What Is Direct Response Marketing?

What Is Direct Response Marketing?

There are two major types of marketing strategies. The first is known as mass marketing or “branding”.

The goal of this type of advertising is to remind customers and prospects about your brand as well as the products and services you offer.

The idea is that the more times you run ads from your brand, the more likely people are to have this brand at the top of their consciousness when they go to make a purchasing decision.

If you’ve seen the ads from major brands such as Coca Cola, Nike and Apple you’ll have experienced “image” marketing.

The vast majority of advertising falls into this category.

There’s no doubt that this type of marketing is effective, however it is very expensive to successfully pull off and takes a lot of time.

It requires you to saturate various types of advertising media e.g. TV, print, radio, Internet etc. on a very regular basis and over an extended period of time.

The expense and time involved are not a problem for the major brands as they have massive advertising budgets and product lines are planned years in advance.

However, a problem arises when small businesses try to imitate the big brands at this type of marketing.

The few times they run their ads is like a drop in the ocean. It’s nowhere near enough to reach the consciousness of their target market who are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages each day.

So they get drowned out and see little or no return for their investment.

Another advertising victim bites the dust.

It’s not that the small businesses aren’t good “branding” or mass media ads. It’s that they simply don’t have the budget to run their ads in sufficient volume to make them effective.

Unless you have millions of dollars in your marketing budget, you have a very high probability of failure with this type of marketing.

Direct Response Marketing

The second type of marketing strategy is called “direct response”.

Direct response marketing, is designed to evoke an immediate response and compel prospects to take some specific action, such as opting in to your email list, picking up the phone and calling for more information, placing an order or being directed to a web page.

So what makes a direct response ad? Here are some of the main characteristics:

It’s trackable. That is, when someone responds, you know which ad and which media was responsible for generating the response. This is in direct contrast to mass media or “brand” marketing – no one will ever know what ad compelled you to buy that can of Coke, heck you may not even know yourself.

It’s measurable. Since you know which ads are being responded to and how many sales you’ve received from each one, you can measure exactly how effective each ad is. You then drop or change ads that are not giving you a return on investment.

It uses compelling headlines and sales copy. Direct response marketing has a compelling message of strong interest to your chosen prospects. It uses attention grabbing headlines with strong sales copy that is “salesmanship in print”. Often the ad looks more like editorial than an ad (hence making it at least three times more likely to get read).

It targets a specific audience or niche. Prospects within specific verticals, geographic zones or niche markets are targeted. The ad aims to appeal to a narrow target market.

It makes a specific offer. Usually the ad makes a specific value-packed offer. Often the aim is not necessarily to sell anything from the ad but to simply get the prospect to take the next action, such as requesting a free report.

The offer focuses on the prospect rather than on the advertiser and talks about the prospect’s interests, desires, fears and frustrations.

By contrast mass media or “brand” marketing has a broad, one size fits all marketing message and is focused on the advertiser.

It demands a response. Direct response advertising has a “call to action”, compelling the prospect to do something specific. It also includes a means of response and “capture” of these responses.

Interested, high probability prospects have easy ways to respond such as a regular phone number, a free recorded message line, a web site, a fax back form, a reply card or coupons.

When the prospect responds, as much of the person’s contact information as possible is captured so that they can be contacted beyond the initial response.

Multi-step, short term follow-up. In exchange for capturing the prospect’s details, valuable education and information on the prospect’s problem is offered. The information should carry with it a second “irresistible offer” – tied to whatever next step you want to prospect to take, such as calling to schedule an appointment or coming into the showroom or store. Then a series of follow-up “touches” via different media such as mail, e-mail, fax, phone are made. Often there is a time or quantity limit on the offer.

Maintenance follow-up of unconverted leads. People who do not respond within the short term follow-up period may have many reasons for not “maturing” into buyers immediately. There is value in this bank of slow-to-mature prospects. They should continue hearing from you once to several times a month.

Money At A Discount

Direct response marketing is a highly ethical way of selling. It’s focused on the specific problems of the prospect and aims to solve these problems with education and specific solutions.

It is also the only real way for a small business to affordably reach the consciousness of a prospect.

Your marketing system must deliver profitable results.

You have to know what a customer is worth to you, and then decide what you are reasonably willing to invest to acquire one, and then build systems that work within that limit.

Direct response is an accountable way to run marketing for a small business, as it is highly focused on return on investment.

If $10 bills were being sold for $2 each, how many would you buy?

The name of the game with direct response marketing is ‘money at a discount’ e.g. $2 into advertising to get $10 out in the way of profits from sales.

When you turn your ads into direct response ads, they become lead generating tools rather than just name recognition tools.

Connect with Allan Dib on Google+


  • Eddie Dovner

    Reply Reply January 16, 2013

    Testing is a very important part of Direct Response Marketing; it allows you to see where the ideal audience is for a certain product or offer which then allows you to use your money more wisely. Thanks for a great post.

  • Ravindra Kathale

    Reply Reply May 12, 2013

    A very concise and clear article on the topic of DRM. It’s easy to understand and gives a complete idea about what it is. Thanks for an excellent post!
    — Ravindra Kathale

  • Neil Hendry

    Reply Reply May 25, 2013

    Thanks Allan for the well written and informative article. Direct Response Marketing is a term that I have never really read about before, but now I read it I see that it is something I have been working towards for ages……I just didn’t have a definition for it!

    The internet age obviously provides the opportunity to get your offer in front of so many more people….and track and test it…a great opportunity. Now to master DRM and learn from those who have led the way…..

  • Mitchell Group

    Reply Reply August 28, 2013

    In a general sense this is good information to have an idea about Direct Response Marketing. I just wish there was more specific info. about the topic, such as what websites that can offer you this type of service or training …etc.

