Connecting with potential customers is critical to boost interest in your website and drive sales conversions.
But this is often easier said than done — while many site owners understand the value of compelling content, creating copy that resonates with visitors is more complicated than it appears.
Here’s why: Gone are the days of keyword-stuffed content designed only to drive up SEO values. When it comes to successful website marketing and sales campaigns, action is the driving force.
But with the typical consumer now owning and using at least three digital devices on average, the amount of time content has to make an impact is diminishing quickly.
To both boost up-front engagement and encourage immediate action, many businesses are leveraging a new approach: Direct response copywriting.
In this piece, we’ll dive into direct response copywriting details, offer some actionable examples and provide six tips to help boost the benefits of direct response copywriting.
What is direct response copywriting?
Direct response copywriting is all about right now. It’s about inspiring consumers to action the moment they’re done reading your copy.
As a result, successful direct response content creators are highly valued (and well-paid) professionals since they’re able to generate significant return on investment (ROI) for organizations.
They accomplish this aim by combining a deep understanding of target markets with substantial writing skills to create copy that evokes emotional or logical responses from readers.
From understanding key pain points to highlighting immediate needs or offering specific solutions, direct response copywriting done right delivers familiarity and personalization combined with market knowledge and authority to create a sense of trust.
While your specific aim may vary, direct response copywriting typically focuses on actions such as:
Purchasing an item or service
Signing up for email newsletters or product updates
Downloading free resources such as e-guides or whitepapers
Following brands on social media sites
Metrics are critical to ensure direct copywriting is having the desired effect. These may include total sales volumes, new email list sign-ups, the number of times resources are downloaded, or the uptick in total followers on social sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
When it comes to creating direct response copywriting, businesses have two options: in-house or outsourced.
While in-house content creation may offer up-front cost savings, the highly targeted nature of direct deliverables comes with a steep learning curve — initial efforts may not have the intended effect if they’re too generalized or fail to strike the right balance between authority and accessibility.
Alternatively, while best-of-breed direct response copywriting services aren’t cheap, they can often deliver ROI between 5X and 10X their initial cost.
Direct Response Copywriting Examples
So what does direct response copywriting look like in practice? Let’s break down a few examples.
This banner is from Fizzle, which provides resources for entrepreneurs. It speaks to the fundamental nature of these self-starter businesses: Earning a living that isn’t tied to traditional corporate or retail frameworks and that brings a sense of personal satisfaction.
The copy is short, targeted, and to-the-point and encourages immediate action to click-through and see what the company has to offer.
File service Dropbox has made significant enterprise in-roads by offering streamlined and secure collaboration.
Here, their direct response copy makes their value proposition abundantly clear: Users can collaborate on anything, anytime, anywhere. It speaks to the pain points experienced by main companies trying to find collaborative common ground and offers Dropbox as the simplest solution.
This direct response copy is from automation platform MailChimp. It offers four key benefits laid out in an easy-to-read format, along with more in-depth details and links below.
For companies looking to improve customer connections, boost brand impact, or get more from their data, MailChimp’s copy makes it clear they can help — and makes it easy for companies to take the first step.
Six Direct Response Copywriting Tips
Here’s the hard truth: With customers now inundated by online advertisements across multiple platforms and devices, it’s hard for content to stand out. As a result, companies need direct response copywriting that is immediately engaging and compelling — and that’s no easy task.
Here are six direct response copywriting tips to boost your in-house efforts or help you evaluate the potential copy providers.
1. Know your market.
Understanding your target audience is key for any copywriting, but it’s fundamental for direct response efforts.
For content to compel action, readers need to feel like copywriters “get” them — that they understand their specific pain points, and can offer immediately applicable solutions.
This is by far the most labor-intensive step of the process, but is well worth the effort.
2. Start strong.
The first thing prospective customers see when they look at your copy? The headline. If it doesn’t grab attention, chances are prospective purchasers won’t read the rest of your content and you won’t compel action. Headlines should reference the reader directly with “you” statements or questions — done well, headlines can stand on their own as effective actionable content.
Worth noting? If a great headline doesn’t present itself immediately, try writing the rest of the copy first, since this may help you find the best first-line fit. It’s also a good idea to walk away from your content for a few days after you’re done — if it doesn’t have the same impact when you look again, consider making changes.
3. Apply AIDCA were possible.
AIDCA stands for “attention, interest, conviction, desire and action.” Ideally, you want all five in your copy. Start with an attention-grabbing headline, then drive interest with a compelling product or service hook.
If you’re creating longer-form copy, conviction can take the form of a customer testimonial or review, but this isn’t necessary for quick-hitter content.
Desire speaks to your value proposition — why would customers want your product or service? Action is your goal; make it clear what you’re looking for and provide direct links.
4. Ask for action.
While your direct response copywriting content should always end with a call-to-action (CTA), it’s also a good idea to reinforce this idea two or three times throughout your content.
Best bet? Always start and end with a call-to-action and include another actionable mention in the middle of longer copy.
5. Prioritize the second person.
Effective direct response copywriting centers on the consumer, not the company. As a result, businesses are best-served by prioritizing the second person with “you” statements and questions that speak to readers directly.
While “I” and “we” statements might offer great insight about your company, its processes or its current accolades, these first-person pronouns won’t encourage action.
Simply put? “You” is the fastest way to “yes”.
6. Write fast, edit hard.
Overthinking direct response copywriting can slow the process and hamper overall effectiveness. Why? Because this action-driven framework demands a unique combination of instinct and information to create compelling content.
