Give Direct Marketing For Small Business a Serious Look

Businessman working on annual report - closeup on charts
Direct marketing is perhaps the most affordable, approachable kind of advertising for an owner of a small or medium-sized business 

If B2B advertising is Rodney Dangerfield, direct marketing can only be categorized as the sleazy used car salesman—the one dressed in a pale green polyester jacket, white patent leather shoes and pinky rings.

And when you look at pet rocks, Ginsu knives, Snuggies, microwave pasta makers (full disclosure, I bought one) and other products like that, it is easy to fall into the temptation of believing the cliché.


What is Direct Marketing?

Without going into excruciatingly boring detail, direct marketing (DM) is broadly defined as anything that tries to elicit an instant direct response. It covers a huge range of media from mail to email, digital, mobile, television, radio and other traditional media. DM is used by an even broader range of industries that go from, yes, the Ginsu knives of the world all the way to the most respected industries, such as pharmaceuticals, banking, credit cards, cell phones, satellite, cable and much more.

Yet after being involved in the DM industry for years and having handled one of the largest advertisers in the Hispanic market (and the largest DM advertiser at that, with more than 69,000 spots per year), I found that not only are disciplines very transferable but that DM has a lot to contribute to “regular”—even branding—marketing.



What Can You Learn From DM?

For starters, it imposes discipline. No, really it does!

DM is all about results: measuring results, quantifying results and making decisions. In DM, we don’t even get into the normal discussion of “Is this media cheap?” Expensive? We don’t care. We run a test, see the ROI, learn and test again.

Here’s how this works and how it can permeate your normal decision making. Take the issue of budget setting. Most direct marketers have guidelines that set between 20 percent and 25 percent of the sales price. They know that products will not sell without advertising. Compare that with the usual conversations during planning when many brand managers set budgets based on what the sales had been and then project sales increases.

A typical direct marketer’s decision making might go something like this:




My sales projections   $1,000,000.00
Percentage of sales  






While the average brand manager might be thinking along these terms:



My sales this year   $1,000,000.00
Percentage of sales  


Sales projection for planned year   $1,030,000.00
Actual percent of sales for budget    




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