How Marketing Plans Work

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing, or database marketing, is growing exponentially with the emphasis on very tightly targeted efforts. The growth in e-mail and Internet use, along with the general upward trend in all media subscriptions, is making it an easier and more profitable way to market your product than it was in the past days of mass mailings.

With a database (either a purchased one or your own customer database) of names and very specific demographic information, you can select specific subsets of groups very easily and send very targeted messages about your product or service. By more finely targeting your marketing efforts, you'll also improve your response rates simply because you can come closer to reaching the exact profile of your best customers.


You'll also need to think about the purposes of your direct marketing efforts. Here are some examples uses of direct marketing:

  • Generating inquiries
  • Opening doors
  • Building traffic (for your store, Web site, trade show, etc.)
  • Generating awareness (for new product introductions, etc.)
  • Fund raising
  • Selling products (mail order)

Make sure you've determined the purpose of your direct mail prior to selecting the specific tool, because some tools are inherently better for certain purposes.

Your direct marketing options include:

  • USPS direct mail
  • Self-mailers
  • Mailing packages that include a letter, brochure, and response card
  • Post cards (used as inexpensive reminders)
  • Mailed premium items and other types of gifts
  • Opt-in e-mail campaigns (aka permission marketing) - Make sure your clients are requesting your e-mails, otherwise it's spam.
  • Fax campaigns - Remember, you can only fax to existing customers. Faxing to non-customers is actually illegal.
  • Telemarketing

Here are some tips to improve your direct marketing efforts:

  • Test your lists. Try a test mailing of 500 or less to determine the quality of the list prior to sending out your larger scheduled mailing.
  • Test your mailer design. Divide your mailing into groups that each get a slightly different design, and track the results. You may be surprised at how much better some designs and color combinations do than others. This is particularly valuable if your marketing schedule includes a lot of direct mail projects.
  • Supplement your large, expensive catalog mailing with more frequent and inexpensive post card mailings. This will reinforce your message so you get more mileage out of the catalog and better ROI (return on investment).
  • Include an easy-to-understand and prominent response card.
  • Include a deadline for action so your recipient will be encouraged to respond quickly rather than wait and think about it.
  • Include an incentive for action. This could include an early bird discount, a free copy of some publication, or a free trial offer of something.

Detail your direct marketing strategies as they relate to your overall marketing mix. For example, you may be planning a PR blitz that is to be followed by an ad in a prominent publication that is then to be followed by a direct mail piece that requests some action, such as a request for a sales representative to call, or even the option to purchase the product.