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Direct marketing is a powerful strategy that companies use to improve their customer outreach. It also can help them increase their overall sales and revenue. If you’re hoping to start a direct marketing campaign of your own, it’s important to understand how it works and take a look at some successful examples. Use this guide to learn more about what direct marketing is and how you can start your own campaign.

What Is Direct Marketing?

Direct marketing is a form of advertising that lets businesses communicate with customers directly. There are many ways that companies can perform direct marketing, such as through mail, email, social media, phone calls, and text messages. With direct marketing, businesses can inform customers about their products and services without the use of a third party to create and air advertisements.

How Does Direct Marketing Work?

Though companies can use direct marketing on a large scale, many direct marketing campaigns work well when they target specific people. For example, if a company sends out an email newsletter, they might try to include the recipient’s name or even a recent purchase they made with the company. This can help customers feel more engaged with the material and hopefully convince them to interact with the company.

One of the best ways that a company can convince customers to interact with them is through a call to action. Calls to action are statements that encourage the recipient to act immediately in order to receive a special deal, product, or service. Examples of common call-to-action phrases are:

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These phrases may be paired with additional information that signals product scarcity (“while supplies last”) or a limited time offer by including a specific deadline. By making the offer sound exclusive, direct marketers can more effectively incentivize conversions.

3 Components of a Direct Marketing Campaign

There are three major components that companies use to run successful direct marketing campaigns. Those components include:


As mentioned earlier, one of the most effective ways to market to customers directly is through targeting. When companies use targeting, they can send promotional materials to the prospective customers who are most likely to make a purchase. This is a useful tool because it can save the company money by not targeting its entire customer base. For example, if a company releases a new in-home security system, they might target prospective customers who recently started a family or moved to a new neighborhood.

Data Grouping

Data grouping is the act of recording and organizing customer information. This allows companies to create groups of target customers based on age, occupation, gender, location, and general interests. Once the companies create different groups, they can create more effective marketing that attracts them.

For example, a retail company might have stores all across the country. If a few of those stores conduct promotional sales, the company can notify the customers who live in those areas using its knowledge of customer locations.

Tracking Results

Lastly, it’s important for businesses to know if their marketing is working. If the direct marketing campaign is through email or social media, it’s possible to track the progress of those campaigns using software and other virtual tools. Every time a customer clicks on the call to action, the software can record it and notify the company.

However, it gets a little trickier with physical marketing campaigns, such as direct mail. When using physical mail campaigns, companies can still track results in other ways, such as checking to see if customers have redeemed coupons. They can also examine their sales and see how they’ve been affected by the campaign since it started.

Types of Direct Marketing

There are a few different types of direct marketing that companies can use. The one that works best often depends on the company’s brand and current marketing goals. The different types of direct marketing include:

  • Mail marketing: Mail marketing is the act of sending advertisements straight to customers’ mailboxes. This can take the form of flyers, coupons, and promotional gifts. Physical mail can be a very strong direct marketing tactic because it can feel very personal to the customers receiving it.
  • Email marketing: Email marketing is sending customers advertisements to their email inboxes. It can include newsletters, notifications on sales, and news about product releases. This can be a very inexpensive way to update customers on company news and entice them to make a purchase. Email marketing is also an easy campaign to track and evaluate because it is virtual, which lends itself well to different measurement tools.
  • Web push marketing: Web push marketing uses information stored in a customer’s browser to display relevant ads to them. They often appear in the corner of someone’s screen as they use the internet. It helps to establish direct contact between the customer and the company by placing an ad in front of them.
  • Mobile marketing: Companies often perform mobile marketing through text messages. They can then inform customers about promotions, update them on their shipments, or offer them exclusive deals with codes or sign-up links. Mobile marketing is effective because many people check their phones frequently throughout the day.
  • Messenger marketing: Companies use messenger marketing in various messenger apps, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Telegram. Through these apps, they can send messages to customers displaying unique items or services. Then, the companies generally put a link in the message or a call to action so customers can easily follow the message to the business’ website and purchase something.

