What exactly is direct response copywriting and why it matters?

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Copywriting is the bread and butter to any type of writing and marketing, but it comes in many forms and one of the most popular type of copywriting is direct response copywriting.

So what exactly is direct response copywriting?

Direct response copywriting can be considered a reversal on the advert copywriting that can be observed on Television. Those television advertisement copywriters are developing a long-term plan. The idea is to get the viewer to remember their product at some point in the future when they see it on shelves at a local market. 

Whereas direct response copywriting concentrates on the immediate moment. This is a copy that’s trying to inspire the consumer to take action as quickly as possible once they’re done reading. Meaning, when you use this strategy, the main goal is about gaining a direct response from the reader as soon as they’ve absorbed the words. 

The actions you are trying to convince them to complete are:

  • Buying a product
  • Following the brand’s social media
  • Signing up for the newsletter
  • Downloading a freebie

To pull this off, you have to develop copy that draws your reader’s emotions, and addresses any of their concerns, pain points, agitation, or immediate demands. 

Understanding the reader with direct response copywriting in mind

David Ogilvy, a man who you can’t avoid talking about when it comes to the subject of direct response copy. This man has become known as the father of modern advertising. This advertising genius made some of the most successful and memorable campaigns for American Express, Dove, Hathaway, Rolls Royce and plenty more during his prime in the 1950 and 60s. Ogilvy became aware that the most effective direct response copy doesn’t simply talk to the audience, it speaks to them on a more personal level. This deep understanding and direct, personal approach is the power that runs this type of copywriting. 

Real-world examples of direct response copywriting

Now, how do you possibly come up with a great direct response copy?

There are some important principles you must be aware of. To better understand them, let’s take a look at some examples and see what we can learn about them. 

The first one is an example of a fantastic direct response copy headline. 

A great headline catches your readers

This principle of direct response copywriting is about creating a headline that makes readers want to continue moving along. The headline needs to catch their attention, arouse their curiosity, and ignite their interest. Here’s a great example from the man himself, David Ogilvy:

“At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”

Ogilvy has stated that this headline is the best he’s ever come up with. Due to the massive success, he gained from this ad, other companies such as Shell went on to specifically request Ogilvy and wouldn’t seek out another copywriter for their future campaigns. 

There’s a couple of reasons why this headline was so successful. For that matter, it checks off a bunch of boxes proven headline formulas. 

  • The benefit is slyly hidden within the headline: It’s not outright stated but implied. 
  • Simple and goes into the point. It doesn’t rely on exaggeration or fluff.
  • It expresses something amazing and alluring. When this ad was published, most cars had engines that were very loud and annoying. 
  • It provides useful information. It’s helpful for the consumer looking to purchase a car.
  • It stirs a person’s curiosity. What type of car is this? What other things can it do? The headline makes the reader want to know more about it. 

Right from the start, you must come up with a headline that makes the reader want to learn more when you’re writing direct response copy. 

Long-form copy enlighten and temps!

Almost every direct response copywriting is done in long-form. Why is that the case?

The first reason is to be more convincing, you need to provide the readers with further information. Think of it like this, is it easier to convince a person to purchase an item in a single sentence, or have an entire page to do so?

 As stated by David Ogilvy himself, “The more you tell, the more you sell.”

Meaning, the more information you can provide for the reader, the more likely they’ll want to follow up on chosen action. 

Here’s a great example made by Adobe Photoshop CC on their sales page:

It all beings with a great headline, some intro copy, and a video. Although, there more to unpack here. By scrolling down the page you’ll find some great examples of why you should acquire this product. Then it goes into detail about what you can pull off with the software features and how it can help you with imaginative image editing. 

There’s tons of copy for this page, but it’s everything is useful, informative, and compelling. This helps you decide on purchasing it or not. More importantly, it encourages you to scroll further and tempts you to buy it now. 

Remember, when your customers have more information, they feel as if they can make a better and smarter decision. Long-Form direct response copy helps them come to that decision quicker. 

An inviting CTA

Every copy you’ve created to enlighten, tempt, and convince the reader to act will become useless if there no climax for them. You can pull this off with a call-to-action.

