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5 things to know about copywriting for direct response marketing

5 things to know about direct response marketing copywriting

5 things to know about direct response marketing copywriting

Direct response marketing is the sales technique that invokes on-the-spot response.

It is different from lead nurturing which can take a long time.

Direct response marketing gives measurable results almost instantly.

Therefore, copywriting for direct response marketing is quite different from copywriting for content marketing.

Whereas content marketing is a sustained effort, direct response marketing elicits a response instantly.

Performance can be measured the moment the campaign is launched.

The call to action of a direct response marketing campaign isn’t always buying something or subscribing to something.

It can be downloading a white paper. It can be subscribing to a mailing list. It can be opting for a free offer.

In that sense, you can nurture long-term leads even through a direct response marketing campaign. It is just that, more than focusing on making the readers aware, your copywriting must focus on eliciting a response.

How is copywriting for direct response marketing different from content marketing?

Content marketing is all about building a long-term readership or an audience.

You inform them. You educate them. You engage them.

The primary purpose of content marketing is to remain in front of your audience in a meaningful manner and keep them engaged through informative and useful content.

In direct response marketing on the other hand, you want people to act immediately.

Through your copywriting you make a compelling case for taking an immediate action.

You create a sense of urgency.

You make an irresistible offer.

You make it clear that not acting would be a great error of judgement.

Here is a good example of direct response marketing that elicits immediate response.

Direct response marketing example Scrib

Direct response marketing example Scrib

As you can see, this advertisement doesn’t inform people about what Scribd is. It is assumed that people are aware of its content.

They are simply offering people an irresistible offer.

Readers can access all the content of the service for two months just for $ 0.99.

You either take the offer or you don’t take it.

The result is immediate.

Content marketing is a sustained effort.

It involves publishing blog posts, social media updates, and broadcasting infomercials on TV and radio.

There is no need to ask people to do something.

They can passively consume your content and if they want, they can interact with you.

In direct response marketing, people are asked to sit up straight and act immediately.

There is less of education and information, and more of action-taking.

The return on investment in content marketing comes somewhere in the future.

The ROI in direct response marketing comes immediately, during the current campaign itself.

Hence, you write the copy accordingly.

Listed below are 5 things you must know about doing copywriting for direct response marketing.

1. Immediate action is required

When copywriting for direct response advertisements and marketing materials, keep in your mind that immediate action is required.

What does that mean?

You use lots of action words like download (if you want them to download an e-book), or download immediately, or download for free, or no-obligation download, and such.

If you want them to subscribe, use expressions like subscribe now, subscribe immediately, subscribe for free, or submit your email to download our free e-book, and such.

Right now, immediately, urgently, and now, are some powerful words when writing copy in direct response marketing.

2. Invoke a sense of urgency

You often come across expressions like

  • Buy before it’s too late
  • You are running out of time
  • Only two seats left
  • Final call
  • It may be your last chance
  • Your last chance to save 50%

No matter how often these expressions are used, advertisers and marketers vouch for them. They always work.

You must have heard the expression FOMO when reading about content writing and copywriting.

It stands for “Fear of Missing out”.

A good example:

You just booked a flight to your favorite vacation destination, and you are wondering which hotel rooms to book.

Suddenly a message pops up on the website where you are booking your flight:

“Hurry! 2 premium rooms available at regular rates for these dates.”

Isn’t this an irresistible offer you wouldn’t like to miss?

Urgency here is important because advertising research has shown that the longer someone ponders over an offer, the greater is the chance that he or she will talk himself or herself out of it.

There is a psychological term called “Loss aversion”. It comes from the concept of “risk aversion”.

We have a primal fear for risks because in the olden days when humans lived in wilderness, risks could be deadly.

Various studies have shown we are more averse to losses than we are eager for gains.

In direct response marketing copywriting sense of urgency is invoked keeping this human tendency in mind.

Your offer needs to be time sensitive or quantity sensitive.

You need to invoke a strong take-it-or-leave-it situation.

Other expressions that raise a sense of urgency

  • Prices going up soon
  • Only 3 copies of the book left
  • We are accepting just 2 more members
  • Buy now or the offer expires
  • This offer expires in 2 hours
  • Valid only today
  • Delaying will cost you money
  • Your last chance
Direct response marketing copywriting example of shirts

Direct response marketing copywriting example of shirts

3. Come to the point immediately

People have a short attention span.

