Why Direct Response Copywriting Increases Conversions

Imagine meeting your ideal client in a café.

You’re drinking your third latte while mood boarding on your laptop, taking in the creative energy of the café’s funky beats and channeling it into your next concept. 

Your ideal client walks in, scans the room, and settles on the couch beside you. You catch each other’s eyes and exchange smiles. She gestures at the Balinese batik shawl draped over your shoulders and gushes, “I love it!”

You then spend the next 10 minutes talking about your travels in Southeast Asia. You talk about your favorite tropical islands and foodie capitals. You whine about the humidity and what it does to your hair. You laugh over missed flights, scooter mishaps, and the unbearable smell of durian. 

At some point, she asks you, “what do you do?” You tell her (not pitch her!), and she goes, “oh my god, I’ve been looking for someone like you!”

She tells you about her project and how she’s been unsuccessful so far. She talks about her ideal outcome and what’s been holding her back. You listen until you’re sure you could help her – and then you make your pitch.

Except it doesn’t sound like a pitch. It sounds like a friend helping a friend. You go through her problem list and tell her how you can help. You appease her worries by setting clear timelines and expectations. You show her your completed projects and give her a glimpse of hers. 

In less than 15 minutes, she’s signing you up for the job. You part ways both feeling happy and accomplished – a client gained for you, a problem solved for her.

Working in an online environment, you can’t sit down for coffee with all of your clients all the time – but that doesn’t mean you can’t forge the same emotional connection and establish the same level of trust. 

That’s where direct response copywriting comes in. By making your customer the center of your copywriting, you reach out to her as powerfully and emotionally – as if you were chatting with her over coffee on a beautiful autumn day. 

What is direct response copywriting?

Direct response copywriting is a form of marketing that aims to elicit a specific and immediate action from the reader. To do it successfully, you must focus on your reader, capture their attention, make a compelling case, and make it easy for them to take action. 

How is direct response copywriting different from other forms of copywriting?

If we compare indirect vs direct, you can see clear distinctions.

An example of indirect response writing:

Business owners often struggle with making money when they begin their business. It’s tough, because they end up taking on too much work themselves and don’t invest back into the business. However, when they outsource their work, this leads to business scalability. So, that’s why downloading this ebook on how to scale businesses is a good idea for all business owners. 

An example of direct response writing: 

As a new business owner, you likely struggle with making money. You know how tough it was to start your business. You feel overwhelmed with all the work you need to do and are hesitant to invest your earnings directly back into the business. However, when you outsource parts of your work, this is what enables you to scale your business.

Want to feel less overwhelmed with your book? Curious about how you can scale your business by outsourcing? Then download this ebook now! 

Which one sounds more powerful? Which one resonates more with a particular type of business owner with a particular struggle? Which directly speaks to that individual person? 

Now the concept is clear.

Direct response copywriting increases conversions

A direct response campaign is designed specifically for conversions.

Once you’ve attracted your ideal audience, your next step is to inspire them to buy your product or take an action that brings them one step closer to becoming a paying customer. Direct response copywriting is the tool that leverages your influence and turns interest into action.

You target specific audiences

When you craft direct response copy, you narrow down your message to a segment of your niche that is interested in your specific offer at this particular point in time. 

If your clients include budding freelancers and high-powered CEOs, your content marketing may range from lead generation to marketing automation. But if you’re crafting a landing page for your offer to create low-cost websites, for example, you’ll home in on your budding freelancers’ specific goals and pain points. Connecting at this deeper, emotional level gives you the words to inspire a specific, immediate action.

You immediately see your results

Unlike indirect marketing, the success of your direct response campaign is immediately evident. You can count exactly how many prospects are clicking on your landing page and how many are taking action. 

By having these numbers, you’re able to evaluate your return on investment and improve your marketing campaigns.

direct response copywriting best practices

Direct response copywriting best practices

Use this workbook to guide you through your next direct response campaign. Download it here.

How do you create that instant connection with your ideal client, elicit the virtual nods of agreement as they go through your copy, inspire the resolve they have as they click on that “purchase now” button?

Here’s the secret: empathy and clarity. And then lots of practice, testing, and iterations. These are the essential ingredients of successful direct response copywriting. 

Have a clear and measurable goal

All direct response campaigns start with a clear and measurable goal – anything that converts your audience from a casual reader to a committed customer.

What is it that you want your reader to do?

Focus on your audience

“What’s in it for me?”

This is every person’s underlying motive for doing anything, including reading your copy. Before starting any direct response campaign, take time to understand your ideal client. 

Who are they? The more descriptive, the better. Think of one person who would most benefit from your offer – that person can be a younger, less skilled, less informed version of you.

What do they need right now? Consider what stage they are in their journey and what resources they already have at their disposal.

What are their most pressing problems and greatest fears? What’s stopping them from achieving their goals? What are their possible objections to your offer?

Where are they now and where do they want to be? Your product should be able to bridge that gap. How does your offer bring them a step closer to their goals and aspirations?

Simplify your campaign and make it easy for your customer to apply it to their own life.

