Sometimes the Cinderella of the marketing mix, direct marketing is experiencing a resurgence as brands realise its capacity for delivering personalised messages, increasing sales to current and lapsed customers and improving customer loyalty.

Used effectively direct marketing gives the user the ability to identify precisely the impact of any promotion. In doing so it establishes a strong foundation upon which future successful activity can be built.

No matter what sector you’re in, if you need to reach customers and prospects under the radar of your competition, there are 7 basic but essential steps to take to maximise success.

1. Have a clear objective:  This might sound obvious, but you really need to pinpoint exactly what you’re looking to achieve. Frequently this is to raise sales, but is it to produce profit or to shift stock or perhaps retain customers who are lapsing or a combination of objectives?

2. Count every penny:  Make sure you’re aware of the TOTAL cost of delivering the promotion remembering to cover everything which could be included such as data lists, creative, design, print, postage etc.  Calculate the volume of incremental/additional sales required to break even. For this you will need to know the full cost of the promotion, your ATV, margin and average frequency of purchase.

3. Pay attention to your copy: Direct marketing should not be a longwinded, one sided conversation. It should be a dialogue between the brand and the customer. Use your data insights to speak to your customers in a way which will appeal to them

4. Make sure you measure up:  Make sure you designate test cells against which measurement can be made so that you can see where added value is coming from. A typical split might look like this:

  • Not mailed
  • Mailed with basic proposition
  • Mailed with enhanced proposition
  • Mailed with different creative

5. Use your data: The wealth of data businesses now possess should make it possible for you to segment your customer base into essential categories and include variable messages recognising the differences.  For example you would expect to talk to a high value customer differently to one you haven’t seen for over a year. A most recent, frequency and value analysis will give you the platform to develop this. In the past, our aim was on the mass market.

6. Close the deal: You must have a clear call to action with a response mechanism and a robust method of capturing the responses as this is the only way in which you can measure the success of the activity and deliver meaningful analysis.

7. Time is money: Consider an automated platform for your direct mail campaigns. It can deliver a considerable saving on from both a time and money perspective.

Following these 7 steps will enable you to identify what works and what doesn’t and where changes are needed. With this as the basis you can begin to develop a very rewarding direct marketing strategy or programme which will, over time, become more sophisticated and potentially even automated.

Clare Mylan

Clare Mylan


Clare Mylan, Head of Sales, Gecko.