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What Is Direct Response Marketing?

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Direct response marketing is a type of marketing strategy that compels a high-quality prospect to take immediate action and opt into the advertiser’s offer. It educates instead of selling. It costs very little to produce, and the results are measurable, making it ideal for small businesses.

Here’s everything you need to implement an effective direct response marketing campaignwhat it is, why it works, and which businesses will benefit from it. Click to jump ahead:

    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    Why Use Direct Response Marketing?

    The purpose of direct response marketing is to evoke an immediate response in your target audience. 

    It uses a clear call to action which compels prospects to take some action. It could be to opt into your email list, pick up the phone and call for more information, place an order, or visit a web page. 

    Unlike branding it costs little to nothing, results are immediate and, more importantly, measurable.

    Explain what direct response marketing is.

    Who Benefits From Direct Response Marketing?

    This type of marketing strategy works for all businesses, small, medium, and large. But here’s why it should be the only option for owners of small-to-medium-sized companies.

    Hubspot’s 2019 State of Inbound Marketing report revealed three primary marketing challenges for SMEs.

    1. Generate leads and traffic – 63%
    2. Show a return on investment – 40%
    3. Secure enough budget – 28%
    Graph showing the top three marketing challenges of small businesses

    A successful direct response marketing campaign ticks these boxes. 

    • It focuses on lead generation.
    • It creates a sense of urgency and as a result, has a faster response rate.
    • It doesn’t cost a lot to implement.
    • It’s trackable.
    • It opens a direct line of conversation with high-priority leads.
    • It delivers measurable results.
    6 Reasons to Implement a Direct Response Marketing Campaign

    A good marketing team can easily monitor the number of leads they get, how many convert to paying customers, and analyze which ads or marketing channels performed well. So this makes direct response campaigns perfect for small to medium-sized companies. 

    Five Effective Channels For Direct Response Marketing

    5 Effective Media Channels for Direct Response Campaigns

    There are several marketing channels that you can use to run an effective direct response advertising campaign. Ideally, you want to use a mix of online and offline marketing techniques. 

    Here are five examples of direct response campaigns.

    1. Direct marketing.

    Direct mail or snail mail is an excellent lead generation tactic. Think about. How many emails do you get from brands each day? Your inbox is bombarded with spammy marketing. It’s easy to delete.

    Now direct mail is exciting. It’s something different that can help to build a positive brand image and start a conversation with potential customers.

    You can use direct mail to implement a referral program.  For example, include a voucher with a clear cta for prospects. It could be a discount on their next purchase when they refer a friend. So using direct mail as part of your direct marketing strategy is a powerful example of reaching your target audience through response marketing. 

    Learn how to ask for a referral using direct mail here.

    2. Email marketing.

    Another great way to reach potential customers is by creating an email direct response campaign. For example, you could create a limited time offer that lets subscribers access a course or event for free. You’d include a cta button in your email that directs your prospects to a landing page where they can sign up for a free trial.

    This type of marketing works because it delivers value before a sale. And let’s be honest, customers love getting free stuff.

    3. Digital marketing.

    All of your direct response marketing campaigns need to include digital marketing tactics for example search engine marketing (SEM), banner advertising, and video marketing.

    You could create a direct response campaign that answers the questions your audience are typing into Google. For example, if you know your customers frequently ask how to build a remote team you could create a blog that details exactly how to find the right talent, what tools they’ll need, pricing strategies, and much more.

    In the blog you’d include a clear cta that directs a customer to book a free hour consult. So make sure it’s part of your direct response marketing strategy.

    4. Social media marketing.

    Pretty much every business uses social media and most have a Facebook account. So why not use Facebook ads to target potential customers. For example, you could create a direct response Facebook ad that offers your audience a free nutritional plan to help them feel good, look great, and drop inches quickly. All they need to do is like your page and refer a friend.

    It’s direct, includes a clear cta, drives prospects to take action, builds your audience and if you nurture new prospects you’ll get more sales and brand evangelists. So don’t discount social media as a successful direct response marketing tactic.

    5. TV, podcasting and radio.

    We’ve all seen those television commercials where if you buy now they’ll throw in a bunch of extra add-ons. This type of response marketing has been used for years. But with podcasting, your brand now has a captured audience.

    You can choose a highly specific podcast show and tailor your direct response marketing campaigns to their customers’ unique needs. So make sure to include broadcast in your marketing campaign.