It is even shorter when one is reading direct response marketing copy.

People are anyway averse to receiving offers that ask them to spend money.

Therefore, whenever you make a strong point, come to the point immediately.

There is a nagging habit among many copywriters to keep beating around the bush (creating the atmosphere) and by the time they come to the meat of the offer people are bored or distracted.

What is their most vexing problem?

What solution do you offer?

Why your solution is the best (in case there are multiple solutions available in the market)?

Some copywriters ask multiple questions before offering a solution.

Something like

Are you facing this?

Are you in this type of situation?

Are you suffering?

Are you facing problem with your current infrastructure?

This goes on until they have asked 10-15 questions and by that time, the reader is bored.

I’m not saying this type of copywriting is bad.

You just need to be very sure that these questions are highly important to the readers.

Even if you need to ask a question, make sure they are relevant.

Otherwise, get on with making your point.

Take for example this banner advertisement from Fizzle that provides productivity tools to content creators who want to make a living doing what they love.

Direct response marketing banner copywriting example

Direct response marketing banner copywriting example

Most of the content creators love doing what they do but their biggest problem is that they don’t make money, and to make money, they often must ignore what they love doing.

This banner represents and provides a solution for their biggest problem – they can continue doing what they love, and they can also make a living doing the same.

4. Understand your readers

Before one of the greatest copywriters Claude C. Hopkins launched the Pepsodent campaign in America most of the people didn’t brush.

This was the late 19th or the early 20th century.

Their teeth were dirty and there was a discolored film over everybody’s teeth.

People didn’t even know that they wanted to get rid of that annoying yellowish film.

When he started working on the Pepsodent campaign he did extensive reading to know what would get the prospective customers of the toothpaste interested.

Going through different dental textbooks he came across a reference of mucin plaque that gets deposited over your teeth when you don’t brush for a few days.

It makes your teeth look yellowish or grayish.

He decided to call it “the film”.

He knew that everybody wanted beautiful teeth.

His campaign was

Just run your tongue across your teeth. You’ll feel a film – that’s what makes your teeth look ‘off color’ and invites decay.

The campaign was a huge success and within three years almost 50% of America was brushing its teeth.

If he hadn’t read all those dental textbooks, he wouldn’t have come across the concept of “the film” and then use it in his campaign.

In direct response marketing copywriting, it is very important to understand the needs of your readers.

The more you understand the needs of your readers, the better will be your copywriting, and the more effective will be the response.

5. Carefully choose between long form and short form copywriting

Advertising legends like David Ogilvy were big proponents of longform copywriting for marketing.

Consider this example:

Direct response marketing copywriting example – long form

Direct response marketing copywriting example – long form

I remember when we used to actively read newspapers and magazines and they often published advertisements that look like articles.

Even these days such articles are called “advertorials”.

Direct response marketing isn’t something like you throw dirt at a wall and then see what sticks and what falls.

You need to test with various formats and various lengths of your copy.

Some people don’t like long form copywriting, and some people do.

You need to see how much information your prospective customers need before they can make a decision.

I neither support nor oppose long form content when it comes to copywriting because it differs from situation to situation.

Just focus on how much you need to communicate, and then communicate with full sincerity.

The key elements of direct response copywriting are

  • Customer centricity
  • A clearly defined CTA
  • A sense of genuine urgency
  • The ability to hook your readers
  • Personalization and targeting
  • A complete understanding of the needs of your readers.


How to run a successful email marketing campaign with effective copywriting

Successful email marketing with effective copywriting

Successful email marketing with effective copywriting.

These days I’m getting lots of queries from clients who want to run successful email marketing campaigns and they need my copywriting services.

According to Statista, an estimated 306.4 billion emails travel the length and breadth of the web every day.

The graph below shows the trend over a period of 2017-2023.

As you can see, the number is projected to reach 347.3 billion emails by 2023.

Graph of number of emails being sent during 2017-2023

Graph of number of emails being sent during 2017-2023

It is not just the number of emails being sent and received that excite digital marketers and general clients.

