A quick definition of direct marketing, direct response, and direct mail

One thing I should clarify for those who are not in the direct marketing business (and even for those who are), is the definition of “direct marketing” and a few other terms.

Many people use terms like “direct marketing,” “direct mail,” and “direct response” interchangeably, but they all have different meanings.

“Direct marketing” is the collection of all the things a business does to sell products and services directly to buyers. It’s different from retail marketing, where products are sold to stores and then sold to buyers. Direct marketing has no middleman.

“Direct response” is the form of advertising used by direct marketers. In mass market advertising, the goal is to create awareness and preference for products which can lead to higher sales in a retail store at some later date. However, direct response advertising seeks to get an immediate response from the person reading or seeing the ad. There may be a residual “branding” effect, but it is always secondary to getting the response.

“Direct mail” is simply a form of direct response advertising. It is one of many media used to deliver direct response advertising from direct marketing companies. Other media include e-mail, TV ads, radio spots, and telemarketing.

That’s not exactly a set of textbook definitions, but they should be clear enough.

Oh, and at no time is it permitted to call direct mail “junk mail.” That will lead to a verbal kick in the butt from yours truly along with a vociferous lecture on the importance of mail to the economy, including my own personal income. So watch it.

By the way, I’ve created a Direct Marketing Glossary over at my main Web site. It’s a work in progress, so if you run across a word or idea you think should be there, let me know.

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