Direct response marketing vs brand marketing

Let's look at the difference between the two major marketing strategies — direct response and branding. Which should you be using in your business?

In the world of marketing, you can more or less divide all the different tactics and strategies into two categories: direct response marketing and brand marketing. Marketing that is designed to illicit an immediate action, or marketing that has longer-term goals of building awareness and trust.

Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between these two method of marketing, and how you can apply them to your business. Should you be using one over the other? Find out below!

First, what is direct response marketing?

Direct response is the type of marketing that drives you to take action quickly. Scarcity, sales, coupons, “buy one and get one free”… these are examples of tactics seen in direct response marketing. Lots of strong calls-to-action and a sense of urgency. (Learn some scarcity tactics for service-based businesses here.)

This type of marketing tends to focus on the short-term. This is part of what makes it very measurable, which is extremely helpful for business owners. By tracking conversion rates, you can easily see what your returns are and determine what is and isn’t working.

What is brand marketing?

This type of marketing is focused on building the relationship between your business and its audience. It’s a more long-term strategy than direct response. Brand marketing looks at creating awareness and communicating the value and quality of your offerings. I consider content creation to be an example of brand marketing. It’s about sharing value and growing that “know, like and trust” factor with your audience.

Unlike direct response, the idea isn’t necessarily to get people to act immediately. Instead, it’s to establish credibility and to be memorable, so that when the time comes that the client is ready to move forward, they’ll think of your business first. Consistency is a key thing here.

Related post: What is brand strategy and why is it necessary?

So, which one do you need?

I don’t believe it’s a matter of choosing one strategy over the other, There are important benefits of both direct response and branding. Both can play valuable roles in the growth of your business.

Branding is important for long-term sustainability

Obviously, as a brand consultant, I put a lot of emphasis on branding. I truly believe it’s a key part of creating a sustainable business that has long-term success. I think this is particularly true for businesses that deliver high-ticket offers, or work that requires a high level of trust. Building strong relationships with your audience is crucial in such cases.

Direct response will help start those relationships

For big brands we’re all familiar with, like Coca-Cola or Mercedes Benz, pure brand marketing can work just fine. We already know all about them — they just need to give us reminders that they’re still around and why we should care. For us smaller or lesser-known businesses, we need to do a little work to get people into our inner circle first.

Direct response marketing can be great for this. We can use its tactics to move our audience along our funnels and closer to becoming clients. Direct response doesn’t necessarily mean asking for the sale right away. We can use the strategy to invite people onto our email list or watch a free training video. In this way, we can use direct response marketing to get in front of new potential clients and start those relationships that can turn into work engagements later down the line (once branding has done its job).

Combining the two for maximum effectiveness

I think the best use of direct response marketing is based on a solid brand foundation. The two marketing strategies — direct response and branding — should complement one another. You don’t want to use direct response tactics to push just anyone into your marketing funnel. You want to make sure you’re attracting the right audience. People who share the values of your brand and align with its purpose.

This is why I think it’s critical to establish what your brand is all about first. Before you begin any marketing strategies. You want to know what kind of message to put forward and who you want to share it with.

Only 3% of your audience is ready to buy

Research has shown that only a tiny fraction of your audience is prepared to book your services right now. Direct response marketing tends to focus on that very small fraction. Timed right, it can perhaps help you capture a few more. But ultimately, there’s a much larger portion of your audience that would be ignored if direct response is all you’re focusing on.

Instead, you can pair it with brand marketing to help stay in touch with a much bigger percentage. Instead of asking your audience to “book now” upon their first interaction with your business, give them a way to demonstrate their interest without having to commit too much. For example, asking them to opt into your email list for specific content.

After that, you can focus on establishing your brand and sharing value with them. By strengthening that relationship with them, you can improve the chances of them becoming a client later. So, down the line, when they become one of those in the 3% who are ready to buy, you can be at the top of their mind.

What kind of marketing should you be using in your business. Direct response or brand marketing? Find out how to implement them in this post!Last thoughts

In the end, it’s going to take some testing to find out what works best for your business. What’s important is having an understanding of these two major methods of marketing, so that you know what kind of results you can expect and how to best measure the outcomes.

As I mentioned, no matter what your strategy looks like, I still advise starting with a solid brand. If you want help developing your brand foundation, try out my free branding guide, the Core Brand Pillars Workbook.

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