Direct Marketing Examples

Here are a few examples of direct marketing campaigns:

Mail Marketing Example

Image displaying Kit Kat's direct mail campaing.

Image via D&AD

KitKat used this direct marketing ad offering their UK customers a free chunky KitKat bar, claiming that the chocolate was “too chunky” to fit in the mailbox. They told their customers they could exchange the flyer for a free candy bar at their local shop. Each note looked handwritten and used the customer’s name and address. This helped to make the direct marketing ad more personal, and the cleverness of the campaign led to an increase in candy bar sales for the company.

Email Marketing Example

Screenshot of Chewy's newsletter.

Image via Chewy

This image of an email from Chewy, an online pet retail store, is an example of direct marketing through an email newsletter. The company delivers the information directly to the customers’ inboxes, where they can see information on new products. As you can see from the image, they also use effective calls to action that read “Shop Now.” These can lead customers directly to the company website. There, they can purchase the products and see current deals and promotions.

SMS Marketing Example

Image of a direct marketing campaign by Starbucks.

Image via SendPulse

This text message was part of an SMS direct marketing campaign by Starbucks. The campaign sent text messages to customers with fun images and GIFs. They’d also send reminders about products, such as their summer frappuccinos. Starbucks has conducted marketing campaigns like this before. The year prior, they created an SMS trivia game that offered customers a prize and encouraged them to sign up for summer notifications. Those notifications informed them about different drinks that Starbucks offers and told them about exciting promotions.

Direct Marketing Advantages

There are several advantages to direct marketing, including:

  • Cost reduction: Because companies can create some direct marketing materials on their own, it can help reduce overall marketing costs. It can also reduce costs by eliminating potential third parties. If companies don’t need to spend additional money on advertising agencies to help them air ads, then they can lower marketing expenses.
  • Better customer relationships: Creating advertisements that directly communicate with customers can help develop better business relationships. Direct messages can feel more personal, especially when companies add personal information to them, such as names or buying habits. When customers feel like the company is talking to them personally, it can increase their loyalty to the company and its products or services.
  • Keeping customers informed: Direct marketing is a great way to inform customers about important company information or product releases. This can increase the chances that more customers will see the information and learn more about what the company has to offer.
  • Increased sales: By sending personal, direct marketing to customers, companies can increase their overall sales and revenue. That’s because direct marketing can quickly inform customers about promotions or discounts. This can increase their chances of making a purchase, especially if there’s a sense of urgency.

How To Get Started with Direct Marketing

Here is a list of steps to help you start your own direct marketing campaign:

1. Decide on the Best Method

Before starting your campaign, it’s important to decide on the best method of marketing for your customers. Whether you want to perform a direct mail campaign or an SMS campaign, it’s helpful to think about how much each campaign costs and how receptive your customers will be to it.

For instance, if your company mainly conducts local business, a physical mail campaign might feel more personal because many of your customers might interact with you face-to-face. The piece of mail can direct customers to your location or even provide them with a coupon they can redeem at your place of business.

However, it’s possible that another campaign, such as an email newsletter, might be more effective for your company. For example, if your company has an e-commerce store, it might be better to send customers emails that direct them to your website. If you use a physical mail campaign for an e-commerce store, it would create extra effort for customers to visit your site because customers would have to input the URL themselves. Email campaigns allow them to visit the store quickly and easily by just clicking on a link.

2. Create a Targeting List

Once you understand which campaign method is best, it’s helpful to create a list of customers you hope to target. Using the previously mentioned method of data segmentation, use the data you have on your customers to break them into target groups. This can include age, occupation, gender, location, and interests or needs. These groups can help you know who to notify about certain promotions, or they can even help you create promotions to target them specifically.

3. Develop Marketing Materials

The process for developing marketing materials can vary depending on which method you’re using. For example, if you’re creating a physical mail campaign, it’s possible you might need to hire a graphic designer or printing service to help you create the advertisements and material. There also might be some costs for stamps and other shipping expenses. If you’re sending out an email newsletter, there are tools and software you can use to create them or write them yourself.

