Today, the definition of direct marketing…

Now, for those of you longtime readers of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets who get the best-of-the-best direct marketing wisdom delivered to you every day of the week, I’m sure you’re wondering, “what?!”

Bear with me for a moment.  Because even for those of us who are seasoned marketing professionals, well-schooled in the best practices of “direct,” we can still benefit by going back for a bit of spring training.

In other words, getting back to the basics can still be beneficial, even when you’re a pro.

And if you’re more novice and still don’t really understand exactly what this field of “direct marketing” is — well, hopefully this will be especially valuable for you!

What direct marketing is NOT…

When people ask me what I do, I frequently tell them that “I write junk mail.”

I have to admit that I stole that.  From the great Richard Armstrong, copywriter extraordinaire, my friend, and your fellow reader (I’m flattered that he opens these things with regularity!).

It’s a tongue-in-cheek way to describe what we do, that requires little further explanation.  (And I don’t have to answer the question, “You’re a copywriter — like that little C in the circle?”)

And yet…

Is direct marketing just “junk mail,” translated into other media?  Yes, and no.

It’s common for high-brow brand and image advertisers to think of direct marketing as “junk mail,” full of hype, lies, and bright colors.

And yet, that’s only one small portion of what qualifies as direct marketing.

It’s also not infomercials, the industry around which co-opted the term “direct response” and now use that term to only refer to direct response TV advertising.

What direct marketing is…

There’s a legend around the birth of direct marketing, from the famed Lord & Thomas ad agency, where Claude Hopkins made his name.

Before Hopkins, a young Albert Lasker had made his way up from janitor to partner of Lord & Thomas, purchasing a share of the agency when its namesake Lord retired in 1903.

In 1904, a former Canadian mounted policeman named John E. Kennedy made his way to Chicago, to the saloon beneath the Lord & Thomas agency.

So the story goes, Kennedy sent a note up to Lasker, basically saying, “I’m in the saloon downstairs.  I know what advertising is, and I know you do not know.  I would like to tell you, as I think it would mean very much to you to know.”  Or something to that effect.

Long story short, Lasker invited Kennedy upstairs for a meeting, and Kennedy offered to spill his secret.  But first, to make sure he was telling Lasker something new, he asked Lasker for his definition.

Lasker said that advertising was news.  News about the product.  News about the company.  News about the offer.

Kennedy disagreed.  He called advertising…

“Salesmanship in print…”

His argument was that good advertising plays the same role as any salesperson (mostly men at the time — this was the very early 1900s).

Its role is to go out and make the same appeals as a salesperson, with the same expected result — to make the sale.

With that as their clarion call, Lasker, Kennedy, and eventually starting in 1908 Claude Hopkins grew Lord & Thomas to one of the most respected advertising firms in the world, one of the few who had turned advertising into a science, on which $1 could be spent, to generate at least $1 in returns, and a customer in tow.

This was the birth of modern direct marketing.

And ultimately, it brings me to the most consistent and useful definition of direct marketing I can offer…

Direct marketing is selling multiplied through media…

From this definition, we get nearly infinite applications.

What role would a salesperson play in your company?  Prospecting?  Getting appointments with potential leads?  Lead education?  Reaching out to leads to make offers and close the sale?  Customer follow-up?  Customer retention efforts?  Up-selling?  Referral generation?

Any one of those roles can either be filled completely or supplemented with media.  Print, direct mail, email, websites, video, audio, phone, and more.

In order to fulfill the selling role, you have to connect with the customer, deliver a selling message, ask for a response, and provide a response mechanism.

This can be done by a live person.  Or, it can be done with marketing.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but if you equate them it becomes much easier to see what you need to accomplish in your marketing to make it effective.

Which brings me to…

Direct marketing is a century-plus tradition!

It’s been called by many names.  Direct response.  Direct marketing.  Advertising.  Mail order.  Internet marketing.  And a whole lot more.

But as long as it’s selling multiplied through media, you have direct marketing.

The good news is, although the media changes, the fundamental principles don’t.

And so you can go back to Claude Hopkins or John Caples or Robert Collier or Victor Schwab or John Caples or so many more — folks who never touched a computer! — and you can pick up principles of effective direct marketing that you can apply right now, using the newest tech and the newest media.

The more you study, the more you’ll also realize the depth and breadth of the applications of the fundamental principle of selling multiplied by media.

I’ve written very formal-looking letters to IT professionals that fit the bill, and I’ve written over-the-top financial promotions that fit the bill of “junk mail.”

I’ve written logical pieces, that presented a rational argument with little emotional pizazz.  I’ve also written very heavily emotionally-driven pieces that only made the logical justification after the emotional hook was set.

(The latter worked better than the former, in both cases, BTW.)

The thing is, direct marketing is a very varied field, and there’s room for anything that trying to sell using whatever media tools are available to us today.

Best practices of direct marketing…

There are layers upon layers of lessons that could be learned about direct marketing.

Far more than would fill a 1,000+ word essay.

Far more than would fill a book.  (I have more than a bookshelf worth of direct marketing books and I’m just scratching the surface of what’s out there.)

When I started Breakthrough Marketing Services, it was with the tag line, “Marketing and advertising strategies of the world’s most successful, results-driven direct marketers.”

Today, I’ve simplified the principle behind that to, “We share ideas that grow businesses.”

Either way, it’s about effective marketing strategies to generate a business result.

That’s what you’ll find in nearly every issue of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.  That’s what you’ll find in everything I publish.

What I can tell you is that emotion works — people decide on emotion and justify their decision with logic.  I can also tell you that stories work — they’re way more interesting to read than mere factual descriptions and appeals.

I can also tell you that you need to catch attention, offer to solve a problem or fill a need, then make a clear offer your prospect can respond to.

The easier you make it, the better results you get.

And, study what works.  There’s not a business problem under the sun that hasn’t been solved 1,000 times already.  Find out how others solved it, and you’re 95% of the way toward finding your own solution.

That’s it for today, but for more direct marketing best practices, stay tuned!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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