Do you need to make more sales?
Like many business owners, you’ve probably been producing content, networking, and engaging in all the common marketing tricks to “get your name out there”.
But through it all, sales just aren’t where they should be.
This is where direct response copywriting shines when other forms of marketing fall short. Unlike brand awareness campaigns, direct response copywriting is designed to grab an audience’s focus, guide them to a desired viewpoint, and inspire immediate action.
This unique approach of writing direct response copy leads to tangible sales, not just brand awareness.
Let’s take a look at the elements (with examples) that make direct response copywriting so effective so you can start implementing them in your business now.
What is Direct Response Copywriting?
Direct response copywriting is writing designed to elicit an immediate action from the reader. It’s a powerful type of copywriting in your marketing arsenal that focuses on promoting a product or service, compelling the audience to respond right away.
Unlike other forms of copywriting that may simply aim to raise brand awareness or communicate information, direct response copywriting is all about the ‘now.’ It seeks to create a sense of urgency, pushing readers to make an immediate decision – be it making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading an eBook.
A prime example of this would be infomercials that urge viewers to “Call now while supplies last!” or email campaigns that entice with “Limited time offer! Sign up today and save 20%!”
These tactics are not just about selling; they’re about persuading your audience that they need to act fast to reap the benefits.
Effective direct response copy focuses on the reader’s pain points and how your product or service can solve them quickly and efficiently – This makes the audience feel understood and valued and inspires immediate action.
Why You Need to Know How to do Direct Response Copywriting
Marketing is useless if it doesn’t get your audience to take action.
It’s an all too common situation when companies flush their ad spend down the toilet because their communications don’t stimulate sales.
When you can’t make sales, you can’t run a profitable business.
This is the key difference between direct response copywriting and other forms of copywriting. While traditional copywriting might tell a story or build a brand image, direct response copywriting is laser-focused on making the sale.
Consider this example: A traditional copywriter might describe the comfort and style of a new line of running shoes. A direct response copywriter, on the other hand, would highlight how these shoes could shave seconds off your personal best time, and then urge you to buy them now before they’re sold out.
In essence, honing your direct response copywriting efforts can lead to higher conversion rates and increased revenue.
Whether you’re a business owner, or a marketer looking to develop high-converting copy for your clients, direct response methods are a valuable tool in your tool belt.
Key Elements of Direct Response Copywriting
Before we delve into the essential elements of direct response copywriting, it’s important to remember that each piece of copy is unique. Your approach will depend on your audience, your product or service, and your specific marketing goals.
However, there are certain key elements that successful direct response copy tends to have in common. These building blocks will turn a casual reader into a motivated buyer.
Let’s take a closer look at these critical components of direct response copywriting.
Tip #1: Understand Your Audience
The effectiveness of your message depends completely on the audience. If you don’t do your market research, you might as well be shouting at a wall. This is because your audience will ignore you if you don’t speak to their pains and concerns.
Before embarking on any marketing adventure, always research your target audience. I’ll take poorly written but relevant copywriting over well-written poorly targeted copywriting any day.
There are many different ways to do target audience research, such as:
- focus groups
- evaluative reports
- help desk inquires
The way that you get your info is not that important. Just make sure you are speaking to a few members of your target audience, and then replicate your findings to a larger population.
Tip #2: Craft Compelling Headlines
Compelling headlines make sales.
In our hyper-distracted modern world, the average American is exposed to over 10,000 ads per day. This means you have to compete with thousands of messages that are all trying to capture attention.
With direct response marketing, you’re trying to go for the sale, this makes your threshold for writing an attention-getting headline even more important!
Here are some elements that good headlines have:
- center around problems or benefits
- be contrarian
- be confident
- call out your target audience member
- use active voice
- use numbers
The headline is the first thing that a viewer will see in your communication, so make sure it’s a banger.
Tip #3: Provide Clear Calls-to-Action
A call to action (CTA) is the part of your marketing communication that tells someone what to do. CTAs are usually at the end of the message, but they can also be included throughout.
For example, I like putting a CTA at the top as well as the bottom of my sales pages because some people are ready to buy immediately and don’t need to scroll to the bottom to make the sale.
