Direct customer relationships – Principles of Marketing


Direct customer relationships

Direct marketing means connecting directly with carefully targeted segments of individual consumers, often on a one-to-one, interactive basis. For most companies, direct marketing is a supplemental channel, but for others it is a complete way of doing business. Direct marketing is expanding, it is key to the trend towards building close and interactive customer relationships. Direct marketing has certain benefits for buyers: it is convenient, private, easy and gives a lot of comparative information. It also has benefits for sellers: it is an important tool for building customer relationships and is a low-cost and efficient way of reaching target markets. Direct marketing begins with a good customer database.

A customer database is an organised collection of comprehensive data about individual customers or prospects, including geographic, demographic, psychographic and behavioural data. Companies can use this database to located potential customers, learn about their customers and build relationships with them. There are several major forms of direct marketing:

  • Direct-mail marketing: direct marketing by sending an offer, announcement, reminder or other item to a person at a particular physical or virtual address. It can be used well for direct one-to-one communication, but can be resented as “junk mail”.
  • Catalogue marketing: direct marketing through print, video or digital catalogues that are mailed to select customers, made available in stores, or presented online. They eliminate mailing costs and allow for real-time merchandising.
  • Telephone marketing: using the telephone to sell directly to customers. However, the recent do-not-call rules have been hurting the telemarketing industry.
  • Directresponse television (DRTV) marketing: direct marketing via television, including direct-response television advertising (or infomercials) and home shopping channels. Home-shopping channels are television programmes or channels dedicated to selling goods and services.
  • Kiosk marketing is marketing via information and ordering machines.
  • New digital direct-marketing technologies such as mobile phone marketing, podcasts/vodcasts and interactive TV are upcoming tools.

Online marketing are efforts to market products and service and build customer relationships over the internet. The Internet is a vast public web of computer networks that connects users of all types around the world to each other and an amazingly large information repository. Click-only companies are the so-called dot-coms, which operate only online and have no brick-and-mortar market presence. Click-and-mortar companies are traditional brick-and-mortar companies that have added online marketing to their operations.

There are four major online marketing domains.

  • Business-to-consumer (B-to-C) online marketing: businesses selling goods and services online to final consumers.
  • Businessto-business (B-to-B) online marketing: businesses using online marketing to reach new business customers serve current customers more effectively and obtain buying efficiencies and better prices.
  • Consumerto-consumer (C-to-C) online marketing: online exchanges of goods and information between final consumers. Blogs are online journal where people post their thoughts, usually on a narrowly defined topic. Companies can also advertise on blogs and influence content there.
  • Consumerto-business (C-to-B) online marketing: online exchanges in which consumers search out sellers, learn about their offers and initiate purchases, sometimes even driving transaction terms.

Either way, most companies now exist online. Corporate (brand) websites are websites designed to build customer goodwill, collect customer feedback and supplement other sales channels rather than sell the company’s products directly. A marketing website is a website that engages consumers in interactions that will move them closer to a direct purchase or other marketing outcome. However, creating a website is not enough, sites must be visited and therefor a website must be promoted. This can be done via online advertising: advertising that appears while consumers are browsing the Web, including display ads, search-related ads, online classifieds and other forms. Rich media allow animation, sound, video and interactivity. The largest form of online advertising is search-related ads (or contextual advertising). Viral marketing is the Internet version of word-of-mouth marketing: websites, videos, email messages or other marketing events that are so infectious that customers will want to pass them along to friends.

Online social networks: online social communities, blogs, social networking websites or even virtual worlds, where people socialise or exchange information and opinions. Marketers can engage in online social networks by participating in existing Web communities or establishing their own. Social networking sites presents challenges, since companies do not really know how to use them effectively. E-mail is an important and growing online marketing tool and it can be the ultimate marketing medium. However, the explosion of spam (unsolicited, unwanted commercial e-mail messages) can lead to customer irritation.

The direct-marketing industry has been facing some privacy concerns and cases of unfair practices. Direct marketing can sometimes annoy customers. Internet fraud has become a serious problem. Phishing, a type of online identity theft uses deceptive emails to fool users into divulging their personal data. Customers also worry about online security and their privacy. Many online marketers have become skilled at obtaining detailed consumer information. Because of these challenges, various governments are putting up legislation to protect customers.

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