    So these response marketing strategies work to build brand awareness, generate qualified leads, make more sales, and grow your customer base. Now that you know how to reach your audience, let’s break down the essentials of direct response advertising.

    What Is A Direct Response Ad?

    Most brand advertising focus on name recognition. Direct response advertising, in comparison, focus on acquiring leads. The purpose of a direct response advert is to evoke an immediate response.  

    While every direct response advertisment includes a call-to-action, the point is not to sell. 

    It’s about getting people who are interested in what you do to raise their hand and say I want to know more. These leads go into a follow-up database (or sales funnel). From here it’s up to you to deliver value and position yourself as an authority. To gain their trust and build a relationship. 

    If you use direct response advertising to drive leads to landing pages, it’s vital you’ve set up your sales funnel for each of your buyer personas. To learn more about how to master sales funnels click here.

    Now let’s take a look at the characteristics of direct response advertising.

    8 Characteristics Of A Direct Response Ad

    Step-by-step guide to crafting a direct response ad
    Use this checklist to effectively implement direct response marketing into your small-to-medium-sized business.

    So what makes a successful direct response advertisement? There are eight key characteristics or techniques. They are: 

    1. direct response marketing is trackable.

    When someone responds, you know which ad and which media generated 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.

    What’s more pressing is you track your ads. A survey by Blue Corona Media revealed less than 30% of small businesses use website analytics or call tracking. 18% admit to not tracking anything.

    What gets measured, gets managed. You can’t improve your numbers if you don’t track and measure the results.

    2. Direct response is measurable.

    With direct response marketing, you know which ads received a response and how many sales you got from each one. As a result, you can measure the effectiveness of each ad.  

    Now you can drop or change ads that aren’t performing. 

    So measuring, managing and improving your key marketing numbers will impact the result.

    3. direct response ads use compelling headlines & sales copy.

    Direct response marketing has a compelling message of strong interest to your chosen prospects.

    It uses attention-grabbing headlines with persuasive sales copy that is “salesmanship in print.”

    Often the ad looks more like an editorial than an advertisement (hence making it at least three times more likely to get read).

    4. direct response targets a specific audience or niche.

    It’s served to prospects within specific verticals, geographic zones, or niche markets. The ad aims to appeal to a narrow target market. Your goal should be to become a big fish in a small pond.

    5. direct response marketing makes a specific offer.

    Usually, the ad makes a specific value-packed offer. It does not sell. Instead, the ad aims to 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. It talks about the prospect’s interests, desires, fears, and frustrations. 

    By contrast, branding has a one size fits all marketing message. It also focuses on the advertiser.

    6. direct response ads demand a response.

    A direct response advert always has a “call to action.” It compels 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. It could be via a regular phone number, a free recorded message line, a website, a fax back form, a reply card or coupons.

    When the prospect responds, it captures the person’s contact information. You can now contact them whenever you choose.

    7. DIRECT RESPONSE DELIVERS A Multi-step, short-term follow-up.

    In exchange for capturing the prospect’s details, it offers valuable education and information on the prospect’s problem.

    It includes a second “irresistible offer,” which ties into whatever next step you want them to take. For example, this could be calling to schedule an appointment or coming into the showroom or store.

    Then it makes a series of follow-up “touches” via different media such as mail, e-mail, fax, and cellphone. Often there is a time or quantity limit on the offer.

    8. Maintenance follow-up of unconverted leads.

    There are many reasons why people don’t respond immediately. They may not have the money, or they may not need your services now.

    There is value in this bank of slow-to-mature prospects. Make sure they continue hearing from you once to several times a month.

    For example, let’s look at this LinkedIn Marketing Solutions (LMS) ad.

    Illustrate what an example of a direct response ad looks like
    • As a promoted post on LinkedIn, LMS can track how many times the ad was served to prospects and who clicked on it.
    • It uses an enticing headline and compelling copy. It shares the stories of six successful lead generation campaigns. If you want to drive real business results, you’ll read it.
    • It makes a specific offer. It will show you how to build a sophisticated lead generation strategy on LinkedIn.
    • It includes a call-to-action. Learn more.
    • On clicking the link you can read the article. A pop-up asks if you’d like to subscribe to the blog. You have to input your email address to subscribe to the blog. See their multi-step, follow-up form below.
    Visual example of direct response marketing at work, using an opt-in form

    What is Direct Response Copywriting?

