The terms direct response and direct marketing are used interchangeably. They are strategic concepts. When fully understood, direct response is really one-to-one marketing.
The Internet per se is nothing more than a medium. DRTV, direct mail, telemarketing, email, print and the Internet are media that direct marketers use to implement the direct marketing strategy.
The direct marketing strategy is "how" you go about selling services or products. It is accountable direct response advertising because all sales are tracked by offer, source and customer.
The Internet represents the ultimate tool for direct response marketers who strive to build relationships and sell products with the greatest efficiency possible.
The Internet begs for response in the form of an Internet discussion or transaction.
Increasingly, the Internet supplants the inbound telemarketing medium.
Search is a response when the search engine seeks to find relevant information. This information is a precursor to the actual sale. It is a lead. Though the lead quality varies tremendously depending upon how well the inquiry converts to a sale.
The Internet is used as a PR tool and helps to build a brand's reputation. But these strategies merely support the ultimate goal -- selling products, raising funds or increasing sources of revenue.
Always bear in mind that a strategy or a combination of strategies support the goal. Image building, awareness, branding, positioning and direct marketing all represent strategies that are secondary to the goal. Some marketers get caught up so deeply in branding, for example, that they tend to make it the goal rather than subjecting it to the selling goal.
The goal always trumps the strategy.
Internet marketers often fail in this regard. They view the Internet as a strategy when it is nothing more than a medium on steroids. In fact, the Internet usually works best as a part of the media strategy. Unfortunately some online practitioners want to make it the only medium when a media mix would produce far better results.
The bottom line: direct response is a key strategy that drives the Internet rather than the other way around.