an order.  That’s a big ask.  How many times have you responded immediately to direct marketing?  How many times have you shoved direct marketing straight into the bin?  Exactly!  So, your campaign has got to be good.

Grabbing your targets’ attention and convincing them to start dialogue with you will take imagination, investment and compelling messaging.  You may well need a clever promotional product that accurately conveys your brand (lumpy post is less likely to be dumped unopened).  You will need a covering letter or other marketing materials (a flyer, brochure or leaflet) that captures their attention in an instant, and persuades them to invest their time in finding out more about you.  And you will even need to think about first impressions: what packaging will you use?  A plain brown envelope that looks like a bill is unlikely to put your recipients in a receptive mood as they slice it open.

How much of an investment you make depends upon the potential value of the customers to you, as well as your brand values. If you are a high-end travel agent, selling experiences that run into tens of thousands of pounds, all your marketing materials will need to reflect this.  If you compete on price, luxury marketing materials would undermine your messaging, and be unlikely to generate adequate return on investment.

Only part of the jigsaw

You’ll find with most direct marketing campaigns, it’s not enough to send it on its own and wait for the phone to ring. Instead, you’ll need to follow up with supporting telephone calls and emails.  In fact, general marketing rules suggest that most prospects need six to eight touch points before they decide to buy.  It can be considerably more than this, but the more focused and successful your campaign, the quicker you will be able to steer your prospects from initial contact to sale. 

But, even with the most fruitful direct marketing campaigns, you should view it as a journey that you steer your customer along to the point at which they are ready to purchase.   Crucially, you need have all the steps in place for the entire journey before you begin. 

An example of the process could look like this:

You can see from this illustration, that you are likely to need supporting materials (PDFs, e-brochures, PowerPoint presentations etc) for each stage of the journey. 

Conversion ratios

Key in developing successful campaigns is knowing your conversion ratios; you will lose some prospects at each stage.  The more you finetune your campaign, the better your conversion ratios will be at each step.  This can either mean that you end up with more customers, or that you need a smaller list to begin with to achieve the results you are after (making for a more cost-effective campaign).

The pros and cons

Like all marketing strategies, there are advantages and disadvantages to using direct marketing:

Pros

  • Targeted : If you get your list right, you’ll be targeting the exact people who are more likely to be interested in using your services; compare this with social media, where very often the person managing the profile is far removed from the decision maker who is able to purchase from you.
  • Measurable : It’s much easier to evaluate and measure where you’ve been successful compared to other channels like social media.
  • Engaging : A clever campaign can engage your targets with your brand in a very multi-layered, multi-sensory way, which can increase your chances of success.

Cons

  • Time : Direct marketing is much more time consuming than other channels, such as E-newsletter campaigns. You have to research your target audience, create a mailing list of specific contacts and spend time playing telephone tennis trying to get hold of them.
  • Cost : While other channels, such as social media, can have few costs beyond staff or agency time, direct marketing campaigns can involve design, copywriting, merchandise, printing and postage costs, as well as the additional costs of telephone and email marketing, plus producing any materials to support these elements of your campaign.
  • Disheartening : It can be frustrating leaving phone messages and sending emails that never get returned. You need patience and resilience – or people who have it who can make the phone calls for you! 

There are obviously a lot of things to consider before jumping into a direct marketing campaign and it isn’t the cheapest method. However, if done right, the conversions can make it very worthwhile.  

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