Difference Between Direct Marketing and Direct Selling

Direct Marketing vs Direct Selling

The difference between direct marketing and direct selling is not obviously simple as both originate from a few core marketing beliefs. But, before embarking on the differences, let’s see some basics. Marketing has been evolving continuously, and this has given rise to various interconnected functions. Promotion and sales are two such important functions for any organizations. The customer has to be informed about the product in order for sales to happen. In marketing, we commonly identify 4 P’s which are Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. The term direct marketing is solely a promotional mechanism such as advertising or personal selling while direct selling is a combination of place and promotion. Below, each term has been discussed in detail while emphasizing the difference between the two.

What is Direct Selling?

When we discuss of direct selling, organizations such as Oriflame, Amway and Tupperware® comes to our mind. It is natural as these are some firms that heavily use direct selling. Direct selling is a method of directly selling products to customers. It involves face to face interaction with the customer. There is no middleman or distributor. Agents are appointed and commission is paid for them on sales. Sales happen at a customer convenient place. It may be their home or workplace.

In direct selling, convenience is an important benefit for the customer as the product is made available at their doorstep and they do not have the hassle in going to a department store or a shopping center. Also, customers benefit from personal demonstration, explanation of product attributes, home delivery, and customs guarantees. Usually, the direct selling agent will be known to the customer or would have been recommended by another user. Therefore, trust would exist between the transaction parties. However, direct selling is not suitable for marketing all products. Direct selling is selective to certain product categories where customers require personal guarantees or want to feel and touch the product or is generally not available in department stores. Generally, ladies are the key target audience for products that use direct selling as they prefer doorstep sales. Also, direct selling is ideal for small firms who cannot compete on the mass market with multinationals for retail space and their advertising budgets.

Difference Between Direct Marketing and Direct Selling

Oriflame uses direct selling

What is Direct Marketing?

Direct Marketing is a promotional tool such as advertising, sales promotion, public relation, and personal selling. It can be classified as direct communication with carefully targeted individual customers to obtain an immediate response and for creating long term relationships. Examples of direct marketing are telephone marketing, direct mailers, direct response marketing television (DRTV), and online shopping.

Direct marketing is a selective promotional method aimed at potential customer segments and is not intended for mass communication such as advertising. Also, the effectiveness of direct marketing can be measured with the sales call returned, which is not possible in mass communication methods. But, for direct marketing to be effective customer agents should be well informed about the product that is promoted. They should assist the customers and translate the calls into sales. Some customers may attribute direct marketing with junk or spam, which is on the rise especially with nonspecific e-mails. But, what they should understand is, if it’s not targeted to the appropriate segments or interested clients, it cannot be labeled as direct marketing. Social networks and web tools such as retargeting are few important tools for direct marketing purpose at present times. With the user browsing pattern, selective adverts are shown to them when they roam through their facebook account that is a good example for direct marketing. Direct marketing can provide individual customer-centric preferences and data that are necessary for a good customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

 Direct Marketing vs Direct Selling

Telephone marketing is an example for direct marketing

What is the difference between Direct Marketing and Direct Selling?

Direct selling also has the elements of direct marketing. But, direct selling involves sales function while direct marketing is to induce customers for future sales. Both are targeted communication methods and eliminate middlemen in the supply chain. As we have clearly classified direct selling and direct marketing, we will now focus on the differences between these two terms.

• Communication Mode:

• Direct selling is a door to door campaign and is personal in nature.

• Direct marketing is not a face to face interaction. It utilizes tools such as post, internet, television, etc. to reach out to potential customer segments.

• So, direct marketing reaches out to customers on broader communication methods while direct selling is limited to face to face interaction.

• Convenience and Point of Interaction:

• On direct selling, the seller is able to personally present, demonstrate and sell the product at a single point of interaction.

• This opportunity is not available in direct marketing. It involves interactions at multiple locations and varied times.

• Origin:

• Direct selling is a very old method of transaction as we can trace it to peddler selling where they move to customer location and do the sales.

• Direct marketing became popular with the postal mechanism and the reafter grew to mammoth proportion after the invent of the internet.

• Coverage:

• Reach of direct selling is limited as individuals cannot cover a high number of customers.

• Direct marketing has the potential to reach out to a large number of customers more than an individual can cover during his/her lifetime.

Both, direct selling and direct marketing seems similar from their outlook. However, they have significant differences between them, which have been highlighted in this article.



  1. Kotler, T and Keller K. (2012). Marketing Management. 14e Global ed., Pearson Education.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Oriflame event by E.dudina (CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Telemarketing via Wikicommons (Public Domain)