UPDATE: This direct marketing post was originally published on 1 October 2018 and updated on 2 July 2020.
Marketing isn’t easy. There are so many different strategies and buzzwords, it's easy to get lost. So let's take a look at a classic strategy: direct marketing.
What is direct marketing?
Direct marketing is defined as "selling goods directly to consumers rather than through retailers." So no middleman. Simple enough, right?
Direct marketing doesn't always involve a monetary transaction. Successful direct marketing could result in a download, an email sign up or any other completed action you ask for. This type of marketing is most easily identified by its clear and specific call-to-action, or CTA. For example, "Use this code for 20% off" or "Subscribe to our email list."
Direct marketing’s sole goal is to persuade the recipient to take action.
So what's the benefit of direct marketing over other methods?
The results of direct marketing campaigns are immediately measurable. If you publish a coupon, you can count how many people received it and how many people used it to purchase something. If you ask people to like your Facebook page, you can see exactly how many people responded to your CTA.
Direct marketing is the most measurable form of marketing a business can do.
There is nothing, and no one, standing between you and the customer. Without any middleman or retailer, your profit margins are the highest. Because you’re leading buyers straight to the source.
5 direct marketing tools for small business
There are infinite ways to effectively run direct marketing campaigns, but let's cover the most effective tools for small businesses.
1. The online store
While it doesn't seem marketing-related, an eCommerce store is a giant step toward adopting a direct marketing strategy. Whether you sell physical products or services, an online checkout is a way for the consumer to buy directly from you.
Your own online store:
- Minimizes the chance of someone going elsewhere to browse for products.
- Opens the door for you to offer coupons, discount codes or other incentives to entice prospects to choose you.
- Alleviates the pressure of figuring out billing later, whether it's a service job or picking up in-store.
Think about the ease of an Uber taxi once they removed that awkward pay-at-the-end moment!
If your product catalog or service menu is slim, don't worry. Even just a handful of products can justify an eCommerce site. It might even inspire you to begin offering new product options or packages! Check out GoDaddy's simple eCommerce website builder made for small business.
2. Email newsletters
It's nothing new in the marketing world, but email is a powerful — yet inexpensive — marketing tool for any small business.
Direct marketing via email is effective because it can be targeted. If you can divide your email list based on criteria like customer interest or purchase history, you have the power to use very specific CTAs — and thus run very successful direct marketing campaigns.
An air conditioning company might email an offer for replacement filters to new customers six months after installing their units.
Let's pretend you own an air conditioning company. If your small business replaced someone's air conditioner six months ago, perhaps they're due for an air filter replacement. Send them an email that advertises the filters you sell and if you're feeling generous, a coupon for $10 off to push them to purchase it today.
Even better, automate these types of emails so you don't need to worry about it! Check out this email beginner's guide for more ideas and best practices.
Thankfully, there are plenty of email marketing tools that make creating emails and managing lists simple and affordable.
3. Display ads
Banner ads follow us all around the internet. You'll be browsing your favorite clothing store and within minutes, you'll see ads for the dress you were eyeing on Facebook. Is someone spying on you? Not necessarily, but a marketing professional is surely watching your tracks.
Facebook is the king of targeted online display ads.
Facebook has made it easy and affordable to run ads to very specific groups of people. The Facebook Pixel makes these ads more direct than ever.
To start running Facebook ads, you first need to install a snippet of code called a pixel that Facebook provides into your website. Then you can track who visits your site and what they do.
Next, craft Facebook ad campaigns that specifically target the biggest groups of visitors — like those who viewed a specific product or started but didn't complete a purchase.
The more targeted and direct your ads can be, the better this "reminder" will resonate as your product ad pops up on your prospects’ timelines.
4. Instagram Shop
Since we're on the topic of social media, let's talk about the direct marketing potential of Facebook's sister company, Instagram. Have you ever hovered over a post and seen pop-ups with price tags? Shopping on Instagram has taken off.
Businesses simply "tag" products within posts and link to their eCommerce websites. This direct marketing strategy is brilliant because it captures your buyer's attention instantly and gives them a clear and easy way to proceed — either to learn more or purchase.
If you're using Instagram for business and want to try this shopping feature, here are five tips Instagram suggests:
- Create at least nine shopping posts on your Instagram business profile to activate the Shop tab for your audience.
- Tag multiple products to help your audience explore and browse.
- Use Stories to show your audience that they can now shop your posts.
- Leverage different shopping formats — tag a single image or a carousel.
- Make sure each tag touches the correct product, so shoppers know which product the tag refers to.
Related: Instagram advertising in a nutshell
5. Text messages
If social media marketing isn't quite your style, there are other direct marketing strategies that put a modern spin on the classics.
Text message marketing is replacing traditional phone call soliciting.
Dialing for dollars is outdated, but people are still glued to their phone screens. According to 2019-2020 research from MessageMedia:
- 90% of text messages are opened within the first 90 seconds
- 87% of study respondents reported that they open a business SMS
- 73% of Aussie consumers agree that a text from a business is more likely to get their attention than email or an app notification
That's a high engagement rate compared to email marketing’s open rate of 21%.
The future of direct marketing
Before you make any future marketing decisions for your small business, it's important to dedicate some time to research. Take a poll or survey of your customers and ask how they would like to find out about promotions or news from your business. With a bit of knowledge and customer input, it should be clear what direct marketing tactics are best for you.
Customer feedback is essential and should drive all your marketing decisions!
Regardless of which techniques you choose, remember to always include a clear, relevant, and easy-to-follow CTA — “See More” or “Shop Now” are popular. Your customers will be sure to respond when you address them directly and guide them back to you!