Direct Marketing: Definition and Examples



April 27, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Direct marketing is a powerful strategy that companies use to improve their customer outreach. It also can help increase overall sales and revenue. If you’re hoping to start a direct marketing campaign of your own, it’s important to understand topics like:


What Is Direct Marketing?

Image of a laptop surrounded by mail and other marketing materials to explain direct marketing

Image via Unsplash by @campaign_creators

Direct marketing is a form of advertising that lets businesses communicate with customers in a one-to-one capacity. With direct marketing, businesses can inform customers about their products and services without the use of a third party to create or air their advertisements. Many campaigns focus on audience segmentation to ensure companies send the right messages to the right leads or clients. They also use interesting calls-to-action (CTAs) that encourage the recipient to make quick conversions to capitalize on special deals or offers. Examples of common call-to-action phrases are:

  • Call today
  • Check it out
  • Sign up today
  • Buy now
  • Download now
  • Get yours today


You may pair these phrases with additional information that signals product scarcity, like “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.

Types of Direct Marketing

There are a few different types of direct marketing business-to-business (B2B) companies can use. The one that works best for your brand often depends on your industry, audience, and current marketing goals. Different options for direct marketing include:

Mail Marketing

Mail marketing sends physical marketing materials to a company’s in-person headquarters or a P.O. box. These materials include flyers, coupons, and promotional gifts. Physical mail can be a very strong direct marketing tactic because it’s personalized. Also, in the age of digital marketing, it may take more effort to find physical addresses for your leads or customers and communicate with them in this now non-traditional way. This may make leads feel you put a high value on them in terms of time and budget.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is sending customers advertisements to their digital inboxes. These materials can include newsletters, sale notifications, and product or service release updates. Email marketing can be an inexpensive way to update customers on company news and nurture leads. Email marketing is also an easy campaign to track and evaluate because it is virtual and can link to a variety of tracking and metrics tools.

Related: 16 Best Practices for Email Marketing

Web Push Marketing

Web push marketing uses information stored in a customer’s browser to display push notifications. It works similarly to push notifications on a mobile device, except for a desktop or laptop computer. These notifications often appear in the corner of someone’s screen as they browse websites or use the internet. For example, a B2B news website may ask visitors to opt into web push notifications and receive updates each time the site publishes a new article. These notifications establish direct contact between the customer and the company by updating them with new information in real time.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing includes any type of communication with leads and clients directly through their mobile phones and devices. Two of the most common types of mobile marketing include text messaging and push notifications. Both options let companies share links, information, discount codes, or other important information with leads in the palms of their hands. Mobile marketing is also effective because many people check their phones frequently throughout the day, increasing your chances of leads not only seeing your content but also reacting to it.

Messenger Marketing

Companies use messenger marketing in various messenger apps, such as Facebook and Meta’s Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram. Through these apps, companies can send direct communications in a hybrid between text messages and emails. The benefit of using a messenger app may be a way to reach people in a more neutral, distant location before asking for their personal phone numbers or email addresses.

Consider when you’re meeting a new person for the first time. Do you usually invite them to your home on the first meeting, or do you get together in a public setting? Messenger marketing can work like this initial public first meeting for B2B companies and their new leads. As the relationship progresses and leads become more comfortable, they may share their personal email addresses or phone numbers with you and you can move to other forms of direct marketing.

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 Direct Marketing Method

Before starting your campaign, it’s important to decide on the best method of marketing for your clients. It’s helpful to think about how much each campaign costs and how each one fits within your audience segments. B2B companies with local audiences may find that physical campaigns work to target leads in their nearby areas. It could encourage the leads to set up in-person meetings or visit showrooms to explore what they have to offer.

For companies that do business primarily online or with clients around the world, a strategy like an email newsletter may be more effective because people can get it instantly and access your information from anywhere by clicking the right links or CTA buttons.

2. Create a Targeting List

Once you understand which campaign method is best, it’s helpful to create a list of leads to target. Use the data you have on your current clients to break them into smaller groups. Some segmenting factors include age, occupation, gender, location, and interests or needs. Understanding your audience segments can help you create content specifically for each group and each direct marketing channel.

