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Direct Marketing
Direct marketing is a sub-discipline and type of marketing. There are two main definitional characteristics which distinguish it from other types of marketing or advertising. The first is that it attempts to send its messages directly to consumers, without the use of intervening media. This involves unsolicited commercial communication with consumers or businesses. The second characteristic is that it is focused on driving purchases that can be attributed to a specific "call-to-action." This aspect of direct marketing involves an emphasis on trackable, measurable results (known as "response" in the industry) regardless of medium.

The most common form of direct marketing is direct mail, where the marketers use a reduced "bulk mail" postal rate to send paper mail to all postal customers in an area or all customers whose addresses have been taken from a list. The second most common form of direct marketing is telemarketing, where marketers call selected (or random) telephone numbers. Email Marketing, including spam may have passed telemarketing in frequency at this point, and it is a third type of direct marketing. A fourth type of direct marketing, junk faxing, is now less common than the other forms. This is partly thanks to laws in the United States and elsewhere which make it illegal. A related form of marketing is infomercials. They are typically called "direct response" marketing rather than direct marketing because they try to achieve a direct response via television presentations. Viewers respond via telephone or internet, credit card in hand.

Direct marketers also use media such as door hangers, package inserts, magazines, newspapers, radio, television, email, internet banner ads, pay-per-click ads, billboards, transit ads, etc. And according to Ad Age, "In 2005, U.S. agencies generated more revenue from marketing services than from traditional advertising and media."

If the ad in the medium asks the prospect to take a specific action--call a free phone number, visit a website, return a response card, place an order, visit a PURL, complete a survey, etc.--then the effort is considered to be direct marketing. Direct response or direct-response advertising are both synonymous terms for direct marketing.

History

The term "direct marketing" is believed to have been first used in 1961 in a speech by Lester Wunderman, who pioneered direct marketing techniques with brands such as American Express and Columbia Records. Although Wunderman may have been the first to use the term "direct marketing", the practice of "mail order selling" (direct marketing via mail) essentially began in the U.S. upon invention of the typewriter in 1867. The first mail-order catalog was produced by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872. The Direct Mail Advertising Association, predecessor of the present-day Direct Marketing Association, was first established in 1917. Third class bulk mail postage rates were established in 1928.

Direct marketing's history in Europe can be traced to the 15th century. Upon Gutenberg's invention of moveable type, the first trade catalogs from printer-publishers appeared sometime around 1450.

Recently, political campaigns have begun to appropriate the methods of direct marketers (or to employ direct marketing firms) to raise money and foster activism.

Advantages of Direct Marketing or Direct Mail

  • It is quicker to produce. You can prepare and mail a small promotion within days or weeks rather than months. Hence, it is perfect for testing prices, titles, offers, and potential audiences. More elaborate and carefully targeted promotions do take longer to prepare, but even then they usually require a shorter lead time than most other media.
  • Response is quicker. Not only is a direct mail quicker to prepare, but response time to direct mail is usually quicker as well. Thus you can project the final results of a mailing more quickly and accurately than you can with most other advertising.
  • It can be cheaper, especially for smaller tests. Using computer to generate the sales letters, I have done personalized first-class mailings to lists as large as 500 for only the cost of paper, envelopes, and postage (about 40¢ per piece).
  • It does not require as much design time. A standardized direct mail format (letter, response card, folder or brochure, and return envelope) is much easier to design and produce than a magazine advertisement or television commercial.
  • It can be highly targeted. If you choose lists carefully, you can target your mailings more selectively than you can with most other media. You can reach almost any market segment, buyer profile, or area of the country you feel is most appropriate for each book.
  • It allows you to target hard-to-reach consumers. Direct mail allows you to reach audiences you might not be able to reach through any other method. Rodale Press has sold over a million copies of their book Stocking Up sine its 1977 publication. Only 10% of those sales were made through bookstores. Indeed, of Rodale’s $250 million in 1996 book sales, $212 million were the result of their direct marketing efforts.
  • It is more flexible. After testing a promotion, you can change almost anything right away without waiting. You have complete control over the media, the audience, and your offer.
  • It can offer more details. You can pack alot of information into one envelope, far more than you can on a full-page magazine or newspaper ad, or in two minutes or even a half hour on radio or TV.
  • There is less competition. Your advertising message does not have to compete with other advertising messages or editorial matter. At least, it doesn’t have to compete once the envelope is opened.
  • Direct mail can be more personal. Not only can letters be personalized via mail-merging techniques, but you can use more informal language in writing your letter and can direct your letter to the specific interest of the reader.
  • It is easier to respond to. The inclusion of an order card and return envelope makes it easier for the consumer to respond to direct mail as compared to magazine ads (unless you include a bind-in card opposite the advertisement or include a toll-free order number).
  • It is easier to keep. A direct mail piece is more likely to be retained for future reference than a magazine ad since many readers find it inconvenient to tear an advertisement out of a magazine or will be reluctant to do so. Other forms of advertising (radio, TV, and telemarketing) offer noting to retain.
  • It can be used to test. You can build an advertising campaign with more confidence by testing small lists, then building to larger lists, and then rolling out to a full list or lists. Strawberry Hill Press turned to direct mail after selling only 3,000 copies of Stephen Chang’s The Book of Internal Exercises. They started small with a four-page direct mail letter to a list of 10,000 proven buyers of health books. When that mailing pulled a 9% response for a net profit of $9,000, they tested a variety of other lists which, in turn, produced a net profit of $40,000. When they finally rolled out to larger lists, they sold almost 100,000 copies of the book within a year (for a net profit of $150,000).
  • It can build a list of loyal customers. Direct mail allows you to build and maintain an in-house list of prime prospects for your future books (and backlist books). Furthermore, you can make money renting the list. Strawberry Hill Press, in the example noted above, also had over $20,000 worth of list rental income in that same year.
  • Direct mail helps bookstore sales. When Rudolf Flesch’s The Art of Plain Talk was first published, it sold 1,800 copies through bookstore in two years. Not happy with these results, Flesch persuaded his publisher to test a direct mail campaign. Within seven months, the publisher sold 40,000 copies via direct mail. But the really good news was that they also sold 45,000 copies through bookstores (with no other marketing efforts of any kind).

