What is Direct Response Advertising?

Direct response advertising is very popular among retailers and not for profits because when done properly, it is a highly effective form of advertising. In my experience, most small businesses use this form of advertising without even knowing it. So what is DR? well let’s break it down. The term “direct” refers to the targeting nature of DR. Response is just that, a response mechanism that allows advertisers to track efficiency of the ad and the medium, in order to optimize campaign performance.

The best example to give you is direct response TV, otherwise known as infomercials. Infomercials popularized DRTV because they proved that you could sell a $20 product like “slap chop” during a $100-250 commercial spot and make a profit. And unlike conventional advertising, the results are instant and measurable. Meanwhile, other industries such as financial and not for profit have since come to rely on direct response as a valuable sales tool.

The key components of direct response can be applied to other forms of advertising under the “direct” umbrella that you can and should be using such as direct mail or direct response print.

Here are three components which differentiate a DR Advertisement from a conventional brand advertisement:

1. The offer

Everyone likes a good deal. This is most often the sale price, discount or GET A FREE _____ (often in full caps with excessive punctuation) anything you can offer that adds value will help to catch someone’s attention and get you that much closer to a sale.

2. The call to action

This is what you want your audience to do. Examples may include Call the number, visit the website, or basically buy right now before you forget how much you need this. The call to action is not always about finalizing sales. It can also be getting people to provide contact information like signing up for a newsletter. The goal here is to be able to say, each advertisement cost me this much, and I made this much in return. If your call to action is to have your audience sign up to your mailing list then you must ask yourself: “how much am I willing to pay per signup?” and aim to achieve that goal.

3. Establish a sense of urgency

This is to assist in that immediate response and what makes DR so trackable. Infomercials are notorious for their repeated announcements that inform you this is a limited time offer; that you must call now, or better yet, if you call in the next 5 minutes we’ll throw in this extra gift completely free!! They do this because they know that if people don’t call within 5 minutes; chances are they are not calling in at all. Adding the urgency does improve the rate of success and there are ways to add urgency without sounding like Billy Mays. For example using wording like “call now” or “visit the website today”, or wording like “limited quantities” will add just a little more urgency on the call to action.

Again, these three key components are part of any good direct response advertisement but they do not need to be applied to just TV or print. You can apply these principles to any form of advertising including online and social media or even one to one sales.

The most important part however is testing and optimizing but what most small businesses don’t do because of the complexity and time involved. DR is more of a science in the way good marketers test various media, headlines, designs, demographics to find that perfect storm; The right ad, in the right place, at the right time. It can take a lot of time and money, but when done right, direct response can have a huge payoff, and make it all worth while in the end.

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