Defining direct marketing
We can define direct marketing as the direct communication through mail, telemarketing, fax, door-to-door selling, the Internet, and other means, with individual customers or firms, with the purpose of generate a response in the form of an order, a request for further information, or a visit to a store or other place of business. Usually there is a database of customer contacts involved in direct marketing, to whom the communication is then sent via one of the channels mentioned above (i.e. post, telephone, Internet, fax, personal calls, etc.). Direct mail and telemarketing are two popular forms of direct marketing used in the local market.
Direct response is a form of direct marketing
Although direct response marketing and direct marketing are often mentioned in the same breath, they are not exactly the same. Direct response marketing is when use is made of either product catalogues (also referred to as mail-order catalogues) that are sent to customers from which they can order/buy products, infomercials (such as those for Verimark found on TV) that encourage you to call in to order a product, or other types of response-generating mechanisms such as a coupon found in a magazine that you can mail in or phone a number to get more information or buy the product.
Is direct marketing affordable for the exporter?
The major cost of direct marketing is buying or building the customer list - the database. Such lists are not cheap. Another major expense is the communication cost; either the phone call, the fax call, the postage costs, etc. Also expensive may be the staff to design, run and manage such campaigns. Running a major national campaign to sell your product to the general public will probably be too expensive for most exporters to undertake. On the other hand, if you have a specific target audience, then it might be worthwhile undertaking a direct mail campaign to communicate with your potential customers. For example, if you sell machinery to wineries, then it may be quite easy to obtain a list of wineries in France or Australia and to fax them or mail them directly. Similarly, if you are trying to acquire a good import agent to represent your company, there may well be a list of import agents available in your target market to send your communication to. Placing a direct response ad in a trade magazine may be one way of getting interested parties to communicate with you in order for you to send them more information on your products. None of these options is too expensive and so a direct marketing channel is a real possibility for the average exporter to use.
The power of the Internet
With the advent of the Internet, direct marketing has become even easier. E-mail makes it very easy to reach your foreign customer. Although spam (junk e-mails) are frowned upon, I see nothing wrong with e-mailing a potential customer or import agent to introduce yourself (and your products) to them. Because to the power of the Internet, we discuss this means of direct marketing in a separate section.