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What Is the Difference Between Direct Selling and Direct Marketing?

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With the introduction of social media, direct marketing and direct selling have become even more popular. Forming connections with people is now easier than ever, making each of these types of direct contact possible on a larger scale. Who would have thought that spatulas and redox molecules would be sold directly? Many times, direct marketing and direct selling get lumped into the same category since there is some overlap between the two practices. There are, however, 4 notable differences that set these two apart.

What Is Direct Selling?

Direct selling is characterized by a consultant or representative that utilizes their personal connections to sell a product or service directly to consumers and is compensated for the sales they make. Direct selling is based on making and keeping personal relationships with the people you sell to, encouraging repeat business from customers. The one-on-one communication with your customers makes selling a product that much easier since you can pull from personal experience to give examples of ways to use the product and share your impressive results.

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What Is Direct Marketing?

Direct marketing is focused on advertising a product with the hopes that the advertisement will encourage a consumer to purchase a certain product or service. What makes this type of marketing direct is the audience that it targets—with direct marketing, a company does not intend their marketing material to spread worldwide, but rather throughout a certain region, or specifically to a certain type of person. Direct marketing is not necessarily meant to sell a product immediately, but rather set a consumer up to purchase the product in the future.

The Differences

With similarities in the ways that direct selling and direct marketing practices target customers, nearly everything else about the two is different. Here are the 4 main differences to note.

1. The History of Direct Selling and Direct Marketing

While direct selling dates back to peddlers and other traveling vendors venturing from town to town to sell their wares, direct marketing was only really made popular with the introduction of the postal service, but especially with the invention of the internet. Direct marketing comes in various forms, such as local mass mailers through the postal system, and internet ads generated based on your browsing history, offering the most personalized online shopping experience possible.

2. From the Personal to the Impersonal

Direct selling is used to target customers who are a part of the seller’s personal network. While the introduction of social media makes connecting with people you’ve never met as easy as clicking a button and waiting for a reply, direct selling is still limited to the people you come in contact with. This incredibly personal interaction helps a customer feel at ease knowing they have direct contact with the person selling them a product. Direct marketing, on the other hand, is able to reach more people than direct selling ever could, simply because direct marketing aims at targeting consumers within a specific area or demographic, and does not require face-to-face interaction.

3. Direct and Indirect Contact

Aside from targeting a specific audience for advertising, direct marketing is more impersonal, requiring little to no face-to-face contact with customers. Direct selling, on the other hand, is completely based on personal contact, as this type of selling allows a customer to not only see the products available online, but also in person. Representatives for companies like Avon, Usborne Books, and ASEA typically host parties in the homes of family and friends to advertise their products and make immediate sales, which means these products must be of the highest caliber since a consumer will see and touch them before making a purchase.

4. The Length of Reach

With the help of direct marketing, a company has the ability to reach more potential customers than they ever could simply by word of mouth. Representatives participating in direct selling can only reach as far as their own social network, and the network of friends and family who help spread the word about their business. While the shorter reach of direct selling may seem like a disadvantage, some customers prefer to do business with a smaller operation where they receive personal help and attention.

Now You Know

Now you’ve learned the differences between direct selling and direct marketing, it’ll be easy to identify each and understand the central differences that set them apart.

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