Direct Marketing

by Marcel Nanning | Last Updated: May 27, 2024

Direct Marketing is a big deal in B2B marketing. There are tons of definitions and forms of it, like e-commerce, one-to-one marketing, database marketing, promotion marketing, and relationship marketing. Let’s break it down and add some extra info along the way.

What is Direct Marketing?

Direct Marketing is a specialized type of marketing that uses direct communication channels (like letters, ads, mailings, catalogs, phone calls, and screens) to create and maintain lasting relationships between sellers and targeted buyers. The key here is generating measurable responses and sales at measurable costs. (Roomer, 1990)

Another definition sees Direct Marketing as achieving economic exchanges via direct response media. (Paul Postma, 2007)

It’s also described as marketing that applies specific techniques and tools aimed at creating and maintaining direct relationships between suppliers and customers. (Dutch Association for Direct Marketing, Distance Selling, and Sales Promotion, 1992)

Above all, we want to target the different members of the DMU as best we can.

Parts of direct marketing

For a good direct marketing approach, you need several components. We take you through some of them.

Database Marketing

Database marketing involves using customer data from a database to send targeted messages. It also includes analyzing customer groups to come up with efficient contact strategies. Event Marketing has emerged from this, targeting audiences based on life events with relevant messages. Database marketing grew alongside CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and CRM systems.

Database marketing isn’t just about collecting data; it’s about using that data to understand customer behavior, predict future trends, and personalize marketing efforts. For instance, if a business notices that a segment of their customers buys a particular product every year, they can tailor their marketing messages to highlight new features or related products around the same time.


E-commerce is all about buying and selling goods and services online. Since it involves direct communication and transactions, it’s a form of Direct Marketing. Here, the line between marketing and sales blurs.

E-commerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce make it easier for businesses to set up online stores and reach customers directly. With tools like abandoned cart recovery and personalized product recommendations, e-commerce businesses can engage customers in real-time and drive conversions.

Promotion Marketing

Promotion marketing blends Direct Marketing techniques with sales promotions, like discounts, to fill up databases with customer information.

Promotion marketing often involves creating limited-time offers, loyalty programs, and referral incentives. These strategies not only drive immediate sales but also build a customer database for future marketing efforts. For example, a company might offer a discount code in exchange for signing up for their newsletter, which helps grow their email list.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a crucial part of Direct Marketing. It’s a cheap and super effective way to reach specific audiences with targeted messages. Online mailings have become a staple in the Direct Marketing mix for professionals. Print direct mail has largely been replaced by online mailings in both B2B and B2C.

With email marketing platforms like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and Sendinblue, businesses can segment their audiences, automate email campaigns, and track engagement metrics. Personalized email content and triggered emails based on customer actions can significantly improve open rates and conversions.

Content Marketing

When direct marketing aligns with your content marketing strategy, you turn 1 + 1 into 3! If, as part of your content marketing, you have a nice playbook with a handy roadmap, this is ideal to deploy via direct marketing techniques.


Telemarketing, or phone sales, is a traditional but still widely used method for generating leads. It’s a powerful, personal way to gather information about target groups and get immediate responses. The strength of telemarketing lies in the direct dialogue, but it’s also its weakness since not everyone appreciates telemarketing calls.

Modern telemarketing often involves using sophisticated software to manage calls, track responses, and integrate with CRM systems. Despite its challenges, telemarketing remains effective for complex B2B sales where a personal touch is needed to build relationships and close deals.


Direct marketing also often goes hand in hand with advertising campaigns. Then we are not talking about campaigns to promote brand awareness (so-called above-the-line efforts) but DM supporting campaigns. Think google ads or print ads.

Direct marketing infographic

Measuring Direct Marketing

A big part of Direct Marketing is measuring responses. Methods like email marketing are perfect for tracking campaign effects. Metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates help marketers assess the effectiveness of their campaigns and make data-driven decisions. Measuring direct marketing is crucial for understanding the effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) of campaigns.

1. Response rates

One of the primary methods to evaluate direct marketing is through response rates, which indicate the percentage of recipients who take a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a survey. By tracking response rates, marketers can determine which campaigns resonate most with their audience and adjust future strategies accordingly.

2. Conversion rates

Another vital metric is conversion rates, which measure the proportion of responses that result in a successful outcome, such as a sale or a subscription. Conversion rates provide deeper insight into the quality and persuasiveness of the marketing message, allowing for more precise targeting and message refinement.

3. Cost per acquisition & Customer lifetime value

Additionally, tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) such as cost per acquisition (CPA) and customer lifetime value (CLV) helps in assessing the financial viability of direct marketing efforts. CPA calculates the average cost of acquiring a new customer through direct marketing channels, while CLV estimates the total revenue a business can expect from a customer over the course of their relationship.