    Direct-response copywriting pushes the emotional hot buttons of your target audience. Many businesses don’t like to use this type of copy. Especially those that sell products and services to professional or commercial customers. They feel like it’s not appropriate for their market. You couldn’t be more wrong.

    Whether you are marketing to a CEO or a stay-at-home mom, you are selling to humans. We are all emotional beings. While we might like to think we make decisions based on logic, this isn’t true. Our choices are driven by our emotions and justified with logic.

    So you need to write your sales copy as though you were talking to a single person. You need to get into their heads and spend a day in their shoes. What are their struggles, and how can you help?

    Forget about B2B and B2C.

    Focus on H2H, human-to-human marketing.

    Five Characteristics of Direct Response Copywriting

    How To Write A Direct Response Marketing Campaign

    1. Remember, one ad, one focus.

    Don’t jam-pack your copy with loads of unnecessary information. Doing this will only confuse your prospects. 

    Choose the focus of your ad and only include relevant information.

    2. Use an eye-catching headline.

    Headlines are one of the most important elements in your sales copy. Their job is to grab the attention of your target market and get them to start reading your body copy.

    The headline is the ad for the ad. It should encompass the self-serving result your reader will get.

    3. Keep it short and concise.

    Don’t waffle in your body copy.

    Use bullet points, headers, italics, and numbers to break up the text.

    People often skim read, so you want to make sure that you give them all the information they need.

    4. Include a must-have offer.

    It’s your job to create an exciting and radically different offer from that of your competitors.

    One of the main reasons marketing campaigns fail is because the offer is lazy and poorly thought out. It’s something crappy and unexciting, like 10% or 20% off.

    The offer is an essential part of your marketing campaign. So you need to spend much of your time and energy on structuring this correctly.

    5. Create a sense of urgency.

    This could be something like limited time only, offer expires in 24 hours, or while stock lasts. It puts pressure on your prospect to make a much quicker decision than they would normally.

    It’s a major mistake to discount emotional direct response copywriting.

    Here’s an example I found that utilizes most of the characteristics of direct response copywriting.

    Why Direct Response Marketing Is Money At A Discount

    Direct response marketing is an ethical way of selling. It’s focused on the specific problems of the prospect. And aims to solve these problems with education and particular solutions. It is also the only real way for a small business to reach the consciousness of a prospect affordably. 

    Your marketing system must deliver profitable results. You have to know what a customer is worth to you. Then you need to decide what you are reasonably willing to invest in acquiring one. Only then should you build systems that work within that limit.

    Direct response marketing is accountable. Because it’s focused on ROI, it’s the responsible way to run marketing for a small business.

    If I sold $10 bills 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 name recognition tools.


    I wrote the 1-Page Marketing Plan because I’d been that business owner struggling to figure out how to win at the marketing game.   

    I’d spent thousands of dollars on bad advertising that didn’t bring in leads or make a sale. It took me ten years to crack marketing my business, and that was ten years too long.

    I wanted to give business owners a blueprint for success. It would be something they could use to build a strategic marketing plan and propel their business growth. 

    The book is an implementation breakthrough. It will show you how to create and implement a sophisticated direct response marketing plan for your business.

    Download the 1PMP Canvas to create your strategic marketing plan now.

    Download Our Direct Response Marketing Infographic

    Are you new to marketing your small business? Or do you just want a reminder of the essential characteristics of a direct response ad? Whatever your reason, get our free infographic now.

    Now that you know how to attract the right lead. You need to build a lead nurturing email campaign that moves them along the buyer’s journey until they’re ready to convert to a customer

    If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy our article on Building Business Systems. It will help you to skyrocket your sales, and attract investors.

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    102 thoughts on “What Is Direct Response Marketing?”

    1. Thanks for this really instructive article,
      If I understand well you would advise small companies to focus on brand experience rather than brand advertising?

    2. Thanks for sharing this. Direct Response Marketing refers to the on-the-spot response given by the customer or any other organization to your product.
      This blog contains all relevant factors regarding Direct Response Marketing. keep posting.

    3. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us. Direct response marketing also creates a huge impact on the marketing of the product or any other organization. Keep posting.

      1. Thanks Brad, I always love hearing from my readers. Glad you enjoyed the post and look out for new articles coming soon.

    4. Very well written on direct marketing. The present and future is of online marketing so it is beneficial for every one to do such marketing. thank you.

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