The CTA can be used to inspire the reader to get moving now with exactly what they should be doing next. 

This is the bread and butter to direct response copywriting.

There’s no point in publishing a copy without some sort of call to action or goal intended. That’s just a waste of effort.

Here’s a great example of a persuasive CTA for joining the 5-minute Copywriting Crash Course by Copy Hackers. In this case, they used specific wording (In this case “give”) to inspire direct and instant action, which is the main idea behind a good CTA.

Let’s go over what would be considered ineffective and lazy CTA. Picture if the CTA you found on a website, simply read “Submit” instead of “Yes, Give me access.”

“Submit” simply does not have the kind of convincing energy that’s needed for this part. It doesn’t tell a person to commit. It’s very weak and uninspiring for this scene.

On the other hand, “Give me access” practically screams at the reader. When the reader decides to follow this CTA, it communicates into their command for the website. Now, the consumer has the power. 

Simply put, this CTA is actionable, focused, and persuasive, which are three items you need to have and push on your reader into the proper response you want our copy to produce. 

Keep your copy relevant by focusing on customers

Direct response copywriting has to remain relevant for the audience to gain the kind of results you’re looking for. It’s all about the customers, the ones who visit your website, not you. As a matter of fact, this type of copywriting exclusively relies on the second person voice to address the reader. The focus is “you.” 

Copy Hacker is providing another good example of this. This page discusses their copywriting training, Copy School.

It’s all about what Copy School has to offer their prospects. It’s not about how amazing Copy School itself. This is a common mistake for most well-meaning companies, unfortunately. They make their direct response copy about the business when it should be about the customer they intend to attract. To make it all about the customer, you need to know yours, inside and out. 

ThriveHive provides some valuable information to help you get to know your audience:

  • Look through your current customers and figure out similarities among them. 
  • Watch your competitors carefully and analyze who they’re focusing on their content and why. Assess how this audience could be different from your own audience. 
  • Search around on social media and interact with your customers and follows. Watch how they interact with each other and with other brands as well. 


K.I.S.S. keeps you on track

If the customer is incapable of understanding your copy, you’ve pretty much failed. To inspire immediate action with your word, you need to write at their level, and not beyond it, or under it for that matter. Consider it this way: The more readable and understandable your copy is, the more prospect you can lead into the fold. Don’t talk to the readers as if they were nothing but children, but don’t make your copy overly complicated, either. 

There are several ways to ensure your copy is readable:

Follow the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid)

Utilize a tool that can grade your copy’s readability and edit if necessary. 

K.I.S.S. ( Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Interestingly, the U.S. Navy were the ones to originally coining the K.I.S.S principle to apply for design, but this can also be applied to copy. 

As stated by HubSpot, you should: 

  • Don’t over-explain. Ensure your explanations for the product or service you’re providing are to-the-point. Let the customers know how it solves their problems and what other people have to say about it. Don’t ramble on about a single feature or aspect. 
  • Provide authentic content. Your customers are seeking guidance. Present content that’s been researched, cites reputed sources and provides facts and statistics that tell the reader that you can be trusted. 
  • The story should be logical and clear. Using stories is a great way to convince prospects to make the purchase. Although, keep in mind to tell stories that have a point. They should transition from A to B to C in a clear and concise manner.

Readability Checkers

A great readability check allows you to quickly look at how seamless your copy is to read. Most checks will base their scores on the Flesch-Kinkaid Reading Ease formula. This formula can deduce the readability of written content by searching through the total ratio of words to syllables to sentences. 

There are two basic scores you can gain from this formula: a readability score and the grade level a person needs to understand the text. The readability score is scaled at 0-100 (hardest to easiest). The higher the readability score, the lower the grade level that can comprehend it. 

The Takeaway

Direct response copywriting has been constantly proven to be a tried-and-true strategy to gain that reader action, whether it’s for a sales page, landing page, blog, email, or any other piece of content you provide. If you are planning to use direct response copywriting, consider the information provided above to make a really effective copy of your own. 

As always, if you’re looking for an all-in-one done for you content marketing solution, feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll take good care of you.

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