2528 Words | Reading Time: 25 Minutes
What if you could create desire out of thin air? What if you could write words that grab your readers by the collar and force them to read every word that you write? And what if you could compel your readers to buy without them even noticing they’re being sold to?
How do you compel that desire? It’s a well known fact that people hate being sold to, but they love to buy.
But if you write a page of copy that screams, I WANT TO SELL YOU SOMETHING, they’re bound to run the other way. But let’s be honest. Selling is your true intent, because that’s what direct response copy is, not like branding.
Branding Versus Direct Response
Branding is for the squeamish. It has its purpose but it won’t compel your customers to run in a buying frenzy to your door.
With branding, you’re making your customers feel good about your product or service. You might be promoting a certain lifestyle or reaction. People may watch your ads or read about your company and feel entertained.
They’ll laugh. They’ll talk about your clever advertising and how much they like your company. But they won’t buy.
They won’t buy because you’re writing about the company, and you’re hoping they’ll figure out their own way to buy your product or service. You’re not writing about the customer.
So let’s get to the bottom line here. Top brands don’t want to just be spending a fortune to educate customers that they exist. The real return on investment is in direct response.
What’s Direct Response Copywriting?
Let’s keep it simple. Direct Response = Sales
Direct response copywriting is about written communication that speaks directly to the customers in a way that compels them to take action. Unlike branding, the copy is about the customer.
You don’t have to be the best writer in the world or have perfect grammar… or even love writing to do this. Maybe right now, you’re writing ads, blogs, articles, Facebook posts, tweets, or other forms of digital marketing. You’re looking to take your writing one step further.
Your intention is to sell. If you want to convert your audience into customers, then direct response is what will make them feel guilty if they don’t buy right now.
How do you create that “on fire” sense of urgency? By understanding your market. How do you understand them? Not by reading minds. Most people can’t. I can’t. But you can learn a lot about your market by testing your copy.
David Ogilvy, known as the “Father of Advertising”, once said, “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” Claude C. Hopkins, another advertising pioneer, wrote, “Tests are important and help us to understand our customers. Good selling is based on good testing.”
Never assume that you know everything there is to know about your market. If you want to learn how to reach your customer, one way is to test your copy and see how your audience responds.
For example, the following house ad is short, brief, and to the point. Will it perform well? Will it get the conversions into sales that you are looking for?
When you test your copy, you’ll find out how many conversions you will get. This ad is an example of short copy.
With direct response copywriting, you can write short copy or long copy. Many have found that long copy sells better. So what’s the difference between short and long copy, and how do you choose which one to write?
Let’s look at short copy first.
Writing Effective Short Form Copy
Just how short is short? Effective short form copy can be a few sentences or a paragraph long. Short form copy works best when you have three situations.
First, you have a product that doesn’t have a high price point. You don’t need as much proof to overcome objections if your customer is spending $50 or $200 for your product or service. It’s not a big investment, so if it doesn’t work out, it’s not a huge loss to them.
Second, your goal is quite simple and straightforward. For example, you just want to get a prospect’s email address for a free subscription. You don’t need 10 pages of copy to convince them why it’s perfectly safe to give you their email.
Third, the medium you are working with has restrictions. For example, you are writing an author bio, Instagram post, Twitter promo, or Google Adwords. In these cases, you need to capture attention using as few words as possible.
How do you write effective short copy?
Begin by understanding your target audience. To find your target audience, narrow down who you are speaking to. If you’re trying to speak to everyone, you’ll be speaking to no one.
Maybe your health product is used by 19 to 75 year olds. But a 19 year old has different health and fitness goals than a 60 year old. So narrow down your audience and speak to that specific group with one message. Imagine a person from that age group sitting in front of you.
Ask yourself these questions: What makes them happy? Angry? What problems are they struggling with? What keeps them up at night?
Now choose an idea, like writing a story, and talk about how your product or service will solve the problem that your target market is having. Don’t worry about writing too much. When you’re done your draft, you can trim the extra words later.
Be clear on your goal. What do you want your audience to do after they read your copy? Visit a landing page? Make a purchase? Sign up for your newsletter?
How do you know if your short copy works?
Here are a couple tips for making your short copy perform better.
- Write all the features and benefits of your product or service and then write about only the most compelling to your audience.
