The foundation of most of the things that I know about direct response copywriting is based on studies carried out by the greats. Using their proven methods allows the rest of us to stand on their shoulders and see further. One such legend that I learned a lot from is Joe Sugarman. His book Triggers had a tremendous impact on the way that I look at copywriting as a whole.
Joe’s success is testament enough to the power that is at one’s disposal if you know how to execute your copywriting the right way. Humans and funny creatures. We respond to people and things and very interesting ways.
Words are one of the things that we can predict reactions to. This is what Joe describes as triggers. Knowing and employing the tremendous power of triggers goes a heck of a long way. We are going to look at some of the key things that one ought to consider when it comes to direct response copywriting.
There is a ton that we can all learn from David Ogilvy. He is one person that most direct response copywriters will swear by. His marketing strategy as outlined in his talks and publications is timeless. It should be a part of all content marketing strategy. We will consider some of the copywriting techniques made available by these men’s efforts.
What is direct response copywriting?
Direct response copywriting written content that is for the purpose of persuading the reader to take a specific action. The action, in this case, is predefined within the copy. You are not leaving anything to guesswork or speculation.
The outcome of direct response copywriting and indeed direct response marketing should always be measurable. The call to action that is used is immediate. There is a sense of urgency and that of an opportunity that the reader should neither delay or pass on.
How this is implemented will depend on where the copy is placed. If you are aiming to have your copy placed on a webpage for instance. You will likely be able to make predictions as to where the traffic that lands on your webpage will be coming from. If these leads are driven by organic searches or advertising, you know that most of them are looking for the product or service that you are advertising.
That is how they have ended up on this page. Your goal should then be to “preach to the choir”. They believe or have the same need that your product or service is built to deal with. The only thing that is left is to bridge the gap between your product and the user’s problem. Leave no doubt that your product is the one that they should have. At the very minimum, it should be the one that they should be trying out.
Direct marketing is data-driven. As should all digital marketing efforts. This should be done without neglective user experience. After all, this is the person whose response makes or breaks a campaign. Your landing pages must be adequate to provide a worthwhile experience. Social media is no different.
Understanding Your Reader
In The Art War, Sun Tzu is famously quoted as saying, “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy!” I know that your customer is not quite your enemy. Well, at least not yet. Some customers will eventually graduate to that stage at some point. For now, they are individuals that we are trying to woo.
The key to creating an effective direct response copy is ensuring that you understand your reader. The triggers that Joe Sugarman speaks of are based on this concept. What is it that your reader is looking for in this product or service?
What is the reservation that they would have to make a purchase? There could be a host of these reasons. A good direct response copywriter will address these reservations to the point that your potential customer’s excuses for not making a purchase are all but eroded.
Not comfortable paying by card online?
“We accept PayPal payments.” Would be a good response. You are better than good so your response would not end there. You would delve into what makes PayPal a great alternative. How does it address the issues and reservations that your customer may have?
Whenever a reservation about card payments arises you know that you have overcome some of the largest barriers. The most important thing is that by the time payment comes into the conversation, the customer is convinced about the product or service that you are offering. This is probably the hardest part of any sales pitch
Worried about delivery?
“We can help arrange suitable delivery.” Would be a good response. Good is not enough. Explain how you would go about resolving this reservation to the customer’s satisfaction. We will work with YOU to pick suitable times for the delivery to be made. Our delivery partners are trusted couriers with whom we have worked with for years.
Consider how confident this statement would make you feel if you were worried about delivery. “Our couriers have delivered over £1 million worth of good this year. They are simply amazing.” It does not explicitly say that they have avoided trouble. The implications are that if they are capable of handling such volume or value, they are certainly capable of taking care of your order.
Have you ever wondered how so many people still believe in a seemingly archaic method of marketing such as junk mail and classified ads? It is simply because people still see good returns on their investment. As a marketer, I often dig into those things to find out why they still work. I mean, technology has given us better ways to target the customers that we want in a more accurate manner.
The fact that these ads still work is testament to their headlines. People who buy these things are not necessarily going through the publication in search of the product. In most cases, they do not even buy immediately. Something about the headline convinces them that this is worth a go. That they should clip the paper, bookmark the page for such a day that they will need it.
So, what makes a great headline? I’ll throw 3 headlines at you for the same product. Consider which one would get the most ROI.