3. Develop Marketing Materials

The process for developing marketing materials can vary depending on which type of direct marketing you use. For example, if you’re creating a physical mail campaign, it’s possible you might need to work with a graphic designer or printing service to help you create the advertisements and material. 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 B2B companies that can help you develop your direct mail 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’s newsletter to get tips on how to create your own direct marketing campaign and stay connected with us for your future content needs.

“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”

Kevin Doory

Director of SEO at Auto Revo

4. Add Results Trackers

Results trackers are tags you can add to your marketing materials that notify you if a lead interacts with them. For physical mail campaigns, results trackers can include things like scannable QR codes or promotional codes for freebies, products, or service trials. 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 run testing campaigns in your 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. Analyze Results

Just like you did when testing your campaign, it’s important to see how your campaign performed when it’s over. First, make sure that you give your campaign enough time to run before starting your analysis. Then look at your result trackers. For email campaigns, review metrics like how many customers opened, read, and interacted with the messages. For physical mail campaigns, identify how many people from each batch used or interacted with the advertisement.

Compare your campaign results with changes in your lead collection and revenue. Examine the results of your direct marketing over the course of a specific period, like one month. Track your lead collection and revenue for the same time period. Did the interactions with your marketing campaign have any correlation with changes to your sales? This data can give you a better understanding of how to improve your marketing campaign in the future and possibly your business.

3 Direct Marketing Examples

Here are a few examples of clever direct marketing campaigns:

1. Mail Marketing

Kit Kat used a direct marketing flyer ad offering their UK customers a free chunky Kit Kat bar. The company claimed that the chocolate was “too chunky” to fit in the mailbox. Recipients 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, even though the initial offer was for a free product.

2. Email Marketing

Chewy, an online pet retail store, conducts some of its direct mail campaigns through an email newsletter. The company delivers each issue to the customers’ inboxes. Within, subscribers can see information on new products. The brand also uses effective calls to action like “Shop Now,” to encourage subscribers to leave the newsletter and make conversions. These can lead customers directly to the company website. There, they can purchase the products and see current deals and promotions.

3. SMS Marketing

Coffee-giant Starbucks uses SMS direct marketing campaigns to connect with its customers. The brand sends reminders about products, such as updates when seasonal flavors, like summer frappuccinos, are back in stores. Starbucks also created an SMS trivia game that offered customers a prize and encouraged them to sign up for direct messaging notifications.

Direct Marketing FAQs

Learn answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about direct marketing, on topics like:

What Are the Components of a Direct Marketing Campaign?

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

  • Targeting: Segmenting your audience to market to leads or clients most likely to make a purchase or conversion
  • Data grouping: Recording and organizing customer information to create groups and segments for targeting
  • Results tracking: Testing, tracking, and reviewing processes to understand how a direct marketing campaign performs in each segment or target group


Are There Benefits To Using Direct Marketing?

There are several advantages to using direct marketing, including:

  • Cost reduction: Companies can create some direct marketing materials on their own or outsource the work. By using this balance and engaging in digital direct marketing, which is often less expensive than other types, brands can lower their costs and use more of their marketing budget for other projects.
  • Improved relationships: Direct messages can feel more personal. This increases client loyalty to the company and its products or services.
  • Enhanced communication: Direct marketing can increase the chances that more customers see the content and information you share and learn more about what the company offers.


What’s the Difference Between Direct and Indirect Marketing?

Where direct marketing tries to reach a lead through personalized connections, indirect marketing uses advertising tactics that are made for mass communication. Marketing channels like television commercials or blog posts work to develop an increased customer base and revenue over a long period. Most often, companies use indirect marketing campaigns as a long-term strategy, such as building a qualified lead base or increasing brand awareness. Though there are many benefits to both direct and indirect marketing separately, many businesses find that a combination of the two helps them generate the most conversions and revenue.

When Is the Best Time To Send Direct Marketing Content?

Knowing the most productive times to send out your direct marketing materials can improve your strategy and conversions. If you send out your materials at the wrong time of day, it can reduce open rates and response opportunities. The most beneficial days to send out direct marketing materials are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On average, people have more time to devote to reading and responding to emails on those days compared to the beginning and end of the workweek.

It’s important to understand how direct marketing can help your business attract more leads. As you start your next campaign, look at past successful direct marketing efforts to see how they enticed customers to interact with your brand. Then, call CopyPress to help you create all the content you need to make the next campaign better than the last.

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CopyPress writer

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