Core Principles of Direct Response Marketing
The core of direct response marketing is clear and direct communication.
The goal of the direct marketer is not to be creative, or clever, or create something that ends up in a list of Top 10 Raddest Ads of the Year. The goal of the direct marketer is to provoke the audience to take the desired action.
Let’s talk about the 5 principles that define direct response marketing, and how they all contribute to that single-minded goal.
Know your audience through data only
Direct response marketing views its audience through one lens and one lens only: data. Data reveals someone’s actual behaviors; including what actions have they taken in the past and what provoked them to take those actions.
In the world of direct response marketing, it doesn’t matter one bit what your audience aspires to do, or what they say they’re planning to do. It doesn’t matter whether they saw your content. All that matters is what they actually do, or have done.
Organizations that leverage customer behavior data to generate behavioral insights outperform peers by 85% in sales growth
Measure only what matters
Impressions, website traffic, reach — the direct response marketer doesn’t care about these. Know what they do care about? How many sales were made. How many desired actions were taken.
Vanity metrics like social impressions, audience size, and number of subscribers can be more misleading than they are helpful when they’re used to measure the success of a program. They can make your marketing effort appear more successful than it really is — and that will ultimately hold you back. We do however believe these metrics can be used to guide optimization efforts for specific tactics.
“Any metric you can buy your way out of is probably not a useful metric to measure yourself by…the helpful metrics are the ones where cash isn’t the solution.” — Seth Godin
Build off what’s working
Direct marketers don’t recreate things just because. Instead, they figure out what tactics worked before and only tweak them if they have a reason to: to test a hypothesis for improvement or update copy to make it season-specific.
Why? Because the best predictor of what will work is what worked in the past. If a tactic didn’t perform well in the past, don’t do it again. And we’ll let you in on another little secret: people are not paying close attention to your marketing. They probably will not notice if you send an email that’s near-identical to the one you sent last year (or even last month.) Direct marketers take advantage of this by repeating a proven tactic until results start to fade.
“Herein lies the magic of the conversion rate: You just optimize what’s already there and thus create more profit from your existing customers and traffic.” — Neil Patel
Ask for one thing
Direct marketers stick ruthlessly to one message at a time and communicate it clearly. They let the audience know what they want them to do, tell them the consequences of inaction, and describe the benefits of action. It’s as simple as that.
It takes discipline to stick to a single call to action, because it seems like giving your audience different options will make it more likely that you’ll get a response. But in fact, multiple options tend to have a paralyzing effect. Direct marketers know that if they keep it simple, their audience is more likely to follow through with what they’re being asked to do.
“Emails with a single CTA increased clicks by 371% and sales by 1617%” (Wordstream)
Here's an example of a clear call to action:
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Ask again (and again)
Direct marketers will tell you to keep repeating your call to action until it starts to feel slightly awkward. This gets easier when you accept the fact that people aren’t paying close attention and likely didn’t even notice the first time you said it. Instead, they’re scanning your content quickly to determine whether it’s relevant enough to them to spend a few extra seconds of their time on.
Think about how you interact with the proliferation of content that passes in front of you each day. How do you decide what to engage with and what to screen out?
When in doubt, remember the marketing rule of 7: a prospect needs to “hear” your message at least 7 times before they’ll take action to buy that product or service. And many people say that this “business school classic” is now closer to the rule of 77 with the onslaught of content people are exposed to every day.
“Consumer response to an ad is maximized when they’ve been exposed to it 10 times” (Journal of Advertising)