Aaron Montgomery Ward mailed out the first mail-order catalog in 1872. This legendary example of direct marketing shows the advertising format at its most successful and useful. Flash forward to 1993 when the term “spam” was coined and you’ve got direct marketing at its least successful and most annoying. People who apply direct marketing tactics try to do it in ways that pushes a product without annoying others, but its massive use over the years has made it annoying by nature. No one wants another flyer, pamphlet, or email message that tells them all the great deals they can get if only they give a little bit of their time.
Direct marketing isn’t dead as a useful form of advertising to both customer and business owner. It’s usually used by smaller companies without strong brand ties. It’s a little people form of marketing. Lots of little people love fire pits. Lots of little people love food, shoes, T-shirts, pens, pencils, and other things that they may not know they love until they see them up close.
The fire pit is the important part of the last paragraph. It can be used to direct market anything you have to sell. Announce a free back yard fire pit get-together and then watch as everyone gets together. While they’re eating and enjoying the friendly conversation, slip a few flyers in their hands to say “Here’s something else I want you to look at.” It doesn’t even have to be all that direct. Do it in passing while you’re passing them another glass of wine.
The thanks everyone for coming out tonight speech can be filled with a few direct remarks about a local business that just opened. The napkins used for the evening can have the name of the business. The banners can have a “brought to you by” sign on them, just to remind guests who paid for the steaks and burgers they’re enjoying so much. Have a sign-in sheet full of emails so that businesses can say thank you by email. Don’t forget to add a pitch in the signature line.
Direct marketing doesn’t have to be annoying for the consumer. It can go straight to the consumer while the consumer is having a great time. No one complained about Mr. Ward’s catalog. That’s because it was awesome. With a little effort, you can make your direct marketing just as useful and fun.