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Direct marketing

Direct marketing involves targeting individuals, preferably by name, with information about your product or service. This can be achieved through mail shots (conventional and e-mail), telephone calls, door-to-door sales or face-to-face contact.

Mailshots can be an effective method of spreading your message, particularly if you already have a database of existing customers. Your mailshot might simply comprise your brochure or catalogue, a letter giving details of new products and offers, or a combination of the two.

Letters that begin 'Dear Client' or 'Dear Householder' smack of impersonality and will often be thrown away by the recipient, so where possible try to obtain the individuals' names and job titles.

The Royal Mail will be able to help you put together a mailshot for regional coverage, or if you are after a niche market, you might be able to buy a database of named contacts from a marketing agency. Most offer options for one-off use, yearlong lease, or outright purchase of targeted lists.

If you run a mailshot to an existing database, always personalise each letter using the mail merge facility on your computer system.

You can now use e-mailshots as well. The advantages of this method are that you can include a link to your website within the body of the message, and you can track responses by directing customers to a specific page and assessing the number of hits this page gets.

However, you must ensure that you comply with current legislation governing privacy and electronic communications. Companies must now secure the advance permission of the recipient before sending marketing e-mails and text messages to individuals, and must also obtain the agreement of the user before using internet tracking devices, or 'cookies'.