- The Nimbuzz 2000 broomstick out now.
- Be the fastest witch or wizard in the sky. The Nimbuzz 2000.
- The Greatest BroomStick ever made.
The first one speaks of the product model and the version. That is all good. If you were just flicking through the paper not looking for a broomstick would that grab your attention? Probably not.
The second one starts with an offer. If you are not happy with the speed of your current broomstick or are just a speed junkie, this would grab your attention regardless of whether you were on the market for a new product or not. These are the sort of ads that would be bookmarked or clipped by those who want to revisit them when they are ready to make a purchase.
The third heading brings intrigue. We are curious beings. Most of us would want to know what makes this broomstick so special that it would be considered to be the greatest ever made.
Remember, the headline will not do the selling. It is designed to ensure that the reader stays on the ad long enough for the sales part to kick in.
A great headline is Solution Focused. People want solutions, not products.
You may have head about Brian Dean and his Skyscrapper method? This is a method that has become darling to a lot of marketers over the years. The premise is simple. Do better than the best. Why is this relevant here? Well, this is where long-form copy pays off.
It is very rare that you will be able to answer all of the questions that a potential customer has within a short piece of copy. Long-form copy allows you to elaborate on these things and leave no doubt in their minds about what you offer, the benefits of your products and services, as well as why they should take action immediately.
By no means am I saying that your long-form copy will address every possible angle. People are unique, they will have varied ideas and questions. The goal of your copy is to get the customer to a point where they would be willing to take the next step. For one customer it may be making the purchase. For another one, it would be filling in a contact form or picking up the phone to call you. Whatever action they take is directed by the copy that they read. Your aim is to propel the reader to a place where they believe that you have the answers to the questions that they have even if you have not addressed them on your page.
How long is long-form copy?
There is no specific length really. In fact, the term “long-form” refers more to the exhaustive nature of the copy rather its length. Write copy that is long enough to address everything that needs to be addressed. While it may be okay for a blog post to link out to other content that the reader can use to fill in any gaps that exist when they have read this one. Direct response is based on the user being able to make a decision on that page without having to navigate elsewhere.
There is a science to this. That is the reason you will find platforms such as Facebook building browsers within their site. In the past, when you clicked on a YouTube link or one from another website while on the Facebook app it would navigate to your browser. The result of this is that most people never return to your page when they leave. That is a lot of revenue that is unnecessarily lost. The only navigation a direct marketer would want is through their CTA. Anything else is a hole in the funnel.
An Irresistible CTA
The call to action is always the clincher. By the time that your reader gets to this point in the copy, they have some sort of idea where they stand when it comes to this product. Your call to action is what pushes them over the line if they are riding the fence. What do you think it would take for you to give something a go?
The key thing to be mindful of is that this will always depend on the value of the product that you are marketing. A $3 product will not need as much of a push as a $1000 product. The Call To Action will reflect this reality as well. Taking our $3, you can simply go with a “Buy It Now” which should work. I would probably think, well, I spend more than that on a coffee. I should give it a try.
The $1000 product requires some assurances. Your copy should already contain these. Things such as warranty should be covered in it. The last thing that most buyers will think as they are staring down their wallets to make the payment is “What If”.
You CTA and the text around it should lay this doubt to rest. If you don’t like it there is a 60 day return period. If it doesn’t arrive on time, you get a full refund. Whatever the scenarios maybe, pour water on them.
Beyond storytelling and other aspects of direct response copywriting, one key factor is that it is about the customer. Each customer should feel as though this was written just for them. Not for the collective, but for the individual. That is not an easy feat to achieve, but one that should always be attempted nonetheless. It is about “you”, the customer.
Make it personal. Within your copy refer to the customer in a personal tone. Most direct response copy will use the term “you” several times. In some cases, it may even seem to be excessively used.
However, that is the aim. We want to appease the desire for individual recognition. Personalising your copy tells your customers that they matter. It tells them that this product is for them. If they believe those two things to be true, you are much closer to a conversion that you can imagine.
Most direct response marketing is done within a publication of some sort. The marketer or product manufacturer will want to track ROI on whatever is spent to get this copy in front of potential customers. The only way that this can be done is by having a response in a timely manner.
