Online Direct Marketing, What Is It and How Does It Work?

The way we perceive and engage with brands changes with time. Our relationship with companies, organizations, and personalities evolves as new data streams in and out of our social media streams, emails, and personal phones. The impact of all of this on marketing, advertising, and sales is undeniable. How do consumers perceive the value of a product or service? Is the value in the brand or the technology? Which method of marketing do consumers prefer—face to face, phone to phone, or email to email? How are purchases made in virtual versus actual reality? These are just some of the questions posed by social media and digital marketing evolutions.

What Is Online Direct Marketing?

The term ‘direct marketing’ has been in use since the early 1900s, and its meaning has evolved along with technology and marketing communications. Traditional direct marketing is a marketing method where companies send out promotional material such as printed posters, brochures, or direct mail campaigns to potential customers. In theory, these methods are still considered ‘direct’ as they target individuals who have expressed interest in the brand or product. With the rise of digital marketing, direct marketing has taken on a new meaning:

  • Traditional direct marketing now includes digital marketing techniques such as SEO, PPC, and web content.
  • The focus is no longer on converting people who have expressed interest in the product, but rather on creating interest, awareness, and action among people who have not yet engaged with the brand.
  • Direct marketing is often used as a verb to describe the process of reaching out to consumers who have not yet engaged with the brand.

How Does Online Direct Marketing Work?

Traditional print advertising, radio, and television commercials are still considered ‘traditional’ forms of marketing, but they operate in a completely different way to how they used to. These methods of marketing rely heavily on the ‘push’ model, where companies seek to ‘sell’ or ‘advertise’ their products to the masses.

The rise of digital marketing has changed all of this, and today, we see brands using a variety of inbound marketing methods to engage with potential and existing customers.

Inbound marketing is all about ‘engaging’ with potential customers rather than ‘pushing’ products or services on them. Its goal is to generate interest, engagement, and ultimately, sales.

Here are five ways that digital marketing and social media change the game when it comes to direct marketing:

1. SEO, PPC, And Web Content Are All Intrinsic Components Of Digital Marketing

The search engine optimization (SEO) industry alone is worth over $16 billion annually, and it continues to grow.

According to HubSpot Blogs research, 46% of respondents said that SEO is the most important factor in determining their choice of marketing tool, followed by relevance (20%), cost (11%), and design (10%).

SEO is all about improving a website’s rankings in search engine results for relevant keywords. The higher a website ranks for a related keyword, the more visitors it will receive from searches. SEO is a continuous process where you can always improve your rankings and gain more traffic.

Pay per click (PPC) marketing is also considered an important form of digital marketing, and it operates on the same principles as SEO. With PPC, businesses are paid per click (aka ad revenue), so if someone clicks on an ad it could mean that they are interested in the product or service that the advertiser is promoting.

The field of inbound marketing is intrinsically linked to SEO and PPC.

2. Consumers Prefer Virtual vs. Real-Life Experiences

In the early days of digital marketing, ‘traditional’ forms of marketing (i.e. print, radio, and television commercials) were considered the most effective ways to reach consumers. However, that all changed with the rise of social media.

In the eyes of today’s consumer, a brand cannot exist in isolation. Companies must relate to other companies, organizations, and individuals to gain popularity and keep up with the ever-evolving digital landscape.

That’s why virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are considered ‘next generation’ technologies within the industry. Consumers are beginning to enjoy simulated experiences within VR and AR, even though these technologies are still in the early stages of adoption.

The experience of ‘being there’ is just as big a component of VR and AR as it is in traditional forms of marketing. If a consumer has never experienced a brand or product, a VR/AR tour of the brand’s headquarters or a demonstration of an item in real life will be more memorable than a description in a digital marketing campaign that the consumer has already experienced.

3. Consumers Prefer Short, Snappy Content

Even older consumers are getting swept up by shorter attention spans. In today’s world, with so much content competing for our attention, brands must be careful not to overstay their welcome. Just like with search engine optimization, having shorter content means more focus can be placed on other aspects of a site.

In a 2019 HubSpot Blogs survey, 40% of respondents said that they primarily consume content on their phones, while 22% prefer desktop computers. Only 14% said that they primarily read content on tablets. Another interesting stat: 47% said content length should be between 10,000 and 19,999 words, while only 9% want content that is 20,000 words or longer.

Content is critical to the success of any marketing campaign. A helpful rule of thumb is to make sure that your content is relevant, concise, and, most importantly, helpful to your target audience.

4. Consumers Use Different Channels To Discover Brands And Products

As we’ve established, consumers have different devices and platforms through which they consume content. In another 2019 HubSpot Blogs survey, 47% of respondents use social media to discover products and brands, while 13% use search engines and 11% rely on word of mouth.

It would be remiss of us not to take advantage of this. Today, marketers must be present on every channel that their customers use to engage with content.

It’s not enough to have a website, you must have a social media account for every platform that you wish to target (or at least be present on), as well as, search engines, forums, and email campaigns. With so many platforms and channels, it’s easy for your content to be consumed elsewhere, which is why you should always be creating relevant, valuable content for your audience.

5. Responding To Consumers’ Changes Demographics

In another HubSpot Blogs survey, 45% of consumers now define themselves as ‘consumers’, rather than ‘users’ or ‘viewers’ as previously. This is because of the impact of social media on marketing and advertising.

Not only does social media change the demographic of potential customers, but it affects how they engage with brands as well. Thanks to platforms like Twitter, individuals now have the power to follow celebrities, brands, and other prominent figures.

This trend is not exclusive to online marketing either. Several major brands and celebrities have lost fans and had their popularity tank because of the content that they post on social media. These figures cannot simply be replaced thanks to the reach that their audiences have on social media.

Consumers must feel like they’re getting value for money when they engage with brands on social media. So, it’s important to keep the demographics of your audience in mind when you are posting so that you can provide them with value and keep them coming back for more.