MGI Tipster Volume 9, Issue 5

May 18, 2010   |   Vol. 9   |   Issue 5

The Basics of Direct Marketing Success

Sometimes it’s smart to get back to basics. In this month’s Tipster we present a quick review of direct marketing fundamentals and how they work together to build successful membership and product growth. We’ll look briefly at direct marketing overall and then research, lists, creative, and offer.

The MGI Membership Lifecycle

Direct marketing works so well because the economics are precise: you know what it costs and you know what it earns. You have broad reach, yet you can pinpoint specific markets. It enables testing to learn what works … and what doesn’t. And it makes possible personalized selling whose purpose is to evoke a response.

Know the Face You Seek

Research pays off. If you don’t already know, you should know fundamental information about your market, your prospects and members, your competitors, your services, and your products. Research should tell you important information such as:

  • Who are—and who are not—your members and customers
  • Where you can find them and how you can reach them
  • What they want, what they need, and how you can deliver it
  • Who your competitors are, and what and how they are doing
  • What the market trends are and what’s your share of the market

These answers help you set realistic growth and revenue goals and frame your action plan.

Know the Key Components that Contribute to Results

There are four fundamental elements in direct marketing success, and each must be carefully handled and tested to discover what works and what does not:

  • The List: who is being targeted and how can they best be reached.
  • The Offer: what you are proposing that they do or buy, and why they should.
  • The Creative: what is your message and how do you tell it.
  • The Media: how can you best reach your prospects by mail, phone, or electronic channels.

Experts say the List contributes most to your success, then the Offer, then Creative, and then the Media. It’s not how pretty it looks but what you propose and to whom you propose it that really counts.


Lists come in all sizes and types, but it’s the source of the list that determines the value and the likelihood of success for your direct marketing.

The best lists are your own—past members, current buyers, attendees, and inquirers. Good lists are responders—members, subscribers, attendees, and buyers. Okay but not great lists are controlled circulation for unpaid subscribers. Just fair lists are compiled—directories, white pages, and government records.

Always be on the lookout for prospects and update your lists to keep them fresh.


As important as finding your target audience is presenting an appealing and compelling offer, whether you are promoting memberships or kite strings. As you frame your offer and describe it, engage your prospect and answer the basic question, what’s in it for me? Consider whether the offer meets an emotional need and play to it, if it satisfies a desire or relieves anger or pain.

It’s also important to give your prospects proof, if you can, that the offer really works. In the absence of measurable facts, testimonials are a powerful way to present evidence. Finally, give a good reason to act right away rather than wait until another day to make the buying decision.

Test different offers to find out which your market responds to best.


While creative may be the least important of the elements of direct marketing, it can still make the difference between a successful sale and no purchase. Keep in mind, you have less than five seconds to grab—and keep—a prospect’s attention.

Be sure to describe benefits, not features—not what the offer is but what it does for your prospect. Keep the offer visible and remind prospects what it is. Put the offer up front in your copy and repeat it on your reply device. Finally, be sure to ask for the order.

Keep to the point and don’t be wordy, and let your prospects know exactly what you want them to do when they respond.


Media selection plays an important part in direct marketing success when you communicate with your prospects through the channel that is most appropriate. The channels do vary.

  • Direct mail is best suited to large and diverse audiences because of its high efficiencies.
  • Telephones are highly effective when phone numbers are available and there has been an established relationship that allows you to contact them.
  • Email and websites used to be used by a younger demographic but the niche is quickly aging.
  • Social networks are the current darlings of many marketers but its longevity remains to be seen.

Find Out More about Direct Marketing

From the fundamentals of direct marketing to advanced concepts combining the elements of today’s most modern methods, Marketing General is your marketing partner, helping organizations to grow membership and revenue.

Want to learn more? Call 703-739-1000 and ask for Rick Whelan, or email us at to discover the many ways we can help.

Posted in: