Last Updated: November 27, 2020

One of the major drawbacks of most forms of advertising is the difficulty experienced when determining the success of a campaign. Think of a customer that goes into a store and buys a new pair of running shoes.

What made them buy those shoes? Was it the ad they saw for them on television? Was it a review they read of them in a runner’s magazine? Were they simply walking by the shoes and liked the way they looked?

As more marketing occurs online, advertisers have tried to develop new tools to track the impact of each and every advertisement they pay for. Marketers want to know how many times it is seen, how many times it is clicked, and how often it leads to a sale.

One of the most effective methods of determining whether or not advertising works is by implementing reply marketing tactics in a campaign. Reply marketing attempts to elicit an immediate response from customers, leading them from the advertisement directly to a sale. (See also Conversion Marketing).

What is reply marketing?

Reply marketing takes many forms, ranging from basic classified ads to infomercials. They typically ask consumers to “call now” or “act fast” to take advantage of special offers. New online ads are one of the most common forms of reply marketing because of their interactive features. If the ad captures a customer’s attention they click on it, leading them closer to a company’s products.

There are two major advantages to reply marketing. The first is that it is inexpensive. Since the goal is to create an immediate sale, companies often use less total advertising when they use a reply strategy. The second major advantage is that reply marketing produces quantifiable data about the effectiveness of the campaign. Imagine that a company is running two separate commercials with a reply marketing strategy. One highlights value while another highlights quality. Each ad includes a different phone number to call. Whichever number gets more calls is the product feature that most appeals to customers.

The only disadvantage of reply marketing is that it is often so immediate that it discourages long-term relationships between a customer and a company. Reply marketing invites customers to take advantage of opportunities rather than form loyalties. This form of marketing on its own is not very effective at encouraging repeat customers.

Examples of reply marketing

  • AAA of California – AAA was trying to boost the number of customers purchasing their auto insurance plans. They had a well-recognized brand but had struggled to grow the number of subscribers. After reevaluating their marketing strategy, they developed TV spots based on reply marketing techniques and focused them in targeted, local TV markets. The campaign boosted leads at twice the rate of past campaigns.
  • Drill Doctor – The makers of Drill Doctor, a tool for sharpening drill bits, realized that they had a great product that no one knew they needed. In order to generate demand they would have to educate customers. They developed a 30 minute infomercial that highlighted the benefits of the Drill Doctor while also including many calls to action. The ad debuted in 2001 and is still running today.
  • Old Spice – In 2010, Old Spice debuted ads featuring the “Old Spice Man.” Five months later they invited Twitter followers to Tweet questions to the Old Spice Man who would answer them in real time. Videos were made of his responses and posted online. In one week alone, the videos were viewed by 7 million people and Old Spice increased their Twitter following by more than 1,000 percent. Old Spice was able to create significant buzz around their brand by soliciting responses directly from their customers.
  • Wells Fargo – The major bank developed a TV spot featuring a couple discussing the future of their finances. At the bottom of the screen a 1-800 number was prominently displayed. Wells Fargo created a scenario that the average viewer could relate to, and then made it easy for the viewer to respond to the ad.

The Growth of Online Advertising

Online environments are one of the best places to carry out reply marketing campaigns. Tremendous amounts of data are produced on the customer, their preferences, and their demographic information. The more this information is analyzed, the more efficient and effective advertising becomes. This is why advertisers are spending tens of billions of dollars more on digital advertising than they did just a few years ago. The chart below, based on data from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, illustrates the growth in online advertising over a six year period. The largest jump in growth came between 2010 and 2011. The reply marketing based approaches used in online advertising are one of the fastest growing types of marketing.

Who implements reply marketing?

Because of the relatively low cost of a reply marketing strategy, many kinds of businesses enact these campaigns. Consider a local coffee shop that runs ads for a free cup of coffee if a customer brings in a printed coupon. That coffee shop can determine the effectiveness of its campaign by how many customers arrive to the shop holding coupons.

However, most comprehensive reply marketing campaigns will be carried out by major companies, usually with many product lines. The infrastructure necessary to track, store, and analyze data about customers can be cost prohibitive for many marketing teams (See also Long Tail Marketing). A company like Amazon will invest heavily in reply marketing because they sell tens of thousands of different products and market through dozens of different channels.

Learning from Infomercials

There is a tendency to write off infomercials as the lowest form of advertising. They use loud spokespeople, cheap gimmicks, and high pressure sales techniques to market products of a dubious quality and utility. But this is consistently one of the most effective forms of advertising and produces a huge return on investment. All reply marketers have something to gain from studying the techniques used in infomercials.

