For many marketing managers of many of the nation’s biggest brands, cracking Facebook advertising has seemed a bit daunting. The data available is enormous, the sell-through process difficult, and the ROI often tough to figure. So much of this is mystifying for many because the discipline seems foreign.

However, in my experience, following the rules of traditional direct marketing is a great gateway into Facebook advertising. Think of Facebook as the greatest DM tool ever created, and suddenly you crack the code.

Here’s how:

1) Know who you are talking to

The key to direct marketing has always been to understand as much as you can about the names on the mailing list you are using. The importance of this doesn’t change with Facebook or other social advertising. The only difference is that it is easier.

Taking note of your top social fans and trending topics among niche groups gives marketers an even more distinct view into the behaviors, likes, and dislikes of their target markets. Further, digital direct marketing can break groups down into smaller groups with a tighter concentration of particular traits than traditional ever could.

With Custom Audience Targeting in Facebook, the direct marketer can refine the message to innumerable niche markets with custom-tailored messaging and imagery for each group.

It’s the same, but different.

2) Make ’em look

Targeting and hyper-relevance has a tendency at first blush to trump good creative, especially in the social sphere. However, anyone who has worked in PPC for any length of time knows that the power of good creative is just as important as ever.

Being provocative is important, and it’s easier than ever. With the mounds of data available through the Open Graph, determining what, in fact, would be extremely relevant and at the same time exciting to the audience becomes more science than art. Making an audience look at direct marketing has always been tough, but it has gotten much easier thanks to the major social networks.

3) Tell them what they need to do

Okay, all you traditional direct marketers who see a gulf between your expertise and that of the digital team, here’s an area where you can teach the digital guys a thing or two. Data bears out over and over again that telling people what you want them to do in your advertising drives higher ROI. Direct marketing is direct marketing, whether it takes place on a screen or in a home.

Be clear about what you want your audience to do with your ad. Simply adding a “click here” button can make all the difference.

4) Make the process simple

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and the rule doesn’t change in direct marketing. Everyone on the traditional side of the industry knows that sell-through depends on a perfect balance of immediate fulfillment for the customer and sell-through for the company as close to that fulfillment as possible. The game is no different online.

After the person clicks, the main key is to make the next screen they see a fulfillment of their desire at the click, and satisfy the corporate desire for sell-through if at all possible. Focus your effort on making the landing point as fulfilling as possible for both sides with as little drag as possible, and the results will be praise enough.

5) BONUS: Make it memorable and share-worthy

Direct marketing has always been driven by a desire to get friends to share the message whenever possible. For some products or services, that is more feasible than for others. However, on Facebook this is not only possible, but often the easiest action for your customer to take.

For this reason, many have turned to using online games to drive interest and to discover the friends of interested parties and get the message into their hands. This can certainly work for the right brand. For others, it is often enough to empower customers to give their friends insider deals by sending customers exclusive deals that can be used by them or anyone they share the deals with. The key is making the offer and experience memorable and shareable enough that customers can return after the experience and include as many friends as come to mind.

Amazing creative concepts can come of this approach when put as a front-and-center goal in a creative brief.


Traditional direct marketing and digital direct marketing are the same game; it’s just that the digital medium is better suited both for targeting and expenditure. Don’t let your lack of experience with Facebook tools keep you from opening this highly lucrative avenue.

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Cody Vest
Cody Vest is the creative director at Vest Advertising in Louisville, KY. A second-generation Ad Man, he bridges the gap between digital data and ad strategy building campaigns across every kind of media outlet from Facebook to broadcast TV. Cody's interests include building easy ways to get key marketing data from the open systems of the social web, and strengthening traditional campaigns with digital insights.