It is the ROI in the stats.

This is a slightly old finding, but on an average, for every $1 that you spend on email marketing, you get a return of $38. Some even claim $40.

Here is another pleasing graphic that I found on this link.

The highest ROI is in email marketing

The highest ROI is in email marketing.

Of course, you may look at these numbers cynically because at personal level, you may not have experienced such a startling success with your email campaigns.

The problem is not with the numbers, the problem is with the implementation.

When people claim that you can earn $38 for every dollar you spend on email marketing, you must do whatever is required to make your email marketing effective.

What makes your email marketing successful and how does copywriting contribute?

Email marketing is not about sending emails to a group of subscribers or email ids though, it is a big part.

Successful email marketing is about active engagement.

Here are some attributes that enable you to call your email marketing successful:

  1. A greater number of people open your email messages.
  2. A greater number of people read your messages.
  3. A greater number of people respond by either replying or clicking the call-to-action button or link.

All these three points are very important to make your email marketing successful.

If people are just opening your message and do nothing else, you aren’t achieving much.

Recently a client told me, with a touch of pride, that his open rate is 22%.

Marvelous, I said. Then how do you want me to contribute?

I’m not getting any business, he replied with a subdued tone.

Unless people open your messages, read them, get affected positively and then contact you to do business with you click the link to buy from you, you cannot call your email marketing successful.

Everything needs to work in tandem.

The success of your email marketing depends on the following factors:

  • The quality and growth of your email list.
  • The trust factor enjoyed by your email marketing service provider (so that your emails are not redirected to the spam folder).
  • Your reputation – are people familiar with you? Do they know what you represent and why you are sending them emails? Do they trust you?
  • Your subject line – no matter how familiar they are with your name or brand, unless the subject line compels them to open your message, they are not going to open it.
  • The main headline – this is going to be the biggest work. Only if the headline captivates them, they’re going to read the rest of the message.
  • The convincing copy that keeps them engaged, excited and leads them to a culmination.
  • The most appropriate call-to-action.

Effective copywriting for email marketing

My clients often hire me for my content writing services but when I’m writing marketing emails, I provide them my copywriting services.

You may like to read this: Difference between copywriting and content writing.

Copywriting informs, educates, influences and sells.

Content writing informs and educates.

Marketing means selling.

When you’re sending out emails wanting people to buy from you or do business with you, you’re selling an idea.

They have a problem, you offer a solution.

For example, if I send you an email marketing campaign with the subject line “Better conversion rate for your email marketing with my copywriting services” I am assuming that you are worried about your conversion rate.

Problems may include…

Not many people are opening your messages.

Even if they open your messages, they don’t respond to them.

Even if they contact you, there is some communication gap and they don’t become your paying customers and clients.

The gist is, you’re looking for a solution that can help you improve your email marketing conversion rate and I’m offering you the solution.

Frankly, without effective copywriting, there is no email marketing.

The communication dynamics are different in email marketing.

You need to be bang on the main message of the email.

People don’t want to read long messages unless they are reading some scholarly discourse on a highly technical B2B product.

They have a problem.

You offer a solution.

You offer an irresistible proposition.

You convince them, without making them feel vulnerable or defensive, what a great loss it is going to be not doing business with you.

For such a message, you need copywriting.

You need a copywriter who can write convincingly and persuasively.

The copywriting in your email marketing campaign must be able to directly talk to the recipients with zero distraction.

Remember that most of your recipients will be reading your message on their mobile devices.

They may be in a highly distracted state.

They may be travelling.

They may be in a meeting.

They may be standing in a queue.

They may be sitting on the toilet seat struggling with constipation.

Amidst all this, your copywriting must ensure that the message gets across.

Some tips for effective copywriting for successful email marketing campaigns

Here are some tips to follow when writing copy for your email marketing campaigns.

There are no hard-and-fast rules because every audience is unique, but you can apply the general template that works pretty much for every audience.

Then you can make small tweaks here and there for better conversion rate.

Another thing you must keep in mind is that there is no magic wand.

You will have to experiment.

You will need to gather data and allow your email marketing service (MailChimp, for example) to analyze your campaigns for at least a month to give you some usable insights.

