The term direct marketing refers to all methods of promotion wherein the marketers send messages directly to individual consumers instead of a mass medium. Examples of the most common form of direct marketing methods include direct mail, emails, and telemarketing.
Although direct marketing definition is very simple, one of its distinctive features is that advertisements using direct marketing methods always contain a very specific “call-to-action.” The advertisements give the consumer receiving the ad specific action steps that they must do in order to either accept the offer or opt out of the offer.
Examples of such call-to-action include replying to the email with specific subject (i.e. unsubscribe), clicking on a link to get to the main site, calling a phone number, or returning a filled out form using the return envelope.
The direct marketing method is used mostly by small businesses that do not have the resources to launch massive advertising campaigns using traditional mass media. Big companies also sometimes use it to supplement existing advertising campaigns.
In many cases direct marketing can mean a low conversion rate since emails and direct mail are sent out indiscriminately (junk mail/spam). However, for emails and direct mail that are sent out to specific target audience already interested in the offer, the conversion rates tell a different story. This is why it is usually more effective to just send out direct mail to existing customers that opted in for the direct marketing updates.