  • Use testimonials – Infomercials often use testimonials from average people to help make the case for their products. Customer testimonials seem authentic and they help the customer to imagine how they will personally benefit from buying a product.
  • Use metrics – Infomercial makers have relied on marketing data since before it was a standard industry practice. They carefully track where their orders are coming from, who their customers are, and where and when they have seen the marketer’s ads. This kind of data leads to the efficient use of marketing budgets.
  • Calls To Action – Infomercials remind customers over and over that they need to buy this product right now. They create a sense of urgency around the sale and encourage customers to buy now rather than later. If a customer is pressured to buy now, they are less likely to comparison shop or to read product reviews that might contradict the claims made by the advertiser.
  • Be clear and direct – Infomercials make very clear and immediate statements about the quality, value, utility, and innovativeness of a product. They avoid using abstract language, vague branding statements, or overly technical jargon. The better a customer understands a product, the more likely they are to buy it now.
  • Highlight value – Infomercials are great at making customers feel like they are getting a bargain. They present a product, slash its price, and then offer a second one for free. By the end of the infomercial the customer feels like they will be missing out if they do not take advantage of this amazing deal. Emphasizing value creates a sense of urgency in the customer.

How is a reply marketing plan developed?

Reply marketing demands a lot of attention from customers. It tells them what they should do, why they should do it, when they should do it, and where. Managing all of these messages requires a comprehensive marketing plan that can guide advertising efforts.

Companies who enact reply marketing campaigns must begin by asking themselves several questions. They will need to analyze their product, their resources, and their intended customer base to figure out if a reply marketing approach is the right one. For instance, if a company does not have an established call center staff, it would be counterproductive to invite thousands of customers to reply to a 1-800 number (See also Call Center Marketing). Companies must respond to the immediate demand generated by reply marketing.

Finding the right segments of the market to focus on will be necessary before any ads are developed. Marketers must choose the medium they want to focus on (TV, print etc) and then pick the markets they wish to target. If they target elderly consumers, they might choose to run TV ads during the daytime. If they want to target sports fans they might take out ads in ESPN Magazine.

Once marketers establish campaign goals, they must create advertisements that convince consumers to interact with the product or brand. Copywriters, graphic designers, videographers, and technical staff will work together to create ads that grab the customer’s attention. The company will need to decide which features of its products to emphasize, and how to excite customers. Reply marketing must make a strong and potent appeal to the customer that encourages immediate action.

The final step of the plan will be to analyze its effectiveness. Before any campaign begins, marketers must establish clear metrics to measure success or failure. The goals could range from increasing sales to decreasing the amount of money spent on every ad that leads to a sale. Once the numbers are defined, the campaign should be reviewed multiple times throughout its duration. If a campaign is not producing the intended results, they must formulate a new marketing plan.

Careers in reply marketing

Digital Marketing Manager

What do they do?

Average Salaries of Reply Marketers

  • Digital Marketing Manager
    entry level – $40,000-$60,000
    after 10 years – $60,000-$90,000
  • Video Editor
    entry level -$35,000-$60,000
    after 10 years – $60,000-$100,000
  • Copywriter
    entry level – $40,000-$60,000
    after 10 years – $60,000-$90,000


Digital marketing managers are responsible for leading online advertising efforts. They will manage everything from banner ads, to viral videos, to email marketing campaigns and search advertising. Many of the strategies they use will involve elements of reply marketing.

Education and Skills

A degree in marketing will be required for any digital marketing manager. Managers working at larger firms will need to have advanced degrees in specialized forms of marketing. Having creativity, vision, and strong leadership skills are necessary to effectively lead a team of online marketers.

Video Editor

What do they do?

Video editors take blocks of film and edit them down so they are logical and compelling. It is ultimately up to the video editor to create the final look and feel of a TV or video ad. Infomercials are carefully edited to have the maximum impact on the viewer. Editors know how to organize film so that it optimizes the marketing message.

Education and Skills

Most video editors have education in film and specialized training in the technologies and techniques of video editing. A degree in marketing is not necessary, but it can help video editors to focus on a specifically commercial style. Extensive experience editing video of different lengths, styles, and substances is necessary for any editor looking for work.


What do they do?

Copywriters compose all of the text that accompanies an advertisement. In the case of video ads, they compose scripts. They are responsible for conceiving the marketing message and finding the best way to express that through language. Reply marketing makes strong call to action statements that will be drafted by copywriters.

Education and Skills

It is not absolutely necessary to have a degree in marketing to find work as a copywriter, but it is very helpful. All copywriting is about pushing an advertising message and this is one of the disciplines emphasized in marketing school. Some people enter the field after getting degrees in English, communications, or public relations.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Carrying out an effective reply marketing campaign is more complicated than simply writing a phone number in red letters or offering a “buy one get one free” offer. It takes a wide range of skills to create compelling ad content that will convince consumers to act. The best way to get the training and experience necessary to create an effective reply marketing campaign is to earn a marketing degree from an accredited institution.

Marketing departments are filled with academics who have spent their entire careers studying the ins and outs of advertising. Students can draw on this expertise to get a solid foundation in the techniques of reply marketing. They will learn how to design ads that grab a customer’s attention and lead them directly to a sale. According to Nielsen, the money spent on various forms of reply marketing grew by 18% between 2007 and 2010. This is a popular form of marketing that is growing fast, requiring more trained professionals to keep up with marketing demand.