2 Effective Ways to use Direct Marketing in 2018 (with Examples)

Whether you know it not, you’ve been exposed to direct marketing all your life. In fact, you’ve probably been a target of direct marketing within the last week.

Direct marketing is a tactic where advertisers reach out to their potential clients directly instead of mass channels. Why put an ad on TV, radio or a billboard if you can reach out specifically to those interested in your products? Instead of shooting blanks and hoping that your message reaches some of its intended audience, you can speak directly to consumers using channels such as email, phone, SMS, or reaching out to them in person.

The key to success of direct marketing is the ability to see immediate results. When you make a TV ad, there’s no telling how many people you will be able to convert. On the other hand, if you reach out to customers directly via email, for example, you will know exactly how many of them opened and clicked on your offer.


A brief history of direct marketing

As you may have imagined, direct marketing is not a recent invention. In the 18th century, the English entrepreneur Josiah Wedgwood pioneered many of the marketing strategies of today, including money-back guarantees, free delivery, self-service, and direct marketing, among others.

A turning point in direct marketing came in 1872, when Aaron Montgomery Ward started sending out catalogues by mail. In 1888, Richard Warren Sears published the first Sears mail order catalog, which revolutionized the way to sell goods in the United States. 

sears catalog

 Sears catalogs from 1898 and 1900. Source: Chicagology.com


As media channels evolved, so did marketing tactics. Direct marketing slowly got split into physical and digital. While physical direct marketing is valuable in its own right, digital marketing is cheaper, more convenient and easier to track in terms of return on investment.

If you’re interested in how to make direct marketing work for your own business, here are two great tactics to utilize it in 2018.



Push notifications

Depending on your personal experience and the apps you’ve used, you either love or hate push notifications. The fact is that they are here to stay, and they can work incredibly well for direct marketing.

A push notification is a notification sent to your phone from an installed app. You don’t have to take any action to trigger it, and you don’t have to be in the app itself for the notification to show. It is simply pushed to your home screen whenever the app developers have a message for you. These notifications work for all mobile operating systems, including Android, iOS, Fire OS, Windows and even Blackberry.

push notification example

 Source: Kissmetrics.com

Why are push notifications so great? To start off, they’re not email, so there’s no chance they wind up in the spam folder or that the user will ignore them. If the person receiving the notifications hasn’t used the app in awhile, they will be reminded that it’s still there.

Best of all, push notifications can be highly personalized. Using in-app data tied to a specific user, you can target them by means of location, age, gender, buying preference, whichever criteria you set.

There are some important considerations to keep in mind regarding push notifications. First – your users will opt in to receive them as they install the app. If they agree to receiving them – excellent. However, you should consider this a privilege and not a right. While push notifications are an amazing way to get up close and personal to your users, they need to be utilized very, very carefully. If you don’t provide value, there’s a chance that your users will ignore your push notifications. They could even disable them and in the worst case scenario, completely delete the app. Here are some folks who made push notifications into a great way to reach out to customers.



Netflix has over 100 million users across the world, and they offer more than 4,000 movies and over 1,000 TV shows. That is an incredible amount of data and Netflix has been very clever about the way they’re using it. They already know you’re binge watching Game of Thrones, so if you’re falling back on the latest episodes, they will remind you about it.

While seemingly simple, Netflix’ push notifications are segmented and highly personalized and they provide value to the user.

TripAdvisor is a renowned service for planning and booking accommodation, and it currently has over 455 million unique visitors. Besides providing a quality service, they’ve also perfected their direct marketing efforts.

tripadvisor push notification

 Source: Localytics.com

 Their push notifications are personalized according to your app use. Say that you’ve visited a page for a hotel but left without booking. TripAdvisor will send any of the following: a reminder that it will take you only a minute to book; information that it’s an incredible price and that prices may go up soon; a recommendation of great places to visit near the hotel and many more. It also uses location-based notifications to figure out you’re at a certain bar/restaurant/hotel and gives you ideas on things to do, as well as information on what other visitors are talking about.

When used to their full potential, push notifications be extremely effective. As long as you provide value and respect your users’ wishes and privacy, you’re on the right track to direct marketing success.


SMS marketing

Did you know that the average open rate for texts is an astonishing 82.1%? Compared to 24% for emails, this really is an amazing number. In fact, we’ll go as far as say that it has the best engagement rates out of all the marketing mediums out there. Think about it. Your inbox is probably cluttered with emails you never even intend on opening. Most of them will probably go straight to trash and all you’ll read is the subject line. On the other hand, how many times have you left a text message as unread?

If we haven’t convinced you yet, let’s consider some other facts. SMS is incredibly fast. Messages get delivered instantly and thanks to the high open rate, you quickly get notified when someone replies to your promotional message or clicks a link.

Just as with push notifications, there’s an important consideration to keep in mind. Sending unsolicited texts is not only plain wrong (both ethically and from a marketing standpoint), but also illegal. The easy way to take care of this is to have your customers send a keyword to your shortcode (the number you send messages from) so they can be added to your list. For example, text PIZZA to 555888 to get messages about free pizza coupons and offers. Voila – you’re done.

Just as with push notifications, remember to provide value and consider it a privilege to be able to send out texts directly to your customers. If you spam or send irrelevant information, you will notice your lists dwindling rapidly.



The automotive industry is pretty competitive, and getting good-quality leads can be pretty tedious. Ford decided to try out using SMS to get closer to their potential customers, and sure enough – it worked. 

ford printed ad for sms marketing


push notifications for ford

 Source: tatango.com


They ran a printed ad with their new models, telling readers to text FORD to 63611 to get more info. Once you send in the initial text, the automated system will ask you for your favorite Ford model – the following message asks you for your ZIP code, and then another message where you opt in your full name. The end goal was to get enough information for a local dealer to be able to contact you.

If this all sounds like too much – think again. Ford was able to get 15.4% conversion using this campaign. Although they took a risk by demanding more information through multiple texts, the campaign ended up being a success.

Here comes a super easy question – would you like to get some free pancakes? Of course you would, and IHOP counted on that. A local branch of this restaurant sent out ads in radio, print and direct mail – text IHOPFREE to a certain number, and you’d get a free short stack of pancakes on a certain day.

As you can imagine, it’s pretty hard to say no to offer like this. In one month, coupon redemption jumped by 10% from mobile, with a total of 105 redeemed coupons. They noticed an increase in sales and a significant number of upsells – meaning that those coming in for their free pancakes eventually bought something else as well.

However, the true value for IHOP was not in this promotion only. Those who opted in to their text list stayed there and received two promotional texts per month. As it turns out, SMS marketing is an excellent long-term strategy.

As you can see from these and many other SMS marketing campaigns, this type of advertising works best when combined with traditional marketing channels such as print, radio and TV.



As any experienced marketer will tell you, the old ways of getting in front of your customers are slow, inefficient and pretty inexpensive. Direct marketing is not a novel concept, but it works wonders once you apply segmentation and send personalized messages to your audience. As mobile use grows at an incredible rate, direct marketing strategies such as push notifications and SMS marketing will only get more relevant over time. 

Would you like to try out a new direct marketing approach to get great quality leads? How about using quizzes? Try it out for free today! We’ve generated over 3 million leads so far and we’d love to have you as our next success story.

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