Disadvantages

  • Cost:The cost per thousand will be higher than almost any other form of mass promotion (although the wastage rate may be much lower). Also, development costs in database acquisition/development.
  • Waste:Large quantities of paper are thrown away).
  • Alienation:Some recipients resent direct marketing being "forced" upon them, and boycott companies that do so. Moreover, they may obtain Prohibitory Orders against companies whose direct marketing mail they find offensive.

14 Ways to Use Direct Mail
Direct mail can be used for other reasons besides making a direct sale. Here are just a few other ways you can use direct mail to increase the sales of all your books:

  • Obtain Inquiries:You can use an inexpensive direct mail package to obtain inquiries about your books which you then follow up with a more expensive and elaborate informational package to obtain a sale.
  • Obtain Leads:Use direct mail to obtain leads for direct sales representative or telemarketing staff. This method would be useful for high priced series or collections (encyclopedias, continuity series, or multi-volume reference works). It is also useful for sales to independent retail stores.
  • Offer Free Trials:One of the most effective ways to sell expensive books is to offer a 15-day (or 30-day) free trial period. When a customer sends in a request, send the book with an invoice. Upon receipt of the books, the customer has 15 days to return the book if not satisfied or pay the accompanying invoice.
  • Supplement Retail Sales:Harlequin uses direct mail to make sales they would not reach through retail stores. According to their president, Harlequin’s direct sales do not cut into retail sales. This additive effect of direct mail sales has also been noticed in many other industries, such as the toy and gift industries.
  • Boost Retail Sales:The publishers of Reader’s Digest Books have found that many of the people they mail to actually buy the book at a retail bookstore rather than order direct by mail. Inevitably when they make a mailing on a backlist title, bookstore sales also increase.
  • Increase Sales to Libraries:By increasing consumer demand via the mails, you also increase the number of people who go to libraries to request the book. Whenever there is a demand for a book, libraries will order the book. You can also stimulate college library sales by mailing to college instructors rather than direct to librarians.
  • Make Special Sales:To reach potential volume buyers (for premium or catalog sales), direct mail followed up by telephone calls is the most cost-effective way to advertise.
  • Sell Subsidiary Rights:One of the most cost-effective ways to sell licensing or other subsidiary rights is to reach potential buyers via direct mail and then follow up with telephone calls.
  • Publicize Your Books:Most publicity is generated via direct mail, again followed up by telephone calls.
  • Maintain Contact with Key Customers:Direct mail can be used to send newsletters, updates, and other customer communications to help you maintain contact with your key customers. Such continuing contact can lead to better customer relations and, hence, to more sales. My recommendation: Contact key customers at least once every two months.
  • Build Your Customer List:One of the great advantages of direct marketing is that you can build up a list of buyers who are interested in the areas related to your specialty. Many direct marketers will even lose money on their first mailings just so they can build up their list—not only for their own future use but also to rent to others.
  • Conduct Research:Use direct mail to do market research and surveys. Many published surveys, opinion polls, and other research is already conducted via this method.
  • Prepare New Editorial Material:You can use direct mail to help you prepare your editorial content. For example, direct mail is the most cost-effective way to update directory listings.
  • Sell Advertising:If you publish directories or other reference books where advertising is accepted, you can sell advertising space by mail.

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