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The term “reply marketing” can refer to two different kinds of advertising, one where a company replies directly to consumers with targeted marketing and one where consumers have a prompt they need to respond to. Both approaches can be useful for marketing certain kinds of products and ideas, especially when a company consults a skilled marketing firm. They can also potentially become obnoxious for consumers, and companies must find a balance point where they reach customers without alienating them.
In one sense, response marketing occurs when a company reaches out directly to a consumer in response to something the consumer does. The Internet is an ideal setting for this, as companies can track mentions of themselves or specific topics. For instance, if a user updates a social networking site with a status about being hungry, a reply marketing firm might send the user an offer for free delivery or a discount on delivery food. The company responds directly to a stated need to draw the customer in.
Sometimes it takes the form of viral marketing, and the marketing may be oblique in nature. In this case, rather than prompting the consumer to buy or do something, the company might send the consumer a link to a video or website. The consumer explores it and is exposed to the company's brand in the process. When the consumer later goes to buy products or services, she may think of this contact with the company and preferentially seek out its brands.
The other kind of reply marketing involves setting up a situation where a consumer must respond to something. This could be an ad on television encouraging the consumer to act now, a reply card sent with promotional materials in the mail, or an email with a solicitation. There is usually a time limit on the response to prompt the consumer to move quickly to take advantage of an opportunity. The reply usually provides the company with demographic information it can use to direct sales pitches in the future, or to sell to another company seeking prospective sales leads.
A company can use this kind of reply marketing to gauge consumer interest and directly solicit sales. Rather than building up associations with a brand and encouraging consumers to think of it, the company wants to directly sell products through reply marketing. This kind of advertising may rely on a one-time relationship, or it can build up a long-term customer relationship with the first product purchase acting like an introduction to the company's other offerings.