What is Direct Marketing in the UK? Definition and Examples

You have a great business with a fantastic team and an amazing offering. Still, it can be hard to communicate what makes your brand special to your target audience. Especially with so many other voices clamouring for their attention whenever they drive past a billboard, switch on the radio, turn on the TV or reach for their smartphones.

Conventional marketing channels rely on mass distribution, communicating the brand’s message to as many people as possible. They can be extremely effective. However, they can also get drowned out amidst the noise, in a landscape where businesses of all shapes and sizes are competing for the attention of UK consumers. Fortunately, there is an alternative. Direct marketing is a more immediate way of presenting your offering to prospective and existing customers, helping them to build a stronger relationship with your brand and enhancing its value in their eyes.

Here, we look at the definition of direct marketing, review some key examples, and explore how mastery of this discipline can benefit your business.

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What is direct marketing?

Direct marketing refers to any form of communication between a business and an individual consumer. This can take place across a huge variety of communications platforms, from email and social media to telemarketing and door-to-door marketing. The defining feature, however, is that the business communicates with an individual consumer rather than sending their message via mass distribution (e.g. TV radio or social ads).

A direct marketing campaign may involve distributing a message to millions of individuals. Nonetheless, the communication should feel like a one-on-one conversation with the recipient. Direct marketing will often use personalisation, referring to the individual by name or making recommendations based on their previous interactions with the brand.

Why is direct marketing significant and how might it benefit your business?

The difference between direct marketing and conventional marketing campaigns can be summed up in one word – immediacy.

Direct marketing communications arrive in the recipient’s email or SMS inbox, or land on their doormat. They are harder to ignore than TV ads, radio ads or internet popups. In the data-led era, however, direct marketing efforts can offer a higher value proposition. It can generate more tailored messages with a proposition that is more relevant to the consumer’s needs. Through direct marketing, brands can remind a website user about an abandoned shopping cart, offer them a special treat on their birthday, or provide them with a unique and personalised discount that’s just for them.

Therefore, it has a greater propensity for ROI and can be more cost-effective than conventional campaigns while enhancing the brand’s value proposition. The effects of direct marketing also tend to be highly measurable. Brands can examine the efficacy of their direct campaigns in granular detail, tracking and AB testing their campaigns.

Four main types of direct marketing

Direct marketing is highly multifaceted. Wherever brands communicate directly with a single consumer, they are “doing” direct marketing. However, there are four main channels through which direct marketing communications typically take place.

These are:

  • Email marketing: Email can be a great medium for brands to communicate with their audiences, delivering content marketing such as newsletters as well as personalised offers, loyalty discounts or reminders of abandoned shopping carts
  • Direct mail marketing: Direct mail marketing involves sending targeted content through the post. This involves sending branded content such as catalogues, menus, newsletters, coupons or free samples to a recipient’s home address
  • ** Social media marketing:** Social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook can be used for direct marketing. There are many ways in which they can be leveraged including targeted ad campaigns and direct message (DM) campaigns. Some platforms such as Instagram and TikTok also facilitate social selling
  • ** SMS marketing:** SMS text messaging can lend a greater sense of immediacy to direct marketing efforts. As well as sending personalised messages via SMS, brands can use messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram Messenger and Facebook Messenger

Businesses may choose to focus their direct marketing efforts on one of these channels or integrate them all into an omnichannel marketing strategy. Keep in mind that whatever form they take, direct marketing communications must be compliant with GDPR laws (i.e. issued with clear and unambiguous consent from the recipient).

Examples of direct marketing in the UK

Brands new to direct marketing don’t have to go far to find examples of best practice from which they can draw inspiration. There are many brands that have implemented direct marketing to almost ubiquitous effect. Some high-profile examples include:

  • Tesco Clubcard: As well as receiving discounts on selected items and earning points with each purchase, Tesco Clubcard members receive tailored deals and discounts based on their prior purchases

  • John Lewis Direct Mail: John Lewis frequently uses direct mail marketing to supplement its TV and online advertising campaigns, creating a greater sense of synergy and adding to the cooperative’s sense of value and prestige

  • ASOS email marketing: ASOS is an exemplar in its email marketing efforts, with content that’s brimming with personality and segmenting different campaigns by sending them from different “sent from” accounts. The brand’s VIP messages are an effective way to reward the brand’s most loyal customers

  • Ocado:Online grocery retailer Ocado has managed to increase its revenues despite slashing its marketing budget. The company attributes this to better targeting in its marketing efforts and focusing on retaining existing customers through email, direct mail and telephone marketing

What is Square Marketing and how could it help your business?

Direct marketing is a discipline that can yield great ROI. However, starting from scratch can be time-consuming and complicated with no clear path to success. Square Marketing is designed to simplify direct marketing efforts, allowing your business to gain tangible results without unnecessary legwork.

With Square Marketing, brands can grow their subscriber lists with email collection at checkout, taking care of GDPR compliance on your behalf. Targeted groups are created automatically, and custom emails can be designed effortlessly. What’s more, Square Marketing’s robust automation makes direct marketing fast, effective and readily trackable. With prices starting at just £9 per month, it’s a highly cost-effective way to manage your direct marketing.

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