Anyway, there are some things you can do for effective copywriting for successful email marketing campaigns…

Create a killer subject line

As mentioned above, your subject line is very important.

As a copywriter, coming up with the most compelling subject line is one of your greatest challenges.

If the subject line is not great people don’t open your email message and if they don’t open your email message, no matter how great your email message is, everything will go down the drain.

Hence, spend a lot of time coming up with the most appropriate subject line.

It doesn’t have to be out of this world.

There is no need to say something earthshattering.

You don’t need to shout “Earthquake!!” just to get their attention.

Just mention something that will make them open your message in a relevant frame of mind.

Offer something they need, in a clear language.

Make better use of the preview text

These days, many email clients such as Gmail show a small preview text in the inbox even when you haven’t opened your message.

This is another opportunity for you as a copywriter to convince people into opening your message.

Write for easier reading

More than 100 characters in a sentence including spaces?

More than a sentence in a paragraph?

You have already lost most of your audience.

Write very short sentences so that they are easier to read and comprehend on a mobile device, probably while the hand is shaking.

Represent one idea through one sentence.

Use simple sentences, avoid compound sentences.

As far as possible, make sure that your message is not more than 200 words.

Lay everything down for them as clearly as possible.

Never use words and expressions that can be confused or mixed with other words and expressions.

Preferably, write in the first person

It also means that you must know the name of the person to whom you are sending your email messages, but that’s a different issue.

Email messages written in the first person elicit better response compared to email messages that read like as if they have been written to a group.

Again, this is not a hard-and-fast rule – it depends on your audience.

Your copywriting style must reek of enthusiasm

If you don’t sound enthusiastic, how can you excite your audience into taking an action that requires them to go to the trouble of entering their credit card details and buying your product or service?

But make sure that your enthusiasm is not fake.

Remember you’re offering them a solution to their problem.

You are feeling good about the fact that after buying your product or service, their lives are going to be easier or enriched.

Feel good about providing them that solution.

When you feel good while writing the copy, it will show through your writing style and then it will get conveyed to your audience.

Don’t refrain from using persuasive language or power words

Of course, don’t overdo.

Remember you are not writing a Shakespearean play.

Your protagonist is not going to be stabbed by his own supporters.

On the other hand, unless you tell them to do something, how do you expect them to do it?

Hence, tell them that it is a bargain.

Let it be known to them that it is a never seen before offer.

It may even be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Can my copywriting quadruple your email marketing conversion rate? Heck, why not?

Is it a limited offer available to just the first twenty responders?

Cater to their greed.

Invoke their insecurities.

Just make sure that you don’t trigger a “flight, freeze or fight” response with too much aggression or assumption.

Most importantly, don’t lie.

Always mean what you say.

Write email copy with a specific goal

Don’t have multiple objectives for a single email marketing campaign copy.

Focus on one thing.

Let the objective be just one.

If you have multiple objectives this will stop you from effective copywriting and you will also end up confusing your readers.

So, if you want people to download your white paper after reading your email campaign, just talk about the benefits of downloading the white paper.

If you want them to download and install your mobile app, just focus on that.

Avoid messages like “Although I’m asking you to download my e-book, now that you are reading this message, here are the services that I offer…”

They will neither download your e-book nor contact you for your services.

In conclusion, I have observed that the best copywriting for successful email marketing campaigns comes from the heart.

Mean what you say.

Come to the point as fast as possible.

Give your email is enough time to evolve.


Importance of content writing throughout the sales funnel

Content writing is not just about improving SEO – although without content writing there can be no SEO, but that’s another matter.

Throughout your sales funnel, high-quality content plays an important role. Even small oversights can send your prospects away to your competitor.

Read Content matters at every layer of your marketing funnel.

Typically, a sales funnel looks like this:


As you can see in the image, normally there are four stages in your sales funnel:

  1. Awareness and education
  2. Interest
  3. Decision
  4. Sale

Actually, there should also be an after-sale section in the sales funnel but normally it is not included (it should be).

The need to make your customers and clients aware and educate them about the benefits of your product or service underpins the essence of content marketing.