Let’s see these concepts in action.

direct response copywriting
CXL Institute’s Sales Copywriting Course copy hits aspiring copywriters’ pain points and frustrations on the nose

Why does this work? CXL Institute targets marketers with this copy. They know their ideal audience is already familiar with marketing concepts like “value proposition” and “conversions”. They also know their ideal clients’ pain points: confusing sales copy on their websites. 

By empathizing and commiserating with the reader’s copywriting pains, CXL Institute primes their reader to act on their offer.

Refer to the reader as “you”

Writing in the second person voice (you, your) helps your reader immediately connect your message to their own lives. By focusing on their needs, you focus their minds on their personal circumstances and help them see how your offer can solve their problems. 

Using the second person voice also creates a feeling of intimacy, like you are talking one-on-one. Your reader is then more likely to trust you and take you up on your offer.

Capture their attention with a great headline

Headlines are the most crucial part of your direct response copy. 

It is the first thing that your ideal audience sees and how they judge if they should continue reading.

Here are tips to improve your headlines:

Maintain a “swipe file”. This is a collection of compelling marketing copy that are proven to convert and make money. When a headline catches your eye and compels you to click, swipe it. Take a screenshot and save it. Next time you sit down to craft a direct response copy, go through your swipe file for inspiration.

Write at least 25 different headlines and read them out loud. Good copywriters don’t just wake up with a fantastic headline for their ad. They practice and iterate until they land on a winner. Writing several headlines also eliminates the pressure of getting it right the first time. So-so ideas lead to great ones. Write freely, experiment with different concepts, and see how they roll off your tongue.

Appeal to your reader’s self-interest. This goes back to focusing on your ideal client. What’s in it for them? Make that clear on the headline. 

Try these headline formulas and find what works:

  • Flag your prospects. If you’re writing for struggling freelancers, a headline like “One Thing Struggling Freelancers Can Do Right Now to Get More Clients” catches their attention.
  • State your promise. What awaits your reader at the end of your copy? Tell them that. Let your offer sell itself.
  • Use emotional words. A little jolt of fear or anxiety pushes people to action, but so do excitement and anticipation. Only use this if the rest of your copy and your offer actually back up your sensational headline. Clickbait headlines won’t serve you in the long run.
  • Write it as you would say it. If you were to approach a friend and tell them about your product, what would be your opening line?
  • How to x by doing y. This is one of the most common direct response headline formulas because it works. You can also drop the “how to” part – “Improve Your Headlines by Using this Swipe File”.

Make a compelling case

Now that you have their attention, it’s time to make your case.

Tug at their emotions. Use what you know about your ideal client. Talk about their aspirations, address their worries and fears, present the solution to their most pressing needs.

Use the gap. Highlight what they don’t have right now and remind them where they want to be. It then makes it easier for you to present your offer as the way to fill that gap.

Create a sense of urgency. Offer time-sensitive deals and savings or make their problem so salient that they can’t wait to act on it.

direct response copywriting
The waitlist page of Copy School highlights the gap between where the reader is and where they want to be, uses emotional words, and creates a sense of urgency by painting a vivid picture of what the future holds after finishing Copy School.

Make it easy for them to take action

Time to bring it home. Your direct response copy should end with a strong CTA (call-to-action) that makes it easy for your reader to take action. Make it clear, concrete, and practical.

direct response copywriting
The CTA in Benjamin Hardy’s direct response copy is “Get FREE checklist now.” There is a clear benefit for the reader (the checklist) and it’s easy to do, too (it’s free!).

If you’re giving a checklist in return for an email address, highlight the benefit – “get your free checklist now” – instead of writing “Submit” or “Sign up”. You can also give them a taste of the future – “10x your revenue now”.

From your headlines to your body and your CTA, answer your reader’s most important question: what’s in it for me?

Test, iterate, and grow with your audience

The only way to get better at direct response copywriting is to keep doing it.

Follow the basic principles we talked about and then experiment. Say it out loud, try it out on your friends, send it to a segment of your mailing list. 

Listen to their reactions and either refine your message or be clear on your audience. If they’re not getting it, ask yourself: Is my copy not working? Or is my message not for them? 

Even after you’ve published your copy, you can still go back and edit it. It may work for some time but then lose its magic after a while. Direct response copywriting is an ongoing conversation between you and your ideal client.

Use the power of direct response copywriting to grow your business

Direct response copywriting increases conversions by targeting a specific audience and having a clear, measurable goal. By focusing on your audience, homing in on their fears and aspirations, and crafting a compelling call-to-action, you make it easy for your ideal client to take your desired action.

Direct response copywriting is a skill that takes experience and practice. I help you achieve your business goals faster by crafting direct response campaigns that convert. Get in touch and let’s get to work!




Published by Adriana Stein

on September 15, 2020

Adriana Stein is an Online Marketing Consultant based in Hamburg, Germany. Originally from the US, she is a native English speaker and specializes in helping companies with their SEO & content marketing strategies, along with graphic design, brand copy and website development.

Connect with Adriana on LinkedIn

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