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From Simple Words to Persuasion: Guide to Direct Response Copywriting

What makes plain texts into compelling, action-driven copy?

Cinderella transforming

Direct response copywriting is like that annoyingly convincing friend we all have that gets you to try new things. You know the one. They could sell ice to Eskimos or convince you to attend a free jazz concert when you'd rather watch paint dry.

This type of copywriting is all about nudging your audience into taking action *right here, right now*. Think clicking a button, signing up for a newsletter, or whipping out their credit card faster than you can say "limited time offer".

Different flavours of direct response copywriting

Let's look at the different styles of direct response copywriting. Because, like ice cream, there isn't just one flavour that suits all.

1. Email Copywriting

Ah, the good old email. Personalized, concise, and straight to the point. Your headline needs to be as enticing as a mystery novel's first page, and your body copy should lead to a call-to-action (CTA) that's irresistible.

Here's a great example of a persuasive email for a Frank Body Easter campaign, a skincare company that has a really cool and coherent tone of voice and copywriting style.

Frank Body Email

Remember, you're in their inbox, so make your visit worthwhile!

2. Website Copywriting

This is your chance to impress. Your website is your online storefront, and your copy is the charming sales assistant. Make it engaging, informative, and action-driven.

This is an example of a website from my portfolio. If you're site is up and running, ask yourself the following 2 questions:

  1. What is the goal of the website? What do you want people to do at the end of their visit? Book a call? Buy something? Send you a request via your Contact Me page? Our goal with the Cornerstone Advisory website was to get the book a call with their Managing Director.

The Cornerstone Advisory homepage

2. Are you taking them on a journey of discovery or are you just stating facts? Ideally, you'd ease them in by focusing on their pain points and how your product / solution solves those issues.

3. Social Media Copywriting

The party's over here! Social media copywriting is all about creating engaging, share-worthy content that compels people to like, comment, share, or click on your link. It's all about being relevant, relatable, and ridiculously entertaining while also adhering to the brand voice.

Here's an example of an Instagram post I wrote for Barcelona-based jewelry company, Aleyolé. Their tone of voice was daring, fresh and young. I had a lot of fun writing their posts.

Aleyole Instagram post

4. Content Marketing

This is the slow burn of direct response copywriting. You're creating valuable, engaging content to build trust with your audience, then hitting them with a subtle CTA. It's like hosting a dinner party, and at the end of the night, asking your guests to help with the dishes. They're more likely to say yes because they've enjoyed the meal!

Benefits of direct response copywriting

Now that we've covered the 'what' and the 'types', let's delve into the 'why'.

  • Measurable: One of the best things about direct response copywriting is that it's as measurable as your grandma's secret cookie recipe. You can track clicks, shares, sign-ups, purchases, and so much more.

  • Immediate Response: As the name suggests, this type of copywriting seeks an immediate response. No waiting for weeks to see if your billboard caught anyone's eye. You'll know pretty quickly if your copy is working.

  • Engaging: Direct response copywriting is like a one-on-one conversation with your audience. It's personal, engaging, and makes your audience feel seen and heard.

  • Sales-Driven: Let's not forget, the ultimate goal here is to drive sales. And good direct response copywriting does just that. It entices, persuades, and convinces your audience that they need what you're selling.

5 top tips to nail direct response copywriting

Grab your pens, pads, and thinking caps, folks! We're about to dive into the top five tips for acing direct response copywriting. Don't say we didn't warn you.

  1. Know Your Audience Like the Back of Your Keyboard (you know what I mean...)

Before you start crafting those persuasive phrases, you've got to know who you're talking to. Are they hipster millennials, tech-savvy Gen Zs, or budget-conscious baby boomers? Once you know who you're addressing, you can tailor your message to resonate with them on a personal level. Remember, in the world of direct response copywriting, one size *does not* fit all.

