Does direct response marketing work?

“Direct marketing has never worked for us. We tried that once. Didn’t really get many calls from it.” I hear this quite a bit from clients. I don’t doubt it. Direct marketing is a complete waste of time and money, unless it is part of a bigger plan.

Most of us would like for all our direct marketing to produce instant responses. We want to bypass the planning and consistency portions altogether. Yes, planning and consistency, those two pesky words that just keep showing up. In direct response marketing they are always accompanied by three more little words—test, measure, and refine.

Make sure you are ready. Don’t begin a direct response campaign if you do not clearly understand your own position and brand. Going straight to a response program without understanding your position within your market, or the message you are going to bring is a huge mistake.

Best-case scenario. Let’s say all the work is done. You have your position, brand strategy, target segments identified and all the other components of your marketing plan in order. Time to send out some direct response marketing.

The offer. The offer has to be worth the reader’s time. It must also be believable, irresistible, and different/better than what they are getting from your competition. It must also be appropriate to the product or service that you are selling. So don’t give away a free cookbook if you are selling tires. However, if you are selling cookware—a cookbook may be the way to go.

Consistency. It’s pretty unreasonable to pull a hammer from your tool belt, swing once on a nail and expect the boards to be securely nailed together. You’re probably going to have to take a few good swings. Direct marketing is no different. It is going to take more than a few good “experienced” swings before you are happy with the results.

Test, measure, refine. Direct marketing strategy is never complete. You will always need to be testing your offers, mailing lists, and other components of the creative to see what works best. You also have to keep good records of what worked, and what didn’t. This will allow you to make refinements to your campaigns that will produce better results.


So the next time you are considering how poorly that direct response campaign worked for you, think about how effective your membership at the gym would work if you only went once—didn’t understand the exercise equipment, and left before someone could explain it to you.


Brad's Bio
Brad Justus
Marketing Strategy SME

As president, Brad runs the agency and puts his 25+ years of experience to work for our clients. Although he is intimately involved with all aspects of our products and services, his primary focus is marketing strategy.

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