Direct Response Marketing: More Than JUST Infomercials

Greg Lowe

November 27, 2013

Take a quick look around your house.  Do you have a blanket with sleeves, an oscillating office chair, or a can of spray-on hair?  If so, you’ve probably been watching too much late night television— and that means infomercials.  It’s okay.  It was late.   Your defenses were down and your 59-cent tacos were almost gone. Besides, you felt like you really could use a better way to slice your aluminum cans and/or fresh tomatoes.

So, what are infomercials and do they work? Infomercials are just one form of ‘Direct Response Marketing,’ a form of marketing that solicits an immediate response from the consumer.   Traditionally, TV has been the preferred medium for direct response and purchase (“buy now!”) has been the preferred response. More recently, however, marketers have broadened their arsenal of direct response mediums and calls-to-action.  Today, you’ll find direct response ads on TV, radio, print, outdoor, and online mediums.  These ads request a variety of actions outside of purchase—download a white paper, request a sample, or set up a free consultation.

The alternative to direct response marketing is to use advertising in order to build awareness.  Look at most traditional television ads—they’re not asking you to do anything.  They’re simply inserting a name, a brand, a product, or a message into your head over and over again.  This is the process of building awareness through ‘frequency’ or repetition.  When you are in the market to buy a product, this repetition causes the advertised product to be near the top of your mind.  There is certainly nothing wrong with this type of awareness marketing.  In fact, it can be very effective.  However, achieving eventual recall through frequency can be expensive and usually involves a lot of waste.

Direct response marketing, on the other hand, hopes to convince a consumer to take an action right away, instead of hoping for future memory recall.  When trying to sell a product or service, direct response marketing is not always the best path, but should be considered when the following conditions exist:

  • The product being sold is a ‘low-commitment’ product. If a consumer feels the need to research or sample the product, direct response marketing is generally less effective.
  • The product being sold is a ‘low-ticket’ item.  Again, consumers have shown an understandable hesitation to act quickly when large amounts of money are at stake.
  •  “Pain” is high. Most DRTV ads claim to offer a simple solution to a common, well-understood pain point?  Think acne, unwanted body hair, and male pattern baldness.  These are problems for which people are desperately seeking a solution.  The possibility of a finding that solution is worth a small risk.

Even with these ideal circumstances in place, traditional direct response marketing can be difficult.  By employing the following adaptations to the direct response discipline, marketers can increase their chances of success:

Use a CTA other than “Buy Now”

Soliciting purchase as a direct response can be difficult.  You’ll have much greater luck asking consumers to “Watch a Video”, “Download a Guide”, or  “Request a Sample”.  Content marketing, with its emphasis on CTAs goes hand-in-hand with direct response marketing.  Use your ads to solicit content views, downloads, and requests.

Have lead-nurturing in place

As discussed, most consumers will require multiple touches before making a purchase.  A direct response ad alone will rarely motivate a consumer to purchase.  But, the ad can serve as a first touch while also capturing contact information, thereby facilitating a series of future touches.

Be well branded

When presented with a direct response opportunity, consumers must use brand as a proxy for their own research to determine credibility.  If your logo, your website, and your other materials are sub-par, a purchase will feel like too much of a risk.

Have a migration plan

Think through the process you’d like your customer to take once they click and have proper linkage in place to make that path easy to follow.

Target your ads

Even (or especially) with direct response marketing, the buyer’s journey still applies.  In other words, you likely won’t get a consumer to purchase a product she wasn’t already considering.  Target your direct response ads to customers that are already in the market for your products or services.

Under the right conditions direct response marketing can be very effective.  A direct response approach can shorten the sales cycle and save marketing dollars.  Utilizing the techniques listed above can further increase the likelihood of success.  Who knows, understanding the medium may even prevent you from making another ill-advised late-night purchase!