Organizations and individuals seeking to reach a target audience have a growing array of media choices. While traditional approaches involving media such as newspapers, magazines, television, and radio are associated with reaching relatively large audiences, there are many other approaches such as e-mail, telephone, fax, and direct mail that may also be used to reach target audiences of substantial size, but which are also associated much more with efforts to elicit and obtain a measurable response from those within the target audience. This latter characteristic is an essential element of direct marketing and, further, is becoming increasingly prevalent as a result of increased availability and use of specialized databases. Ultimately, however, virtually any media can be used for direct marketing, also referred to as direct response marketing, provided there is an element of communication that asks the member of the target audience to take some specific action. Whether the action involves calling a telephone number, visiting a Web site, or returning a completed form by mail, the main benefit achieved from a direct marketing initiative is that it enables the response from the communication approach to be measured directly and often relatively quickly. A growing interest among marketers in being able to evaluate more readily both the effectiveness and efficiency of any given communication effort is clearly one reason why direct marketing is one of the most popular marketing approaches of any available to marketers today.
Beyond measurability, a further benefit of the use of media involving a direct marketing approach is the ability to tailor message content. For example, a car dealership seeking to promote interest in its new car models may find it beneficial not only to mail postcards to all of its past customers by name but also to tailor the message to each given the dealership’s detailed knowledge of the customer’s past car purchase including the purchase timing, price, and benefits sought.
Whether an organization or individual finds a direct marketing approach to be most beneficial relative to other communication approaches can also depend on the characteristics of any offering involved as well as consumer attitudes and preferences. Some consumers, for example, may consider a large-scale direct mail campaign that has a 1 percent response rate as wasteful while other consumers subject to telemarketing by a firm may view the approach as being intrusive. Even so, there are ways in which marketers can manage their media and direct marketing choices so as to increase consumer receptivity to such approaches, such as when consumers are initially given a choice of voluntarily “opting in” to a system where they will receive subsequent, periodic communications via e-mail, mobile phone text message, or posted mail. Alternatively, consumers may be able to “opt out” of a direct marketing approach upon request. Either way, an additional consideration in the management of media and direct marketing is ensuring there is conformance to legal and regulatory requirements relating to the use of customer information (e.g., sharing customer information with a third party)—something that may be clearly facilitated to the extent that recipients of direct marketing grant permission to those initiating such approaches.
Beyond legal and regulatory requirements involving consumer information, there may also be issues related to the nature of the products or services offered that demand attention and understanding by organizations or individuals seeking to engage in direct contact with current or prospective customers. In particular, in product markets where the relationship between consumers and manufacturers or other organizations is typically indirect, such as in the pharmaceuticals industry where doctors are important professional intermediaries between pharmaceutical firms and patients, there may be both opportunities and restrictions in pursuing what is termed direct-to-consumer marketing, an approach that is increasing in prevalence where there is direct communication between consumers and manufacturers and other organizations. Such an approach has the potential to educate consumers about a firm’s offerings to a far greater extent than is possible or likely through intermediaries and, hence, another potential benefit of direct marketing more generally, although certainly not all direct-to-consumer marketing involves an effort to elicit a consumer response that can be easily assessed.
Ultimately, the media and associated message content and strategy chosen by the individual or organization seeking to engage in direct marketing must balance the short and long-term objectives of the communication with the costs and benefits involved. To be sure, some direct marketing approaches are only increasing in cost (e.g., door-to-door marketing as a result of the associated labor expense) while others are predictably decreasing in cost (e.g., voice mail marketing that involves the use of telecommunications equipment and networks as a one-way medium for communicating indirectly with consumers by leaving automated voice messages on voice mail systems/answering machines). When one considers the possibility that multiple media and direct marketing approaches can ultimately be used in combination for synergistic effects, the communicator engaging in any aspect of global business can be seen as having an increasingly rich set of methods and strategies to employ in the pursuit of customer value creation and competitive advantages.
- Ming Cheung, “‘Click Here’: The Impact of New Media on the Encoding of Persuasive Messages in Direct Marketing,” Discourse Studies (v.10/2, 2008);
- Scott G. Dacko, The Advanced Dictionary of Marketing: Putting Theory to Use (Oxford University Press, 2008);
- L. Nash and D. Jackson, Direct Marketing: Strategy, Planning, and Execution (McGraw-Hill, 2000);
- J. Nowak and J. Phelps, “Direct Marketing and the Use of Individual-Level Consumer Information: Determining How and When ‘Privacy’ Matters,” Journal of Direct Marketing (v.11/4, 1997);
- Stone, Successful Direct Marketing Methods (NTC Business Books, 1996);
- Tapp, Principles of Direct and Database Marketing (Financial Times Pitman Publishing, 1998).
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