Sales & Marketing

How to identify, choose and apply the right direct marketing tactics

How to identify, choose and apply the right direct marketing tactics

Tactics to sharpen the execution of direct marketing activities

Now that we understand some of the advantages and disadvantages of direct marketing, its key success factors and when to use direct marketing, and how to manage the relationship with the customer, it is time to discuss each of the main direct marketing tactics in detail.

Direct mail

The following tactics for direct mail can be considered as recommended practise for managing a campaign:

  • Make sure that the visual and logical experience is superb, ‘eye-catching’ and truly different (remember we have only four seconds to involve and engage the customer!).
  • That the targets are well defined and pre-selected based on the business’ objectives.
  • Make sure that the value proposition differs significantly from that of the competition (keep in mind the obvious – do not alert your competition of your direct mail campaign/s).
  • Consider factors such as the size and differentiation of the envelope, the day of the week when the direct mail is mailed out, the reliability of the postal system and the uniqueness of the direct mail design.

From experience, it is not to be recommended to try and save money by insisting on low-quality postcards or by minimizing the size of the direct mailshot. There is little point in engaging with a direct mail campaign if it does not differentiate itself from the millions of junk mail items delivered to consumers each year.

Direct marketing is all about the marketing communications of a ‘for profit’ company where direct contact is made… between a seller of products, propositions and services and its current and potential customers.”

john lincoln, author

Direct response advertising

The tactics for direct response advertising should also always include a ‘call to action’ which should always be vivid, direct and conspicuous!

  • Consider direct marketing tactics, modes and methods such as magazines that include bind-in insert cards, toll-free numbers in newspapers and magazines, infomercials and teleshopping channels. These allow us as marketers to emphasize the prime benefit and the total proposition wrap.
  • Tricky, complicated openings rarely work. It helps if the brand name is well known, and if it is, ensure that it is featured conspicuously in the collateral.
  • Make coupons into mini-ads, complete with the business, the brand name, the promise, and a miniature image of the proposition itself.
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As a special note on direct response advertising, the prevalence of campaigns in developed markets like the US, Europe and Japan, now mean the attitudes of potential buyers are ambivalent at best. However, in the emerging and growth markets such as the Middle East, South Asia and South-East Asia and Africa, this direct marketing tactic has a huge potential to drive customers to the business.

If you don’t get noticed, you don’t have anything. You just have to be noticed, but the art is in getting noticed naturally, without screaming or without tricks.”

Leo Burnett, advertising pioneer

Personal selling or direct sales

Personal selling is the end-to-end process of face-to-face communications with existing or potential target customers and all of the persuasion activities this involves. For any business, deploying a direct sales team is most effective:

  • When the propositions or services are/have a relatively higher total cost of ownership and/or are higher priced.
  • When the propositions or services are complex or complicated in nature.
  • When the propositions or services are tailored/customized to the customers’ needs
  • When the propositions or services offer opportunities to cross-sell or up-sell, or if they provide opportunities for the customer to trade-in.
  • When the decision process about the propositions or services is complex and/or when decisions are made at the point of purchase.

There are several factors that come into play before deciding if a direct sales team is the best option for a direct marketing campaign:

Order taking – is the direct sales effort just an order taking tactic? If so, change it now.
Technology consulting – is the business dependent on the direct sales force to enable and empower the customer to have more technical information, advice, and service?
Complex propositions – are the propositions sophisticated and complex?
System selling – is the proposition an end-to-end system of propositions, products or services?
Continuous improvement mission – is the sales team on a mission of purpose, calling on accounts for purposes of monitoring the satisfaction of buyers and updating the buyers’ needs?

From experience, in emerging and developing markets the channel and marketing economics make direct sales an effective direct marketing tool for smaller businesses. Direct sales marketing campaigns are one of the most effective ways in which a business can promote a proposition:

  • It gives customers the totality of experience that no other marketing tool can provide, and which includes the elements of sight, sound, and touch as well as logical experience (a proposition sometimes will enable taste/smell as well, in some sectors!).
  • It enables pre-selection and an ability to demonstrate the benefits of a proposition much better than any other means.
  • It provides focus because once the attention of a customer or a potential target has been won, there is no other competition to enable their cognitive dissonance.


Telemarketing is rightly considered one of the most potent direct marketing tools for several reasons:

  • Potential and existing customers can be selectively targeted.
  • Success and impact of a campaign can be monitored and tracked.
  • Different scripts and delivery formats can be used and experimentation is simple and practical.
  • Provides a live and constructive dialogue with the customer.
  • Offers a customer almost a totality of experiences, including sound, logic and chemistry.

On the downside, telemarketing is very expensive on a cost-per-contact basis, and a major portion of customer prospects are not reachable. Telemarketing campaigns can also prove to be annoying to customers, they do not have the flexibility of direct mail, and the delivery option is fixed.

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Hitting the target with well measured effectiveness of direct marketing

Direct marketing is an expensive tactic to implement and therefore selecting the right target is vitally important. Some key considerations include crucial B2C direct marketing demographics, such as:

  • Age
  • Income
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Nationality / Creed
  • Homeowner
  • Dwelling type (home or apartment)
  • Mail order buying habits (by product type)
  • Interests
  • Married or divorced or single?
  • Presence and number of children
  • Geography


Other B2B direct marketing demographics that may need to be considered include:

  • Vertical or industry market
  • Number of employees
  • Revenue
  • Title & responsibility of the person to whom the direct marketing campaign is addressed to
  • Information on all influencers and decision-makers
  • The creditworthiness of the organization
  • Geography
  • Number of branches, sites and/or offices
  • Number of laptops or desktops
  • Fixed assets versus employee size


Experienced direct marketers often use a simple RFM model which is based on the propensity for a customer to respond and buy from or through a direct marketing campaign. The model works on the premise that if a customer has purchased Recently, Frequently and if the size of the Monetary value of the purchase is relatively high, then there is a higher preponderance for that existing customer to buy again.

An invaluable asset here is a database of customers with previous buying experience, derived from direct marketing activities.

At the end of the day, no matter what the direct marketing strategy or the resultant tactic is, what is important is the sum total of Cost per Inquiry (CPI) and the Cost per Order (CPO) advantages of direct marketing.

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Understanding and evaluating the CPI and CPO is critical to the successful execution of a direct marketing strategy



In summary, there are some unwritten rules that need to be considered before deploying any direct marketing initiative, if it is to be considered a success:

  • The sales process and sequence is the set of customer or potential customer decision steps necessary to close a deal. This should be matched with a set of direct marketing communications designed to provoke each step.
  • Direct marketing strategies, tactics and tools can be used to narrow the universe to ‘qualified prospects’.
  • Direct marketing sells the next step in the sequence of the customer lifecycle management cycle.
  • The totality of the cost of the customer relationship, from the relationship formation, cultivation and the management stage, needs to be fully accounted for.


JohnLincoln.oneThe business growth hacker


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