  • Sallie

    Reply Reply November 12, 2013

    Thanks with regard to providing this kind of wonderful subject matter.

  • Shaun Embrey

    Reply Reply November 16, 2013

    Direct Response Marketing is a type of marketing designed to generate an immediate response from consumers, where each consumer response and purchase can be measured, and attributed to individual advertisements.


    Reply Reply December 11, 2013

    Great Article! Thank you for producing and posting it.
    Chris Shark

  • Kyle

    Reply Reply February 7, 2014

    Nice article and very clear.

    • Allan Dib

      Reply Reply February 7, 2014

      Hey Kyle,

      Thanks for your kind comments. Did I see you guys on Shark Tank a while ago?


      • Bahman

        Reply Reply November 19, 2016

        Hi Allan

        Thanks for your great article.
        In my opinion you have defined the meaning of direct response marketing in your own words and it was a strong frame for the entire article.

  • John Hanna

    Reply Reply May 10, 2014

    Hi, great post especially your comments concerning print media.

  • Ben Rose

    Reply Reply June 6, 2014

    Thanks Allan, excellent Article.

  • Greg

    Reply Reply June 16, 2014

    Great post. Just what I was looking for when explaining to my clients how to use direct marketing. Glad I found you here I will be back.

    A very clear and concise easy to understand piece of writing,


    Greg De Tisi

  • Mike

    Reply Reply June 28, 2014

    Very well written article.

  • Verity Kennard

    Reply Reply October 15, 2014

    Hi Allan

    Great post – completely agree with what you’re saying about direct response marketing being trackable and measurable, which is what makes it so tangible for retailers!


  • 5starsescort.com/galery

    Reply Reply November 3, 2014

    Thank you very much for that great article

  • Greg Noland

    Reply Reply November 12, 2014

    Many thanks for the article Allan,

    I definitely feel DRM is the way forward for us. It gives us the chance to understand and serve our customers much better, nurture relations and place ourselves as the expert in our industry.

    I just have to improve my understanding and action!!


  • Jean Ramsey

    Reply Reply November 29, 2014

    A very clear article. I like the idea that it is an ethical way to reach your target audience.

  • Randy Pryor

    Reply Reply January 5, 2015

    Great article Allan.

    I’ve been in the direct response industry now for over 15 years, and we are quite passionate about it. For many companies, direct response offers an unparalleled opportunity. Where else can a tiny company grow to millions of dollars in revenue in just a few short months? For us, it’s the new American dream, where entrepreneurs can compete against global brands. We’ve had the pleasure of working on the George Foreman Grill, with Richard Simmons, and many others… it never gets old.

    Thanks again for posting.

    Best regards,


  • Josh

    Reply Reply February 27, 2015

    Hi Allan,

    How would this play out in radio advertising? As a production guy at a radio station, I often find myself writing commercial copy. With some of our ads, I try to make them emotionally compelling to our target audience of women 25-54, but does that fall more under the “branding” umbrella, or could it still be direct response marketing if I have a specific call to action?

  • [email protected]

    Reply Reply June 11, 2015

    Thanks for sharing this useful post.Always eager to know about new things and you have explained in brilliant way.

  • john davies

    Reply Reply June 18, 2015

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and explaining in easy to understand terms.

    cheers john.

  • vincent cheruiyot

    Reply Reply July 19, 2015

    thanks for such a good definition can you please shed some light here i often confuse direct response advertising and direct response marketing?

  • Nantambi Sauda

    Reply Reply September 14, 2015

    Hello, thank u for the great work, I would like you to advise me on how to market a therapist organization.

    • Sarki Gadah

      Reply Reply May 14, 2016

      People won’t patronise things they do not know it exist or have access to. That is where marketing and advertising becomes necessary.

      It is advisable that you have a professional website or blog where you can demonstrate what you do and build credibility.

      Once you’ve achieved that, develop a direct response advertisement copy as discussed above, then place your ad on platforms that are most visited by your target market.

  • ZipZoo

    Reply Reply September 21, 2015

    Great article, different ways of marketing will give your business succes

  • Jeanne

    Reply Reply October 22, 2015

    Hi thanks all of you I am student and today I get many things about my marketing course thanks

  • Thanks for the clarity on Direct Response Marketing? Great blog for digital marketing users.

  • Ruth

    Reply Reply June 2, 2016

    Thanks, Allan Dib !!
    For writing this fantastic and very detailed article about ”Direct Response Marketing.” I have a brand, and I am doing its marketing, but I was very confused about this after reading your article most of my problems have solved.

    thank you!!

  • Boberdoo

    Reply Reply July 29, 2016

    Thanks for this great post and dropping all the great knowledge here.

  • Jenny

    Reply Reply August 22, 2016

    Yes, you are right about direct about direct response marketing. Especially the fact that it targets niche targeted customers for your business. Moreover, its easily trackable. I am glad i found some other points i was not aware about. Thanks for this useful piece of information.

  • Miguel Ceballos

    Reply Reply November 12, 2016

    Great explanation! I am doing direct response marketing but with another name. I didn’t knew it as also called direct response marketing.

  • Mike Stivenson

    Reply Reply November 28, 2016

    Thank you for the detailed study of direct marketing. Be sure to advise the article to colleagues and apply in my case.

  • Peter Jimenez

    Reply Reply December 1, 2016

    Direct Response Marketing is really cost effective for most small businesses. This is the kind of strategy I use when I create: Offers, Specials, Bundles, BOGO, Discounts, Free samples, Free trials. Great for getting new clients who does not know much about you yet !!!

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