All Marketing is Direct Marketing and Nobody Knows How to Do It
Apr 24, 2017
Partly true, a reaction to my recent post by a fellow marketing author. As an old school direct response writer, these old DR truths are more relevant today than ever.
A few months ago I put up the post, 3 Direct Marketing Principles That Can Improve Your Content's Conversion. A few days later, I was chatting with a colleague — a guy who owns a successful agency and has written a number of books about direct marketing. He made a comment that stuck with me: “All marketing is direct marketing — but nobody knows how to do it.”
Hyperbole? No doubt. But it did get me thinking about direct and its role in today’s online marketing landscape. When I started as a copywriter for the Montgomery Ward catalog (the Amazon of its day … minus the drones), direct mostly meant catalogs, mail, telemarketing and DRTV. It wasn’t glamorous, but it worked.
Over the years, marketing fragmented, technology evolved and marketers discovered the Internet. Direct marketing evolved as well: In 2015, all forms of direct (online and offline) accounted for nearly 55% of all US ad spending — about $153 billion (Winterberry Group).*
Direct has certainly come a long way, and the reason is that the things that make it work so well in the real world have found new life in the virtual world:
There was a time when you could reach just about everyone in one ad. Today, not so much. Direct has always been about talking to people as individuals, not to a mass audience. It answers the question, “What’s in it for me?”, and that makes it ideal for online efforts.
It’s based on testing.
One reason direct has remained vital (and so attractive to smart marketers) is that it’s specifically designed to get a response. Even better, it’s relatively simple to test elements — from offers to creative to lists. Direct has always relied on data, and in today’s “big data” environment, that makes it more relevant and valuable than ever.
It’s geared to move people.
Technology changes, but consumer behavior doesn’t. Direct marketers have fine-tuned tactics and strategies over the last century that are still amazingly effective: Benefit-oriented, person-to-person copy. Testimonials. Written guarantees. Limited-time offers. Multiple, prominent calls to action.
These are second nature to the direct marketer, and they work just as well online as they do in the mailbox.
The direct route to success.
Online marketing is changing fast — from social to native to content to whatever comes next. But as my colleague implied, if you’re marketing to individuals and driving them to respond, you’re a direct marketer.
And here’s the thing: A lot of online marketers don’t have a background in direct. They are trying to do it without a working knowledge of the principles that have been drummed into direct marketers over the years.
My colleague’s remark that “nobody knows how to do it” is obviously an exaggeration. But the point he makes is valid: Direct marketing is more relevant than ever, and the people who understand how to bring it to their online channels are the ones who will succeed.