I have long held the belief that direct response marketing has a branding problem, and this is true now more than ever. As newer generations of marketers come to be, direct response is often relegated to “direct mail.” Of course, we direct marketers know this is untrue and, frankly, shortsighted, but alas, this image remains in the minds of many.
Direct mail isn’t dead, and direct marketing certainly isn’t either. Years ago, I was interviewing for a job with a digital shop, and the person who I was interviewing with declared, “direct mail is dead.” I argued differently. I didn’t get the job, but that’s OK. Not only would I not want to work for a company that didn’t value diverse opinions, but anyone who thinks that direct marketing is passé is frankly DEAD WRONG.
Direct marketing has numerous channels and is a proven, superior strategy with which to acquire customers. New customers and best customers are all easily identifiable and acquirable using direct marketing strategies and tactics. No brand advertising can tell you “to the dollar” what consumers have gone through your sales funnel and what particular stage of the funnel moved them to the next stage. Brand advertising measures sentiment; direct marketing measures profit. Which of these do you think keeps the lights on? There are many well-known brands, but brand loyalty can, and is often, bought and sold by smart direct marketers.
Be honest now. How many of you have purchased a product or service from a brand that may have been your second choice because it offered a better deal. Oh sure, on rare occasions we all choose the iPhone or Coke, but generally speaking as a consumer, if you make me the right offer at the right time, I will choose you over your competitor every time.
Why do marketers rage against the direct response machine? I’ll tell you: It’s hard work, it’s smarter and it’s math — not pictures. Most people get into agencies and marketing because they fancy themselves creative. When I hire people to work for me, I give them math tests. I ask them strategic questions about creative ideas to move consumers through the funnel, how to track and how to optimize the costs in an effort to maximize the profits. Isn’t that why businesses hire agencies? Isn’t it our job to make them money? Generally, I’m not interested in whether or not someone feels good about my brand. Rather, I’m interested in whether or not what I'm communicating will cause someone to purchase my product or service.
Some would like us to “rebrand” direct marketing. They throw out terms like performance marketing or digital marketing (which some try to do), acquisition marketing, database marketing, etc. I stand firmly with direct marketing. Direct response marketing has been around since before radio and TV. It will outlast any new technology and has a sweet spot within digital — nestled comfortably inside the technology and tracking that comes with digital. Digital was a direct marketer’s dream come true. There are many who want to proclaim that they are direct marketers now that they have learned how to count and track. Let me assure you that direct marketing is a much more rigorous discipline than just counting.
We direct marketers will always put our money where our mouth is. So I leave you with this fact: A year ago I inherited a pipeline that was about to be unplugged from its life support. One year later, our pipeline, using good old-fashioned direct response strategies, is now 10 times what it was. Think about that for a minute. Be proud, and proclaim yourself a direct marketer if you dare. Long live direct marketing!
Originally published Sep 26, 2013 1:00:45 AM, updated July 28 2017