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10 Types of Direct Marketing (+How to Get Started)

October 2, 2019

Direct marketing is a powerful way to reach customers, generate leads, and drive ROI. 

In recent years, creative innovation, the digital age, and robust analytics have helped give direct marketing a new life. Today, most brands incorporate some type of direct marketing campaign into their marketing strategy.

Direct marketing is a form of advertising by which brands communicate directly with a targeted group of consumers to sell a service or product. The objective of a direct marketing campaign is to convince consumers to take a calculated action, such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or contacting the company. 

Direct marketing can be accomplished through a variety of mediums, such as mail, email, and the internet.

Types of direct marketing 

Direct marketing campaigns generally target consumers who have shown interest in a product/service in the past or are likely to purchase the product or service in the future.  These targeted campaigns can yield better results than mass marketing.

In the past, direct marketing was largely associated with snail mail letters sent to consumers. Although this approach, called direct mail marketing, actually fares better than one would expect, digital channels have taken direct marketing to a new level and have become the method of choice for many businesses.    

The types of direct marketing that will work for your organization depend on your goals, budget, industry, and target audience. Below are 10 common types of direct marketing; some of these methods can be combined.

1. Internet marketing

Internet marketing (also known as digital marketing) leverages the power of the web to drive sales.

Internet marketing is a method of promoting your organization’s services and products through the internet to generate traffic and new business. This type of marketing is an inexpensive and wide-reaching way to communicate with your target market. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most popular forms of internet marketing.  SEO helps a business optimize its site to boost traffic through organic search engine results. Other common internet marketing initiatives include affiliate marketing, influencer marketing, and newsletter campaigns.

2. Content marketing

Content marketing is a form of internet marketing that has exploded in the past decade. Content marketing provides value to an organization’s target audience through content that informs, educations, motivates, entertains, and inspires.

Content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional, outbound marketing and nets three times as many leads. Moreover, 92 percent of marketers report that their company views content as a business asset. 

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3. Social media marketing

Social media is another powerful direct marketing tool for businesses large and small.  

Organic social media marketing focuses on building a community and developing relationships with users to promote a company’s brand, and is one of the most-used direct marketing examples.

Many companies use social media to connect with customers, boost brand awareness, and even conduct business transactions. Facebook has recently developed business-friendly features, such as Business Manager and Marketplace.

Social media marketing is so effective that 55 percent of people reported making a purchase after seeing a product on social media.

Companies often hire a dedicated social media manager or a third-party firm to manage their Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media accounts. These accounts are regularly updated with news, promotions, and other content relevant to prospective clients. 

4. Display ads

Display ads often click through to a company’s website and the company is usually charged per click, so businesses can easily measure the return on investment.

However, these types of ads can be tricky to implement. Display ads, on average, have a maximum of three seconds to convince a user. As web users become savvier, advertising must keep pace with an increasingly sophisticated audience. Display ads are useful for homing in on your target demographic.

A retargeting campaign supplies a prospective user with a company’s ads if they’ve visited related websites in the past. For example, if a person visited a clothing company in the past week, they are more likely to view ads that are related to other clothing sites.

5. Email marketing

Email is the currency of the internet, and because most web users have an email address, email marketing is an effective way to generate leads.

Through email marketing software, brands promote their products and services to prospects and customers through well-crafted email messages. Email marketing has come back into vogue as companies explore increasingly sophisticated ways to reach customers and nurture leads.

6. SMS marketing

SMS (short message service) marketing uses permission-based text messages to promote a company’s services or products. The texts send updates, promos, and information to customers to raise brand awareness and increase engagement and sales.

SMS marketing is a quick and cost-effective way for businesses to reach their target market and is especially effective for demographics that consist of heavy smartphone users.

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7. Experiential marketing

Experiential marketing pulls consumers into an experience to inspire, educate, or entertain, while raising brand awareness and deepening brand loyalty and trust.

Also known as “engagement marketing,” companies often organize an activity that prospects take part in. Common examples of experiential marketing include webinars, podcasts, trade shows, fairs, seminars, and conventions. 

Experiential marketing can be time-consuming and requires significant effort, but this type of engagement can help brands connect with new customers and deepen a brand’s relationship with its customers.

8. Direct mail

Direct mail marketing is a traditional type of marketing through which a company reaches out to customers via the postal service. This type of outreach can take many forms such as letters, flyers, brochures, and catalogs.

Direct mail uses geographic targeting and carefully crafted messages to persuade the recipient. 

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Even in the digital age, direct mail marketing remains a potent marketing tactic. The U.S. Postal Service sent more than 77-billion pieces of marketing mail last year alone. Although millennials grew up in an age where digital media was becoming commonplace, studies show that 95 percent of millennials enjoy receiving mail

9. Print ads

Companies use print ads to advertise products and services in newspapers, magazines, billboards, and other print media. 

Organizations have used print ads for decades, although print advertising has declined in popularity with the rise of digital media. The effectiveness of print ads can be harder to measure than digital marketing methods.

10. Catalog marketing

One of the oldest methods of direct marketing, catalog marketing, involves sending booklets of products to prospective or returning customers – usually through the mail or email.

Catalogs showcase an organization’s products, potentially leading to revenue generation. Typically, catalogs are sent to consumers who have expressed an interest in a company through a past purchase or website visit.  

4 factors to consider when starting a direct marketing campaign

A successful direct marketing campaign requires careful planning and strategy. Before embarking on a new campaign, consider the following factors.

1. Target customers

Direct marketing is more aggressive than most other types of marketing, and customers can find it intrusive, especially if your product or service is not relevant or interesting to them. It’s important to narrow your audience to a targeted group of consumers who are likely to buy your product or service. 

2. Budget

Money and other resources can limit what a company can accomplish with its marketing budget. For small businesses, internet marketing and social media can make a big impact with a modest budget. 

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3. Call-to-action (CTA)

The main objective of direct marketing is to persuade the recipient to perform an action such as, “call our 1-800 number,” “click on this email,” “download our free guide,” or “sign up today.” 

Therefore, a carefully crafted call-to-action is essential to success. The call to action must be easy to find, provide clear instructions, and be designed for conversion.

4. Response tracking

Response tracking is important to measure the success of a digital marketing campaign. Tracking response data can help a business analyze user behavior and learn more about when, why, and how customers respond to the ad.  


According to Hubspot, 63 percent of companies report that generating traffic and leads is their top marketing challenge.  Direct marketing remains a powerful way to market to new and existing customers, boost brand visibility, and generate leads. 

As the media landscape changes, direct marketing methods and tools will continue to evolve, and brands will find new ways to leverage this type of marketing strategy.  

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10 Types of Direct Marketing (+How to Get Started) Learn 10 types of direct marketing that will boost your business plus 4 tips to consider when getting your diret marketing campaign off the ground.
Sally Kane Sally Kane is a professional writer and content director for PaperStreet, a digital marketing agency for law firms. She has been writing on business and marketing topics since 2004 and her work has appeared in dozens of media outlets, including The Balance, Legal Management, The Writer and Law Practice Today.,%20Images,%20Misc/GP%20Headshots/sally-kane.png

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