These days I’m working with a client who is planning to launch his service. He believes that most of his clients are unaware of the benefits of the services he is planning to offer. Hence, in the beginning, he wants to focus on the “awareness and education” part of the sales funnel through his content. For that he is hiring my content writing services.

Content writing for awareness and education


In this phase of the sales funnel, you may be targeting, typically, two types of customers (or clients):

  1. Those who are totally unaware that they need your product.
  2. Those who know what they need but don’t know how to find a solution and where to find it.

The first type of customers under this stage of your sales funnel, those who are unaware that they need your product, need to be educated. They have no idea what they are missing.

Suppose, there is a company that is going through work-management chaos, but it has never crossed their minds that a tool like Slack or Asana can help them streamline their operations. They might not even be aware of the concept of some “project management” tool.

Since they don’t know that such a tool exists, they may not even look for it. Although, day by day it’s becoming very difficult to manage their projects.

You need to make these people aware. You need to educate them through targeted content writing.

Again using the project-management-problem scenario, one of the managers may search for “how to solve project management problems”, or “cannot manage projects properly”, or “project management tips”, and such.

If you are selling a project management software, wouldn’t it be nice if people searching for such solutions come to your website?

A good example is Open Forum by American Express. The blog provides hard-core business advice. People don’t even have to be American Express customers. They may not even know what sort of services American Express provides. But they have business-related problems and solutions to these problems exist on Open Forum. When they visit Open Forum, when they visit it regularly, they begin to realize that many of the business problems that they face can be solved by using some of the American Express financial solutions.

You can apply the same content writing technique to make people aware of your product or service and educate them about its benefits.

During this phase, it is also important that you capture email addresses of your prospective customers so that you can send them regular updates. It is only due to the strength of your content writing that people subscribe to your mailing list.

Content writing during the “interest”phase of the sales funnel


In the interest phase of the sales funnel people are interested in a solution. They need to be convinced. They have different options in front of them. Through consistent and quality content writing you must convey to them there is a great solution to your problem that exists and it exists with you.

This is the phase when they know that (referring to the above project management problem) there are various project management software solutions available for their particular problem.

You need to keep in touch but not in the conventional sense.

Provide them valuable content on an ongoing basis. Keep their interest alive by providing them quality content on a consistent basis. Without being pushy, constantly, subtly, keep communicating to them how your solution can solve their problem.

He or she may explore other options available in the market. All the more reason you stand out by continuously publishing quality content on your own website as well as using other platforms. You should be visible and your content writing should be relatable to your business.

The decision-making stage of your sales funnel


At this stage, your customer is ready to buy from you. This is a crucial stage. Often the customer develops cold feet (because he or she finally must shell out money). At this stage, you should reassure him or her that he or she is making the right choice.

Your existing content plays a very important role. Your content writing needs to hook your customer who is about to buy from you so that he or she is not distracted or, there is no confusing information on your website to change his or her decision.

You must have noticed that above I have continuously used the expression “phase”, but suddenly I started using “stage”.

I did that purposely.

A phase can last for a long time, in many instances, even years. A stage, on the other hand, is short and hence, more crucial.

The importance of content writing when the sale has happened

content writing for existing customers

Your job is not done as soon as the sale has taken place. Through high-value content writing you can always keep in touch with your existing customers. The chance of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% while the chance of selling to a new customer is 5-20% (source).

Many companies claim that 40% of their business comes from existing clients so, feeding high quality content to existing customers – customers who have already purchased from you – is as important as, and in many cases, even more important than, writing content for completely new customers.

How can your content writing help you keep in touch with your existing customers?

  1. Provide answers to all their after-sale questions so that they don’t have to depend on your support team.
  2. Create a comprehensive FAQs section and regularly update it.
  3. Send email updates solely to your existing customers with new offers or complimentary offers or related offers (based on their past purchase decisions). Cross selling, for example, and up-selling.
  4. Create an online community through your blog and bulletin board where your existing customers can interact with their fellow customers and interact with you and fellow customers.

The importance of content writing throughout your sales funnel needs to be well defined and recognized. Optimizing and publishing high-quality content throughout your sales funnel can help you create a tightly packed, high-performance sales-funnel that turns casual visitors into hot leads and hot leads into paying customers and paying customers into repeat customers, on an ongoing basis.