There are also tools and business-to-business (B2B) companies that can help you develop newsletters and other well-written content. These companies, like CopyPress, offer content writing services that can effectively attract the attention of customers and entice them to make a purchase. Sign up for CopyPress’ own newsletter to learn more about its services and how we can help your business!


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4. Add Results Trackers

Adding results trackers to your direct marketing campaigns can help you analyze their performances. Essentially, results trackers are tags you can add to your marketing materials that will notify you if a customer interacts with them. For physical mail campaigns, these can include codes that you place in your promotional materials or your return envelopes. If a customer types in the discount code or responds with the return envelope, you can see those responses.

For email campaigns, adding a pixel code to the email can let you know if someone interacts with it. Let’s say they click on a call to action and it leads them to your website. When they do that, the pixel code notifies you of their actions.

Results trackers are especially helpful if you send out marketing materials to different target groups. If one group performs better than the other, you can analyze them to see why. If all groups perform well, you can use that information to create similar campaigns in the future.

5. Test Your Campaign

If you’re trying to determine how your campaign might function, it’s helpful to test it. An effective way to test the campaign is to send out your marketing material to a small batch of customers first. Once they receive the material, see how they respond to it.

If a majority of customers interact with the campaign, consider sending your direct marketing materials out in larger batches. If few customers respond to your calls to action, try looking at the material analytically. Is the information engaging enough? Are you offering something customers actually want? Can you use the same materials but target a different group? Once you make adjustments, test the campaign again and see if your changes have any effect on your customer engagement.

6. Run Your Campaign

There are a few things to keep in mind when running your direct marketing campaign. First, it’s important to know the most productive time to send out your marketing materials, specifically for emails and text messages. If you send out your materials too late or early in the day, then it can reduce the response rate of your customers. There are also some days of the week when email marketing is more effective compared to others.

The most beneficial days to send out marketing materials through email are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. That’s because, on average, people have more time to devote to reading and responding to emails on those days.

The other thing you want to keep track of when running your campaign is your ability to respond. Whether you send out advertisements through email, text, or mail, it’s important not to send out everything at once. For physical mail, if all your customers receive the marketing and respond at the same time, it can drastically slow down the speed at which you can fulfill orders or purchases. For email, if too many customers try to visit your site at once, the website might slow down or crash altogether.

Therefore, it’s best to send out your marketing in batches so that you have enough resources to keep up with the responses.

7. Analyze Results

Just like you did when testing your campaign, it’s important to see how your campaign performed. First, make sure that you give your campaign enough time to run before starting your analysis. Then take a look at your result trackers. For email campaigns, take a look at how many customers opened the email, read the email, and interacted with it. This can include clicking on links or calls to action within the email or directly responding to it. For physical mail campaigns, identify how many people from each batch used or interacted with the advertisement.

Finally, compare your campaign results with changes in your sales or revenue. A great way to compare the two is to pick a range of time. Let’s say you examine the results of your direct marketing over the course of one month. Now, track your sales and revenue for the same time period. Did the interactions with your marketing campaign have any correlation with changes to your sales? If not, see where the customer’s stopped being interested.

For instance, if a lot of customers clicked on a link in your email but they didn’t purchase anything on your website, then it might not be your marketing that needs adjustment. Your email was a success, but something else stopped them from making a purchase. Whatever that reason is, you now have a better understanding of how to improve your marketing campaign in the future and possibly your business.

Direct Marketing vs. Indirect Marketing

Indirect marketing uses advertising tactics that don’t target customers directly. Instead, they use strategies, such as commercials or blogs, that display to a more random group of people. The goal of most indirect marketing campaigns is to develop an increased customer base and revenue over a long period of time. Most often, companies that use these types of campaigns aren’t looking to immediately sell certain products or services. In fact, some companies might even be focused on developing their brand and making it more known to consumers.

Though there are many benefits to both direct and indirect marketing, many businesses find that a combination of the two helps them generate the most revenue.

It’s important to understand how direct marketing can help your business attract more customers and succeed. As you start your own campaign, look at past successful direct marketing examples. See how they enticed customers to interact with the company and possibly make a purchase. Then, use that information to help your own campaign flourish and attract a larger number of customers to your business.

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