The top 4 Deadly Direct Marketing Myths

There are a number of misconceptions about direct marketing that need to be exposed and killed. Here are the top myths I run into almost every day.

1. Direct mail and direct marketing are one in the same.

Not True! Direct marketing is not about the channel or medium. It's about the strategy. Direct marketing (sometimes referred to as direct response marketing) describes the strategy. The strategy owns several tactics that either make it direct marketing or something else.

Direct marketing leverages ALL media to meet the sales objectives. This includes email, radio, TV, freestanding newspaper inserts, landing page fulfillment, eCommerce, direct mail, mobile... and the list continues to grow.

Branding, positioning or general advertising builds awareness. The awareness building strategy is just another way to generate new customers and incremental sales.

Direct response uses all media to generate sales directly from the end user. The exceptional direct marketing campaigns reinforce response by fusing branding into the overall program.

Direct mail remains an important medium for direct marketers due to its targeting and new business generation ROI. A number of large mailers, however, use a crippled version of direct marketing in their direct mail campaigns.

2. Successful direct marketing campaigns do not always require testing.

This one really annoys me.

I would go so far as to say that direct marketing that does not include routine, comprehensive testing in their program are not using the direct marketing strategy.

Testing results against existing core programs represents the lifeblood of the direct marketing business. To quality as meaningful testing, direct marketers test the majors and not the minors.

The minors that do not impact results significantly...

  • Revised layouts
  • Font variations
  • Refreshed creative using the same basic copy and control offer
  • Color variations

The majors...

  • Offers
  • List segments with varied selection criteria
  • Package formats such as self mailers versus envelope packages with letters and response devices

 3. We tried direct marketing and it doesn't work.

What is that supposed to mean? 90% of the time, these comments come from executives and marketers who have no idea how to define success, much less what it takes to succeed in direct marketing planning, implementation, testing and response analysis.

Direct marketing success requires time and persistency to get it right. A one-time run really doesn't tell you anything about the company's potential with direct marketing.

A consultant friend once told me that a number of his clients failed to understand that direct marketing is not a one-time effort, but an iterative process.

Response benchmarks by industry are also meaningless. Just because an industry competitor gets an average of 2.7% response tells you nothing about what your response will or should be. Your reputation, customer mix, product mix, distribution system and years of learning through direct response testing make such benchmarks meaningless.

Drive your DM success based on the company's allowable Cost Per Sale or Cost Per Customer. Every company must define what success is before embarking on new direct response initiatives.

4. Direct marketing can thrive with or without a relational database.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If your company does not track responses and all transactions within the framework of a relational database, then you have greatly limited -- if not destroyed your direct marketer future.

Direct marketing and database marketing are virtually synonymous. Not saving all leads by source and date or failing to list all transactions by customer make it impossible to test, analyze, segment or target your present or most likely future customers for maximum response.

Without such a database, the company might as well abandon the direct marketing piece parts and put all of their resources into general awareness advertising.

In my opinion, abandoning direct response in favor of mass advertising is a deadly, strategic mistake. But some companies will manage to survive without best of breed marketing through acquisitions, mergers or some non-marketing approach.

I would be interested in hearing your perceptions on these and other myths you encounter on a regular basis. Do they match mine, or do you run into other barriers.

Posted on April 22, 2015 and filed under Direct Marketing Strategy.