CTA’s are very important in direct response marketing because they don’t leave action to chance. In fact, email marketing with just one CTA increases sales by approximately 1,617%.
Good CTAs have the following elements:
- authoritative language
Make sure you include these elements in all of your direct-response copywriting so your marketing efforts don’t go to waste. We’re talking about direct response here, the goal is sales!
Tip #4: Craft a Compelling Story
People think in stories.
If you want to get someone’s attention, tell them the story behind your point of view.
Stories come in many shapes and sizes, but there is a basic structure that has been replicated in fairy tales, spiritual texts, and popular Hollywood movies with great success. This structure tickles the depths of our collective consciousness by resonating with our human experience.
The structure of this story is as follows:
- How life was before
- Call to adventure
- Bad things happen
- A guide or epiphany helps
- Finally achieving results
- Learnings brought back from the adventure
- How Life Is Now
This is a very powerful story that I have used to sell many things. Make sure you incorporate it into your marketing communications to capture attention and communicate the “why” behind your CTA.
Tip #4: Use Urgency and Scarcity
Every buy is an impulse buy.
There is a common misunderstanding in marketing, where some people like to delineate between impulse decisions and planned decisions.
I don’t see it that way.
While some planning can occur in the purchasing process, when it comes time to take your credit card out and buy the thing, its just like any other decision – spontaneous and made in the moment.
As marketers, it is our job to help people make the decisions that they are thinking about making – in effect, to help push them over the edge and act.
This is where urgency and scarcity can help. Pressure your prospects in your direct response marketing by telling them the offer won’t last forever and that there is a limited amount available.
Urgency and scarcity are so powerful because our evolutionary ancestors had extremely limited resources. Therefore, our evolutionary wiring creates a strong emotional response to passing up a good opportunity (FOMO is real!)
Once the emotional tension is created with urgency and scarcity, you hit em with the CTA, BANG, and close the deal.
Tip #5: Include Proof and Credibility
People don’t buy when they don’t think an offer is credible.
Think about it, have you ever been scammed? Many people have, and now, they are skeptical about new offers.
But you can counteract this mistrust with credible elements in your copy. Consider, for example, that conversions increase by 270% just by including customer reviews.
In direct-response marketing, you have to build credibility quickly. This is because you’re asking for the sale right away before the prospect has time to get to know you.
The bigger the ask, the more credibility you need to build.
Here are the elements that build credibility:
Include these in your direct response communications to convert more prospects into paying customers.
Tip #6 Personalize
People would rather buy from another human rather than a soulless corporate entity.
You can capitalize on this desire by personalizing your direct response communications.
This technique is fairly self-explanatory – just act like a human. But here are a few things you can do right away:
- call the person by name
- use colloquial language
- write like you are speaking to a friend
- talk about real-life things (sports, weather, kids, life challenges, etc.)
When you speak like a human, it lowers the pressure of the sales situation. You can just talk person-to-person, and help the prospect get their needs met along the way.
Tip #7 Test and Refine Your Copy
The best direct response marketers always be testing (ABT).
ABT is the philosophy that the path to the promised land lies in the trials and learnings of your marketing operations.
While it’s great to read a guide like this one, you will have your biggest breakthroughs when you test your copywriting on a large sample.
How large is a large sample?
Think in the 100s and 1000s.
If you send 1000 different emails to 3 different groups, this will be a statistically significant dataset that you can pull insight from.
NOTE: This is where email marketing can really shine. With the amazing prospecting tools now available, AI email writers, and the ability to pull highly targeted prospect lists, it is easier than ever to send personalized mass emails.
There is no excuse to not send thousands of emails and test different direct response copy.
Test out your copy until you find a winning combo. Run this play until it stops working and repeat.
Real-World Examples of Effective Direct Response Copywriting
Now that we know the different elements of effective direct response copywriting, let’s take a look at some examples in action.
Landing Page – Squarespace
Landing pages are an integral part of direct response marketing. When you have a prospect’s attention, you don’t want to let it go to waste.
This is where a landing page comes in.
