I remember when I first entered the world of direct response. I had come from an e-commerce startup that rarely spent any money on media buying; that business had the fortunate position of growing organically through word of mouth. But, not all of us have that luxury, and to grow your online business, I quickly learned the importance of media buying. Direct response marketing quickly taught me the value of performance marketing, creative testing, and optimization.

I’m sure many of you don’t need a lesson on the ABC’s of direct response, but for those of you who don’t, let’s review the basics:

  • What is direct response marketing? To me, direct response is a facet of performance marketing where communications are meant to evoke a direct and specific action from the consumer – often a monetary action, a sale (or what we would call a conversion). However, this could also be a push to call a toll-free number for more information about a product, it could be a push to visit a certain website, but usually the end of the tunnel is a push to buy. So, in layman’s terms, your media buys are supposed to show a direct return on investment (ROI); you are pushing a sales action (we call this a conversion) from your audience.
  • How is this different from other types of marketing? Most marketers fall into this other, very large bucket. This second bucket is what I call “branding.” This is the marketing you’re likely more used to – the marketing around you every day. These “branders” include companies like Coca-Cola, Nike, Target, Apple. The idea here is to create awareness through ad spend and creative positioned to create a specific idea and reinforce that message. The hope is that when a consumer is making a decision, they’ll unconsciously think of your brand first. So when you’re standing in front of that vending machine, and you have a choice between Coca-Cola, Root Beer, Sierra Mist, and Dr. Pepper, you’ll choose Coca-Cola. The problem with this type of marketing is the difficulty to quantify your ad campaigns; you often lose sight of the ROI on your campaigns. Plus, running a “branding” campaign requires substantially more budget.