By analyzing these KPIs, businesses can determine the profitability of their campaigns and allocate their marketing budget more effectively. Advanced analytics tools and techniques, including A/B testing and data segmentation, further enhance the ability to measure and optimize direct marketing strategies, ensuring that resources are focused on the most effective tactics and channels.

Here’s a table with the most commonly used direct marketing measurements:

Response RatePercentage of recipients who respond to the marketing effort.
Conversion RatePercentage of respondents who complete the desired action, such as making a purchase.
Click-Through Rate (CTR)Percentage of recipients who click on a link within the marketing message.
Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)Average cost incurred to acquire a new customer through the direct marketing campaign.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)Total revenue expected from a customer over the entire duration of their relationship with the business.
Return on Investment (ROI)Measure of the profitability of the marketing campaign, calculated as the net profit divided by the cost of the campaign.
Bounce RatePercentage of emails that could not be delivered to the recipient’s inbox.
Open RatePercentage of recipients who open the marketing email.
Unsubscribe RatePercentage of recipients who opt out from receiving future marketing communications.
Engagement RateLevel of interaction (likes, shares, comments) with the marketing content on social media platforms.
Revenue Per CampaignTotal revenue generated directly from a specific marketing campaign.
Average Order Value (AOV)Average amount spent by customers per order in response to the direct marketing effort.

Dialogue Marketing

A recent trend is Dialogue Marketing, which involves a direct one-on-one conversation. Not all Direct Marketing is Dialogue Marketing, and vice versa. This trend emphasizes building deeper relationships with customers through meaningful interactions rather than just pushing products.

Dialogue Marketing often involves interactive elements like live chat, social media engagement, and personalized email communications. By fostering two-way conversations, businesses can better understand customer needs and preferences, leading to more tailored and effective marketing strategies.

Developments in Direct Marketing

With the rise of Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing, Direct Marketing is now used mainly to provide leads/prospects with specific content suitable for their stage in the customer journey. This form of email marketing is a key part of Inbound Marketing strategies. Marketers use Marketing Automation Software to support this process.

Marketing automation tools like HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot help businesses automate repetitive tasks, segment audiences, and deliver personalized content at scale. These tools enable marketers to nurture leads through the sales funnel with targeted campaigns, track engagement, and adjust strategies based on real-time data.

Direct Marketing Strategy: Personalization and Segmentation

One effective Direct Marketing strategy is personalization and segmentation. By leveraging customer data, businesses can create highly targeted and personalized campaigns that resonate with individual recipients.

  1. Segmentation: Divide your customer base into distinct groups based on demographics, purchase history, behavior, or other relevant factors. This allows for more precise targeting.
  2. Personalization: Use customer data to personalize the content and offers in your marketing messages. This can include addressing the recipient by name, recommending products based on past purchases, and tailoring the message to their interests and needs.
  3. Automation: Utilize CRM and marketing automation tools to streamline the process of delivering personalized messages at scale. Automated workflows can trigger emails based on specific actions taken by the customer, ensuring timely and relevant communication.

Steps to set up a direct marketing campaign using CRM

  1. Define Campaign Goals: Clearly outline what you want to achieve with your campaign. This could be increasing sales, generating leads, boosting customer engagement, or building brand awareness.

  2. Identify Target Audience: Use your CRM software to analyze customer data and segment your audience. Identify the specific groups you want to target based on criteria such as demographics, purchase behavior, and engagement levels.

  3. Develop Campaign Content: Create personalized content and offers tailored to each segment. Ensure your messages are relevant and compelling, with a clear call to action.

  4. Choose Communication Channels: Decide which direct communication channels (email, phone, social media, direct mail, etc.) you will use to reach your audience. Utilize your CRM to manage and track interactions across multiple channels.

  5. Set Up Automation: Configure your CRM and marketing automation tools to automate the delivery of your campaign messages. Set up workflows to trigger emails, schedule follow-up calls, and manage other tasks based on customer interactions and behaviors.

  6. Launch the Campaign: Roll out your campaign across the chosen channels. Monitor the campaign’s progress in real-time through your CRM, making adjustments as necessary to optimize performance.

  7. Measure and Analyze Results: Use your CRM to track key metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and ROI. Analyze the CRM data to assess the effectiveness of your campaign and identify areas for improvement.

  8. Refine and Repeat: Based on your analysis, refine your strategy and tactics for future campaigns. Continuously iterate and improve your direct marketing efforts to achieve better results over time.

By following these steps and leveraging the power of CRM, businesses can execute effective direct marketing campaigns that drive engagement, conversions, and customer loyalty.

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