The Great Direct Marketing Conundrum

Many a home business owner has spent sleepless nights thinking of ways to turn his venture into a higher profit-making unit and build it to be his primary source of income. This is never easy for a home business because most start-ups face initial lack of money and cash flows. A small cash strapped business would also find it a little uphill to get outside funding. The best way, anybody will tell you, is to advertise... all big companies do it, and get good returns. Undoubtedly, advertising, even PR, has a great impact on sales, but for a home business owner these may be cost prohibitive in the beginning. The trick is in getting a little creative and using low cost ? high impact strategies. Go through help sites on the Internet and you'd be spoiled for choices.

We suggest putting direct marketing on top of your list. Why? There are several reasons:

- It is more cost effective than mass media strategies like Advertising

- There is lesser "spill ? over" than mass media like advertising and public relations

- You can "measure" the effects of direct marketing

Solving the direct marketing riddle

By definition direct marketing is a sales and promotion technique in which the promotional materials are delivered individually to potential customers via direct mail, telemarketing, door-to-door selling or other direct means. Direct marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools a home business owner can employ to expand his business and make it more profitable. It can help you create visibility for your company and educate the targeted audience about the products and/or services you sell.

Direct marketing is not a complicated, puzzling marketing option that will leave you frustrated and down with a few thousand dollars. If executed with proper planning, focus and some creativity, these tools can do wonders for your home business. Some of the most popular and time-tested direct marketing tools are:

  • Brochures: A brochure is your sales person in paper. It gives your potential client all the information he needs on your company; an opportunity to evaluate your products, services, your expertise and a platform to get in touch with you for more information. A brochure created with serious forethought and meticulous detailing can do all of this and more for you. A few tips:
    • A compelling covering letter is a must to getting the prospect to read the whole brochure
    • A well-designed brochure must keep the target audience in mind, the level of sophistication in style and content and the market you are operating in.
    • A brochure must be aimed at finally getting the prospect to send in a business enquiry. Don't forget to add the contact details; a postage paid business reply envelope attached with the brochure would be a good idea.

  • Direct mailing: Direct mailing involves sending out sales letters, fliers, reply cards and other promotional literature through snail mail, to a pre-decided mailing list of potential customers. If targeted to a precise audience, it can get you faster responses and does not have to cost much. The most important part of direct mailing is building a robust mailing list with the right names. You could either develop this list yourself through your own records or buy lists from a List Broker. You could also try and take help from the SBDC (Small Business Development Center), a government program sponsored by the SBA that provides expertise to small and home business owners and has access to targeted mailing lists, which it can offer you as an SBDC client. Take a look at,4621,317818,00.html

  • Telemarketing: For telemarketing you can use the same list as for your direct mailers. Take care to suit the message to a telephone call; keep it short and conversational. Telemarketing, by far gets you the quickest result. One phone call can get your sales team appointments for demos or a meeting to talk about your company. Another valuable response it can get you is a confirmed negative answer. This will help you fine-tune your list better and not waste any more time or money in trying to contact a person who really doesn't need your services or is plain not interested.

  • Postcards: One of the biggest advantages of using postcards is its "openness", literally. Use compelling and creative copy on postcards. Team it up with visual content, and nine times out of ten, the receiver is more likely to give it a read rather than dump it in the bin immediately. It is an effective and a very affordable way to contact and keep in touch with your existing and potential customers.

  • Email: With the WWW being the life source of home businesses, can you ignore email? It is easily the most affordable and time saving direct marketing tool, that can get your message across to thousands of people and allow them to respond just as easily. Decide on the copy very carefully, so that it stands out above all the junk mail that account holders receive every day. You can buy mailing lists, again from list brokers. Fine-tune your message so as to be able to pack in the most relevant information in a short paragraph. Add visuals, links to your website and contact information. This should include a phone and a fax number a postal address and a contact person's name.

    Before you begin a direct marketing exercise, spend considerable time on evaluating what tools would be the best for your business; effective but not cost-prohibitive; how would you tailor your message for brochures, mailers, emails etc., so as to break away from the clutter and maximize impact. Once you are through with this, spend time on creating the mailing list with the right names. If you are able to bring down the cost of your direct mailing exercise to even 30 cents, but have a mailing list of 20, 000 people, all wrong names?. every cent has gone down the drain! Someone once said, "There is a difference between Efficiency and Effectiveness. Efficiency is doing the right thing, but Effectiveness is doing the thing right!" So work at making an effective direct marketing plan and see your business expand and become financially more robust.


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