2. Embrace the Power of Storytelling

Ever noticed how we all become wide-eyed children when someone says, "Let me tell you a story"? That's because stories are powerful. They engage, captivate, and inspire. So, weave a tale around your product or service. Give it a backstory that tugs at the heartstrings or stirs up excitement. Make your audience the hero of this story, and they'll be more likely to take action.

3. Benefits > Features Look, your product might have the most incredible features since sliced bread, but what your audience really wants to know is: "What's in it for me?" Focus on the benefits. Show them how your product or service will solve their problems, make their life easier, or simply make them the coolest kid on the block.

4. Call to Action (CTA) - Make It Irresistible

Your CTA is the climax of your copy. It's the moment when your audience decides to take action (or not). So, make it irresistible. Use action words and create urgency. Instead of a bland "Click here", how about "Grab your ticket to financial freedom now!" or "Join our tribe today!"?

5. Test, Tweak, Repeat

Finally, remember that direct response copywriting isn't a "write it and forget it" deal. Test your copy, measure the response, and tweak as necessary. Then repeat. The more you learn about what works for your audience, the more effective your copy will become.

Now, what is the difference between direct response copywriting and other types of writing?

Alright, let's play a little game of comparison, shall we? How does direct response copywriting measure up against other types of writing?

Direct Response Copywriting vs. Brand Copywriting

Brand copywriting is like that charismatic friend who's the life of the party. Their job is to make you look good, create an emotional connection with your audience, and build a strong, consistent brand voice. They're not always looking for an immediate response; they're playing the long game, building a relationship based on trust and loyalty.

On the other hand, direct response copywriting is the persuasive friend who convinces you to do karaoke even though you can't carry a tune. They want an immediate response, a specific action, and they want it now.

Direct Response Copywriting vs. Content Writing

Content writing is the informative friend who always has interesting stories and facts to share. They provide value, educate, and entertain your audience with engaging blog posts, articles, whitepapers, etc. While there might be a call-to-action, it's often more subtle and not the primary focus of the content.

Direct response copywriting, however, is all about the CTA. Every word, every sentence is aimed at pushing the reader towards a specific action, like signing up, buying, or sharing.

Direct Response Copywriting vs. Conversion Copywriting

Now, this one is a bit tricky, as direct response and conversion copywriting often get lumped together. And for good reason - both are all about getting the reader to take action. But there's a slight difference.

Conversion copywriting is more focused on online actions—getting users to click a button, sign up for a newsletter, or make a purchase on a website. It's often related to website copy, landing pages, and email marketing.

Direct response copywriting can be this, but it's also much more. It includes offline actions and traditional mediums like direct mail, print ads, and TV commercials. It's a broader term, encompassing all copy that seeks a direct response, online or off.

Top 3 direct response copywriters of all time

Now that we've compared direct response copywriting with its contemporaries, let's take a moment to honor the legends of the field. These guys are the Michael Jordans, the Beatles, the Picassos of direct response copywriting.

Gary Halbert, known as the "Prince of Print”

Gary Halbert was a direct response copywriting maestro. He had a knack for crafting letters that felt personal and persuasive, turning readers into buyers. His most famous letter, "The Coat-of-Arms Letter," reportedly made over $7 million. If you want to learn the art of direct response copywriting, you can't go wrong studying Halbert's work.

Eugene Schwartz

Known for his book, "Breakthrough Advertising", which many consider the bible of direct response copywriting Schwartz had the ability to understand the consumer's mind and create compelling ads was unparalleled. His ads sold millions of products and made him a legend in the field.

David Ogilvy, "Father of Advertising"

David Ogilvy created some of the most iconic ad campaigns of the 20th century. While he dabbled in all areas of advertising, his direct response work was exceptional. Ogilvy's mantra was "You cannot bore people into buying," and his engaging, persuasive copy certainly proved that!

The ultimate goal of direct response copywriting? Connecting with your audience to drive immediate action. Which, to me, is pure magic.

But that’s just me…thinking out loud.


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