10 Easy Ways To Build A Breakthrough Direct Response Business

Direct marketing is not for the weak of heart. Marketers need to simultaneously optimize their products, technology, transactional centers, customer service, fulfillment, analytics, financial acumen and marketing experience. It's not easy, but that's not to say that it can't be done.

As an example, direct marketing serves as the backbone that supports NutriSystem's tremendous growth. Through the execution of a sophisticated, multi-channel direct marketing strategy, the company's revenues have skyrocketed, from $20 million in 2003 to more than $750 million in 2007.

NutriSystem reawakened a moribund brand by leveraging the positive feelings that people had for it. Brand is important. We changed the product and offers but stayed true to the core brand promise: weight loss.

What's more, key to NutriSystem's success is the importance of being homegrown and "managing our own sales funnel." E-commerce, media, call center, creative, sales - all functions are managed internally, which drives conversions. I always advise marketers to never give away the power to close a sale.



My other advice is this:

  • Manage each sales channel as if it is its own business. Test and manage on a channel-by-channel basis, exploiting best media first.
  • Build simultaneously. Develop all areas at the same time. Marketers don't know what will take off first. One channel is simply not enough.
  • Remember that there is no difference between traditional and new media. E-commerce is direct marketing. NutriSystem looks at a number of orders, media rates, and cost per order across all media types.
  • Be aggressive and don't be afraid to leverage the proven methods that have worked in direct marketing year in and year out.
  • In a multi-channel environment it's not always easy to measure synergies. Orders are not always sourced as clearly as we'd like them to be. Therefore, it's important to measure the effectiveness of channel efforts individually but also collectively.
  • Keep in mind that direct response is all about persuasion. The AIDA principle still works: Attention - Interest - Desire - Action.
  • Never forget that every effort needs to answer the age-old question: "What's in it for me?" on behalf of the consumer.
  • Just because a company advertises doesn't mean that people will know what it offers. The important thing is to focus on sales as well as marketing return on investment (ROI).
  • Leverage the value of customer testimonials when possible. This is a tried-and-true approach for gaining credibility.
  • Don't forget about retention. Informed and knowledgeable customer service representatives, chat rooms, and newsletters are a few tools that go a long way toward keeping customers feeling connected.
  • "You" is the most powerful word in direct marketing. Here at NutriSystem, a statement such as "You can lose weight, too!" really works.

Direct marketers should always remember that "what gets measured gets managed." The numbers don't lie. And the customer dictates how and where to sell, not the marketer.

Tom Connerty is CMO and EVP of program development for NutriSystem Inc. This article is based on a presentation he made before 100-plus marketers assembled at a Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association (PDMA) luncheon meeting. Connerty was named PDMA "Direct Marketer of the Year" in 2006.

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