Instead, companies should take a write fast, edit hard approach: Draft content quickly to establish key themes and pinpoint critical outcomes, then edit ruthlessly to eliminate extraneous words. Direct response copywriting isn’t about literary loquaciousness — it’s about crisp, clear, compelling content that connects with your target audience.
And … Action!
The ultimate goal of direct response copywriting? Connecting with your audience to drive immediate action. It’s no easy task — but by knowing your market, starting strong, applying AIDCA, asking for action, prioritizing the second person, and editing with intention it’s possible to create content that delivers reliable consumer response on-demand.
It’s more like getting a personal letter from a friend than a marketing message from a business.
7. Direct Mail is Tangible
Imagine this. You receive a coupon in the mail for $10 off your next meal at your favorite local pub.
If you’re like me, you set the coupon on your refrigerator for future use.
Then, you pretty much forget about it. For the next few weeks, the coupon sits in your kitchen with other unused direct-mail offers.
But one night, your buddy calls and wants to watch the big game at a restaurant. As you’re trying to decide where to go, you remember, “Oh! I have a coupon for our favorite pub.”
And at that moment, the coupon decides for you.
Even though the coupon is for just $10.
You could do the same thing with a haircut business.
Or an ecommerce store. No brick-and-mortar location needed.
Since direct mail is tangible, it sticks around. It clutters physical space.
Email is easy to forget about because it’s just a number on a screen.
As a general rule of thumb, about two percent of online advertisements garner our attention each day. In other words, only about 100 out of every 5,000 ad exposures have any meaningful impact on consumers.
If your direct mail piece has a special offer, most people will save it for future use, and then they won’t be able to forget about it.
8. Direct Mail Gets Undivided Attention
A certain fear accompanies direct mail.
What do I mean?
When you open the mailbox and pull out a small stack of letters, you won’t throw away any of the mail without glancing at it first.
You don’t immediately know which piece of mail requires your attention and which one you’re uninterested in. There is a fear that you might miss out on something important.
Because of that, you don’t want to throw mail away without taking a peek at it first.
When you receive an email, you probably have at least four (or forty) other tabs open on your computer. There are a bunch of notifications dinging on your phone and laptop.
The average American consumer is exposed to thousands of advertisements per day. In fact, it’s not unusual for the average consumer to see more than three hundred advertisements, of various sorts, within the first hour of waking up.
But when you receive a piece of direct mail, you’re at home, after work, with some extra time to view each letter.
Direct mail naturally gets more attention because there are fewer distractions when people see it.
9. Direct Mail Increases Brand Awareness
As I’ve shown you, direct mail is tangible, meaning it has the potential to stick around for a long time in someone’s house.
For this reason, consistent mailing increases awareness of your brand.
Consider this piece of direct mail from Le Tote.
The front has the value proposition and offer, while the back demonstrates how easy it makes your life.
Since this postcard offers a coupon, there’s a good chance that the recipients will save it for a later date.
But what if they don’t use it later?
What if they see it, read it, and then throw it away?
Did you just lose money on a poor direct-mail campaign?
Sure, your recipients might not have interest in your offer right now. But they saw your logo, your brand name, and what you do.
If there comes a day when they want your product, they might just visit your website and buy something from you.
Only 46% of American adults over the age of 65 use Facebook. And while that number is on the rise, that still means over half of older adults can’t be targeted on the larges social media platform in the world.
Conversely, direct mail reaches everyone, the young, and the old alike. Everyone checks the mail, and because of that, your postcards and coupons can turn just about anyone into a customer.
11. Direct Mail is Creative
When it comes to direct mail and creativity, the sky’s the limit.
Because direct mail is a physical product, sending stuff that stands out is just a matter of having fun with it.
This example from ADT is a bit controversial in its execution. But it’s a great example of creative direct-mail marketing in action.
Here’s how it works.
A letter-sized card slides under the door to the house of the receiver. But the letter is carefully engineered to pop-up into a box once it’s under the door.
On the box, it reads, “Breaking into your apartment is easier than you think.”
When someone sees it, they might immediately think, “What the… Did someone break into my house?!”
ADT highlighted a problem in action. What’s a good solution? Get an ADT security system.
On the less controversial side of things, a gym in Brazil struggled with members quitting because they didn’t see immediate results from their workouts.
As a reminder that getting results takes consistent time in the gym, they sent out calendars to their members that illustrated the gradual progress they’d see if they stuck with the program.
Coming up with flashy ideas is not easy. If you’re not naturally creative, then talk with someone who is.
If a security-system brand and a gym can come up with interesting direct-mail pieces, the chances are that you can too.
It might just take a little extra thought.
12. Direct Mail is Multi-Sensory
With digital marketing, it’s impossible to hit all of the senses and difficult to hit more than two.
The five senses are touch, hearing, sight, taste, and smell.
At most, a digital campaign can only focus on sight and hearing. By making a digital ad interactive, some smart marketers can appeal to someone’s sense of touch. But even that experience is not the same.
By making a digital ad interactive, some smart marketers can appeal to someone’s sense of touch. But even that experience is not the same.
Everyone experiences the world through their senses. Direct mail can take advantage of all 5 of them.
George Patterson Y&R Melbourne sent out a cardboard box with two knobs on it and a baggy of electronic components. It included everything necessary to build an FM radio.
Everything, except for one thing: instructions.
The mail piece went out to college engineering students.
When they put together the radio, an ad played, offering the student a fast track to an exciting military career.
Talk about multi-sensory. This cardboard radio took advantage of three senses, and some might argue 4 with the smell of cardboard.