A landing page does the heavy lifting of giving a prospect the information and reassurance they need to take action. Take this landing page from Squarespace for example. Just looking at the top of the page, we can see some of the elements of good direct-response marketing.
- Solid headline – The headline is short, punchy, phrased confidently, and refers to a customer benefit. Notice how the headline doesn’t mention “how” to grow your audience. It just focuses on the benefit so as to capture attention – the question of “how” will be answered later on.
- Strong CTA – the CTA button is clear, authoritative, and tells the reader exactly what to do next. I also like how it is at the top of the page. Remember, there is no point in making someone scroll to the bottom if they are ready to buy at the top.
- Personalized – Squarespace sells marketing and analytics tools. But instead of showing the technical elements of their products, their images focus on their customer’s craft. A prospect visiting this page will resonate with the tool because it will help grow his woodworking business – remember, in direct response, always focus on the human element and how it will help them.
Ever open up your mailbox only to spend the next 10 minutes shimmying out the block of flyers stuffed to the brim?
You can thank direct response mail for this fun experience.
Direct response mail has been around for a long time and it’s still going strong for one reason – it works!
Direct response mail is very common in consumer goods and services industries, but it is also a common practice in real estate, health care, travel, and marketing agencies.
Advertisers keep running this play because of its deadly combination of powerful copywriting principles.
- You can target key customer segments – Given someone’s mailing address, you can make assumptions about their income, lifestyle, marital and family status, and in the B2B world, the exact industry that they are in.
- Familiarity and Credibility – People typically associate mail as familiar and trustworthy. When you open up your mailbox, you feel the excitement of receiving a nice message from a friend or family member. This goodwill transfers over to other communications in the same pile such as direct response flyers. In effect, direct response mail is starting warm instead of starting completely cold.
- Personalization – Direct response mail allows you to tailor your messaging with information you may have on file such as name and location.
- Well-tested copy – Direct response mail has been around for a while. Billions of combinations have been tried in this format. This gives advertisers a wealth of practice to find out what gets results. Next time you look at a direct response flyer, try to spot the elements we talked about – urgency, scarcity, CTAs, and storytelling. Implement them in your own direct response to cash in on this extensive research.
Infomercial – Shamwow
“Call now within the next 20 minutes because we can’t do this all day!”
If you need proof of the effectiveness of direct marketing principles, look no further than the bizarre yet compelling case of ShamWow.
ShamWow’s meteoric success was kicked off by a popular direct-response infomercial in 2007 by Vince Offer. Since running the commercial, Vince has sold millions of ShamWows worldwide (and they still sell today).
Why was this commercial so successful?
The quality of the product is debatable, and the offer is questionable, but the direct response principles are sound, and the delivery is exceptional.
Here are some of direct direct-response copywriting principles that made ShamWow a success:
- Personalization – Shamwow appeals to your average person. Notice how Vince talks about all the different home uses? You can use it on your car, boat, bathroom, kitchen etc. – all highly relatable home uses.
- Proof – To build credibility, Vince shows the ShamWow in action. The soda on the carpet demonstration is a key element in bolstering the strength of the offer.
- Testimonials – After the viewer is captured by the ShamWow’s benefits and shown proof of its effectiveness, they get to see testimonials from other average people. This ads more credibility into the mix.
- Strong CTA – Once the viewer is nice and buttered up, Vince goes in for the close with a strong CTA. Notice how he tells the audience to “Call now”?
- Urgency and Scarcity – On top of the confidence in Vince’s CTA delivery, you also have the added element of urgency and scarcity. Not only did he tell people to “call now” but he told them to do so in the “next 20 minutes”. Why? because “we can’t do this all day…”. Guys, your reasons for inserting scarcity don’t have to make sense. They just work.
Direct-response copywriting is a powerful tool that can greatly enhance your marketing efforts. It’s all about compelling the reader to act immediately, focusing on benefits, and using a strong call to action.
The difference between direct response copywriting and other forms of copywriting lies in its potential to boost conversion rates and increase revenue.
I encourage you to use these techniques in your own work to see how they can transform your results. But remember to ABT – test, test, and test some more! When you combine tried and true methods with your own experience, you will be unstoppable.