Seth Godin Dishes on Direct Marketing Vs. Mass Marketing

Seth Godin Dishes on Direct Marketing Vs. Mass Marketing

In a recent post from Seth Godin, the influential author and speaker divulges a main difference between mass marketers and direct marketers: the process they follow in creating and scaling their message to reach their audiences.

The comparison below is based on Godin’s main points:

Mass Marketing:Direct Marketing:
Bets on large-scale deployment to achieve success.Relies on initial small-scale testing to achieve success.
Needs heavy initial resource allocation to push message to entire audience, across multiple channels, simultaneously.Needs low initial resource allocation; deployment scaled  to entire audience as results are proven.
Relies on achieving results on the first attempt.Continually improves results by tracking, measuring, and revising.
Success (brand awareness, “buzz,” and sometimes conversion rate) not determined until end of campaign.Success (conversion rate) is determined at beginning, based on test results.


With tighter budgets and continued pressure to produce measurable results, the safer, predictable direct marketing process would seem a no-brainer. However, everyone from small business owners dabbling in marketing to seasoned advertising veterans are tempted to rely on their personal taste and gut instinct to determine what will appeal to and motivate the masses. This temptation is natural, but not justifiable, according to Godin:

“The key distinction [between direct marketing and mass marketing] is when you know it’s going to work. The mass marketer doesn’t know until the end. The direct marketer knows in the beginning. The mass marketer is betting on thousands of tiny cues, little clues, and unrecorded (but vital) conversations. The direct marketer is measuring conversion rates from the first day.

“That’s the reason we often default to acting like mass marketers. We’re putting off the day of reckoning, betting on the miracle around the corner, spending our time and energy on the early steps without the downside of admitting failure to the boss.

“Of course, just because it’s our default doesn’t mean it’s right. Business to business marketing is almost always better if you treat it like direct marketing. Most websites that do conversion as well. Same with non-profit fundraising.”

So, as it turns out, the distinction between mass and direct marketing is less about the size of your audience, and more about the process you follow to determine the right messaging for them. Are you willing to devote the time needed to test your message, and do you have the humility and persistence needed to acknowledge a failed test and try again? If so, then you’re on your way to achieving more powerful, scalable marketing.

You can read Godin’s complete post here.

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