It should coincide with the period in which the publication is delivered to the customer. Granted, there will be a lot of customers who do not immediately open the publication. There are also another bunch of people that will choose to cut out the ad or bookmark it to be used at a later date. These are not the ideal customers. Creating a sense of urgency tends to work a treat to sway the customers towards making a more immediate response.
This is why you will find that most of Amazon’s revenue will come from the days when they have a sense of urgency. They give the customers the sense that they have a finite amount of time to make a purchase before the offer is gone. This is the reason you also find that “limited edition” items tend to do well on the market. We have a desire for exclusivity. No one wants to miss out.
Testing & CRO
We have already discussed the importance of testing when it comes to direct response copywriting. You are not right until the money starts rolling in. Even then, campaigns can always get better. There are various things that you can test your copy. The main idea would be to throw various variable at an audience and see which one performs best. Some variables that you can play with include:
- Page Layout
- Colour Schemes
- Certain Parts of the Copy.
There are several methods that one could use to track these metrics. They will largely depend on the medium you are using to deliver the content. For print media, you can make these changes with each print edition and track the results in the form of responses that come to the CTA. If the phone is ringing more when you use one layout then that is perhaps the one that you want to prioritise. You would then consider how or what you can improve about the ones that are not performing as well.
The beauty of digital media as a method of content delivery is that you can test and get results faster. Changes can be implemented quickly as well. One of the ways of testing digital media is the use of Heat Maps. Heat maps track the user’s behaviour when they are on your website. What is it that they are clicking? Knowing what they are clicking will tell you where their eyes are. This could then be used to determine the placement of content.
Appeal to Emotions
It is accepted as fact among psychologists that there is a relationship between our emotions and decision making. This is why you will often hear people speak of emotional intelligence. This is said to be the ability to understand and control one’s emotions. There is a greater emphasis on the understanding part.
Emotions interfere with one’s ability to be rational. Think about some of the things that you have said or done when you were ANGRY. Things that you would not have said if you had taken the time to think. Perhaps you are one of the exceptions to this rule.
In which case, I am sure you can think of some of the nasty things that others have said when they were angry with you. Our loved ones can hurt us when overcome with emotions. Outside of said time, they would not have done the same thing.
Marketers understand and take advantage of this relationship. Billions of marketing budgets are spent annually on studying and harnessing this power. As a direct response marketer, you must APPEAL TO EMOTION. We can cut this list down to just 8:
You will find that some of these are used together in marketing campaigns. For instance, during election campaigns, Fear is stoked which then leads to anger. That is what drives certain people to vote for one candidate instead of another. Here is an idea for a campaign with and without fear. You can judge for yourself which of the two would drive sales.
We are marketing a new home protection system that is perhaps AI-driven. It has some impressive features.
- Campaign One: This is a one of a kind AI-driven home protection system that learns your habits and uses them to ensure your safety in and out of your home. It automatically sends texts to select people and rings the police if you are in danger.
- Campaign Two: 1 in 7 Homes in this area have been broken into. 1 in 10 of those break-ins ends in injury and even fatalities. Only 30% of these end in arrests. All break-ins of home with our AI system have ended in arrests. None have resulted in injuries. Protect yourself and your loved ones with this AI-driven system.
Of the two options. The second one is the more emotive one. It builds up fear knowing that your neighbourhood is not as safe as you may have thought it was. It builds that trust in knowing that there is a solution that has been proven to work. All that is left is a killer CTA and we are in business.
What emotions can you tie to your product or the problems that it is solving? That is how you can go about motivating emotions for decision making. Emotional decisions have a sense of urgency to them. People make a purchase in an instance when they are coming from an emotional point of view.
Words to Avoid
The last thing that you want is your campaign to sound like anything else. When writing personal statements for university you are discouraged from using certain terms because of how overused they are. How many people will say that they are “passionate” about a subject? Most people will say that. This robs the phrase of all meaning. How can you express yourself in a meaningful way using words that resonate with people? Well, you can start avoiding these words:
I think you get the gist. You want words that individually carry meaning. Most of the words above have become meaningless. They are not objective words. Amazing for instance is relative. What is amazing to one person can be ordinary to another. Shall we not even go into “unbelievable.” You want your readers to not only understand what you are saying but to also relate to it.
Alternative Words to Use
- State of the art
- Combined effort