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The 9 New Realities of Direct Response in Direct Marketing News

Late-night yell-and-sell pitches have given way to sophisticated, multichannel, ROI-centric campaigns.

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“Uh oh! Has this ever happened to you?”

What was once the relatable rallying cry of direct response marketing has become a tired joke. But the direct response (DR) discipline itself is far from finished. The world’s largest brands are increasingly emboldened to go beyond seeking mindshare and ask for the sale. And infomercial kings now boast of driving an ever-increasing amount of their sales from indirect channels.

It’s an upside-down world. But here are nine new direct response marketing realities to guide you through it.

Channel surfing isn’t coming back…

TV viewership is on a steady decline among all but the oldest demographics, and DVR and streaming services aren’t going anywhere. Events such as major live sports continue to draw outsized audiences, but media rates for such programming are well out of the reach of the typical direct response ROI. So smart DR marketers need to find ways to reach audiences intentionally, rather than accidentally.

One solution is to make a direct appeal to well-qualified prospects for viewership of direct response content (see “Live Streaming the Direct Response Way” on page 23 for an eye-opening example). Another is to expand the search radius for media beyond the traditional day parts and time formats associated with DRTV. “Before, two-minute spots were my favorite, but I now can buy a lot of five-minute inventory. I’m surprised at the availability, especially on cable,” says Telebrands CEO AJ Khubani.

…but TV audiences are more targeted than ever

Let the ever-widening landscape of cable and digital broadcast channels and programming work for you by doing a deeper demographic dive. The long-term success stories in DRTV have shifted with their audiences, offering more targeted products that resonate with live viewership. “The wisdom used to be that [DRTV spots] had to be universally appealing, but at this point I can target children, senior citizens, muscle-heads, or couch potatoes,” says Collette Liantonio, president of studio Concepts TV Productions. “There are  enough stations, enough broadcast media, and enough Internet that I can appeal to almost anyone. Twenty years ago you couldn’t sell a product for cats on TV; now it’s a mainstay.”

Relationships have a place in direct response

Customer retention and horizontal integration aren’t found in old-school spray-and-pray shilling, but direct response is today more than just a one-time sale. Consider the case of Infusion Brands, a direct response marketer that controls both the venerable Ronco products brand and the newer eDiets lifestyle brand.

Rather than operating them as two separate lines of business, Infusion plans to create more value by painting the two as the ideal combination for a healthy lifestyle, building more lifetime value and cross-selling opportunities with no additional marketing cost. “Everybody who calls in after a Ronco infomercial may not convert to a purchase, but we can offer all of them a free subscription to eDiets,” says Bob DeCecco, Infusion Brands CEO. “That’s a cost-per-acquisition of zero, because we already spent the money on the Ronco infomercial, and we can combine the hardware of Ronco with the software of the eDiets program.”

Kickstarter is the new infomercial

A compelling offer for a previously unheard of product, one not sold in stores; video presentations that lean heavily on the credibility and charisma of scrappy inventors making their cases directly to the public; a special bonus if you act now; another special bonus for just a few dollars more.

This is not a TV spot for a new chicken rotisserie. It’s Kickstarter. Although Kickstarter styles itself a “crowdfunding” platform and not a pure sales medium, it bears the key hallmarks of direct response. Instead of upselling viewers “for a few dollars more” to pick up a spatula or some extra coat hangers, Kickstarter lets buyers earn extra benefits by funding projects for more than the minimum “purchase” price.

The benefits can be capped at a certain limit, and the entire funding process only lasts a maximum of 60 days. “It’s the purest example of modern direct response, and the structure removes every barrier to the sale,” says Joshua C. Mabus, owner of Mabus Agency. “I see that 89 of 100 backer promos have been sold and I know I have to be fast to get in on the last 11. It’s the ‘limited-time offer’ in a modern, cool way.”

More than two million people funded Kickstarter projects in the first half of 2014. Nearly 70% were first-time Kickstarter users. Disregard Kickstarter’s DR potential at your own peril.