The two types of marketing and when to use them for promoting professional services

Do you want to improve your marketing strategy, but don't know where to start?

Understanding the difference between direct response and brand marketing is a great place to begin.

Marketing in general is an essential component of any successful business. It’s all about engaging with your target audience and putting your key messaging in front of them.

But there are two schools of thought when it comes to marketing – and knowing the differences between them is crucial for attracting clients.

Definition of direct response marketing

Direct response marketing focuses on measurable results.

The primary goal of direct response marketing is to generate an immediate response from the target audience, such as making a purchase, completing a form, or calling a phone number.

This type of marketing is often defined by its use of specific calls to action, eg ‘sign up for our event’ and encouraging the target audience to declare interest.

Here’s an example of a piece of direct response marketing:

Examples of direct response marketing for a professional services business

  • Email marketing: Sending targeted email campaigns to potential clients to sign-up for something e.g. book an appointment.
  • Pay-per-click advertising: Running ads on search engines or social media platforms to drive traffic to a landing page where potential clients can sign up for something.
  • Direct mail: Sending targeted direct mail pieces, such as brochures, to potential clients to generate leads.
  • Telemarketing: Making outbound calls to potential clients to set appointments.
  • Lead magnets: Offering a valuable resource, such as a white paper or webinar, in exchange for contact information.

Definition of brand marketing

Brand marketing, on the other hand, focuses on building brand awareness and creating a positive perception of your company in the target audience’s mind.

The primary goal of brand marketing is to create a lasting impression on people that will ultimately drive sales or influence their preferences in the future.

This type of marketing is defined by its focus on building long-term relationships with clients, promoting what the brand stands for, and overall image.

Here’s an example of a brand marketing advert:

Examples of brand marketing for a professional services business

  • Content marketing: Developing and distributing valuable and relevant content, such as blog posts, ebooks, and videos, to attract and engage a target audience.
  • Social media marketing: Building and maintaining a strong presence on social media platforms, such as LinkedIn to engage with potential clients and showcase your expertise.
  • Public relations: Developing and executing a public relations strategy to generate positive media coverage and reinforce the brand reputation.
  • Public speaking: Positioning key leaders within the business as experts in their field through speaking engagements and interviews.
  • Networking: Building relationships and connecting with potential clients at industry events, trade shows, and associations.
  • Branded collateral: Developing a consistent visual identity, including their logo, website, and other promotional material to reinforce the business's brand and create a professional image.
  • Employee engagement: Ensuring that all employees understand and embody the brand values and messaging, as they are often the face of the business to clients and prospects.

Key differences between direct response marketing and brand marketing

There are fundamental differences between both schools of thought.

To put it simply, direct response marketing is focused on encouraging the target audience to take an action which can be quantified and measured.

Whereas brand marketing is more like art. It’s about creating positive associations and building long-term relationships to influence how the target audience feels about you – something that is inherently difficult to measure.

In terms of how both types of marketing are done in practice, direct response is often targeted towards a specific, well-defined audience, while brand marketing is often targeted towards a wider audience with the goal of building brand awareness.

The success of a direct response marketing campaign is often measured by the number of immediate responses generated, while the success of a brand marketing campaign is often measured by changes in perception and brand recognition.

Advantages and disadvantages of direct response marketing and brand marketing

Both direct response marketing and brand marketing have benefits and costs.

Direct response marketing is often more cost-effective and provides quicker results in the short term, but it can also be seen as intrusive in some instances.

Brand marketing is potentially more effective in building awareness and creating a positive perception of a brand in the minds' of clients, but it can also be more expensive and may take longer to produce results.

The key benefit of direct response marketing is you can trace a conversion back to the piece of marketing the target audience responded to. This is great for determining the ROI of your marketing efforts but it may not be telling the full story – more on this later.

When to use direct response / brand marketing

The choice between direct response marketing and brand marketing depends on several factors, including the goals of the business, the target audience, and the budget.

Direct response marketing is often the best choice for expert service businesses looking to generate immediate results, such as making a sale or collecting leads.

Whereas brand marketing is often the best choice for those looking to build brand awareness and create a positive brand perception over the long-term.

However, the bottom line is they are not mutually exclusive – both types of marketing should be used in conjunction with each other for maximum effectiveness.

This is because they can directly support each other.

There’s a known concept in marketing that suggests your potential client must come into contact with your brand around seven times before they are willing to consider using your offering.

Although this figure may not be exact, the idea behind it is true. The more someone sees and hears of your brand, the more likely they are to trust you enough to make a purchase.

And this is an important thing to consider when I say direct response marketing and brand marketing can work together.

Your brand marketing efforts will help to fuel your direct response campaigns – and vice versa.

If people need multiple encounters with your brand before they will consider working with you, we can safely assume that if they are familiar with your brand, they are much more likely to take action when they see one of your direct response campaigns.

So for expert service businesses, I believe it's key to do brand marketing consistently (such as creating and distributing regular thought leadership content) whilst also running direct response campaigns.

As when the time comes that you want your target audience to sign up for something, they will be much more likely to respond to your campaign.

Conclusion and action point

In conclusion, understanding the difference between direct response marketing and brand marketing is crucial for expert businesses looking to develop and execute a successful marketing strategy.

Brand marketing and direct response marketing are very different, but they can be used together to drive lead generation and improve your brand reputation.

To recap, here’s why:

Although direct response is good for tracking conversions, in reality, potential clients will probably require multiple touch points before they actually convert into a sale.

So you can't necessarily attribute the sale to the final direct response marketing effort a client reacted to. This is why a blend of the two approaches will serve you well.

And as both direct response marketing and brand marketing have distinct advantages, you should really have time and money dedicated to each.

But investing more in brand marketing as you build momentum and your reputation grows is likely to be a better use of resources.

Your action point for today is to think about your current marketing efforts and consider how you can blend brand marketing and direct response marketing for maximum effectiveness.