The history of direct marketing can be traced back to the mid 15th century, shortly after Gutenberg invented movable type and the printing press. Then, within a very brief amount of time, the first trade catalogs appeared from printer/publishers.
Things didn’t change much until 1867, when the typewriter was invented. It was at that point in time that direct marketing through the mail (mail order sales) began in earnest in 1867.
In 1872,Aaron Montgomery Ward produced the first mail order catalog. A scant forty-five years after that the Direct Mail Advertising Association, which was to become today’s Direct Marketing Association, was established.
The first time the term “direct marketing” is believed to have been used was in a speech by Lester Wunderman in 1967. Mr. Wunderman earned his place in advertising history by initiating many direct marketing techniques with companies such as Columbia Records and American Express.
Over the years direct marketing firms have helped small companies as well as large increase their sales and their market exposure.
What Does Today’s Direct Marketing Firm Do?
Even though many direct marketing firms today focus on helping companies market their products and/or services on the Internet, the most common form of direct marketing is still direct mail. Sometimes known as “junk mail”, successful examples of this form of marketing integrate direct response adverstising and the postal systems.
Rather than sending out direct mail pieces haphazardly, the best direct marketing firms target their mailings to a specific audience. They send solicitations to a list of people whom they consider to be the most likely candidates to return a positive response. For example, a person who has shown an interest in fishing might receive direct mail pieces about fishing related products or about services that are related to fishing.
The goal of any direct marketing piece is to get some sort of a response from the recipient. It might be in the form of a request for more information, or it could be an order – a sale – or anything in between.
Direct Marketing Is An Ongoing Process
Direct marketing is an ongoing process where results are analyzed and mail pieces are refined.
All direct response advertising has four elements in common. They are the offer, enough information for the prospect to make some sort of a decision, a direct call to action, and a method of responding. Response might be via a postcard, a toll free phone number, an email, a place to click on a web page, etc.
The best direct marketing firm will do split tests. Split testing is a means of advertising where a single variable of a marketing piece is compared to the control piece. Then, whichever piece generates the largest number of positive responses becomes the control and a new split test is begun.