- Include a rock-solid guarantee. It reduces risk, increases trust, and increases conversions. For example, the customer will get their money back if they don’t get the results they were looking for.
Finally, test your copy. What works best for your target audience? Did your copy capture their attention? Did you talk about the features that interest them? When you know what works, you can write your copy faster in the future.
This approach works well for a simple offer, such as an email opt-in, or a low ticket offer. But what if you are selling a high ticket product or service, such as a coaching program for $2500? It will take a lot more convincing, and that’s where long form copy will do the persuading for you.
Writing Effective Long Form Copy
Do people actually read long pages of copy? They do, because they want to make well informed choices, and they want you to answer all the questions in their mind. That’s what makes long copy as effective, if not more effective, than short form.
So don’t worry that you’ll send potential customers running when they see 10 pages of copy. Long form copy – meatier content that is 1200 words or longer – has more user engagement. A test found that people tripled the time spent on their site.
Another test found that content that was over 1500, and especially 2000 words, got more links to their site and more shares on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
When do you write long copy?
Long copy sells. It’s proven. But how do you decide when to write short copy, and when to write long? We’ve already gone over situations when short copy works. Here are situations when you should be writing long copy.
- High price tag offer such as education product sold online. For example, you have a seven week business program for $2500. That’s a serious investment for most people, so they will have questions and objections that long copy can answer.
- Offer with a lot of features. You want to highlight the main features, and explain in more detail, all the features and benefits of your product. This is especially important if your product is a new innovation, or solves a problem in a brand new way.
- Online products and offers. In general, anything sold online should have long copy because your market will have questions, and they won’t buy when they have objections.
Examples Of Effective Long Form Copywriting
How do you write long form copy? The method is very similar to writing short form direct response copywriting. However, the idea here is to grab people’s attention, keep them engaged, and propel them toward taking an action. Sound easy?
They say people now have the attention span of a goldfish (9 seconds for goldfish, 8 seconds for humans). For them, a change of scenery is a click away. But the good news is, copywriting ads with long-form landing pages have a 30 percent improvement in conversion rates.
So how can you capture your market’s attention with copy that makes reading a landing page more thrilling than skydiving or bungee jumping?
Here are examples from long-form copy advertising that have that thrill factor that you’ll need to turn prospects into customers. Notice how the headlines and opening lines grip your attention immediately and compel you to keep reading.
Example 1: Are you making plans for your wife’s death? Come on now, own up. The thought hasn’t so much as crossed your mind, has it? (Ad for: life insurance)
Example 2: When the ketchup I was coaching won the little league world ketchup, I was pretty stoked…. (Ad for: Tide and stains)
Example 3: It’s perfectly alright to be incompetent for hours on end. I am. And so is everyone I know. Of course, being of this persuasion, I shall never be able to afford a bottle of Beck’s Beer. Which is why the people who sell Beck’s Beer got me to write this ad. (Ad for: Beck’s Beer)
Example 4: Doughnuts are bad for you. So are cream cakes, lie-ins and loud rock music. So is sugar. If you take it in your tea, stop immediately. If you take two sugars in your tea, obviously you’re trying to commit suicide and it’s a cry for help. Don’t do it. Your life is precious. (Ad for: Krispy Kreme doughnuts.)
Some of these ads are a few hundred words long, others are thousands. Yet, when copy is well written, people will read it. An ad for Cadillac, published in 1915 in The Saturday Evening Post, still receives requests today. It begins with “In every field of human endeavor, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity….”
The full length ad for the examples above, as well as other prolific examples, are found here.
Well written, direct response copywriting grabs your prospect’s attention, and effective long-form copy can keep them glued until the very last word, but you want to do more than entice your prospect to read your copy.
You’re not in the business of writing stories purely to entertain and inform. Your purpose is much more urgent. You want to convert them into a customer.
To do this, you want to optimize your calls to action (CTA). The type of CTA you use depends on how warm or cold your audience is. If they are a first time visitor, you want to convert them into a lead, and if they are a lead, you want to convert them into a customer.
Keep in mind, a “one size fits all” call to action isn’t the best approach. Here are 5 CTA tips that will take your direct response copy to the finish line.
Calls To Action (CTAs)
By now, you’ve invested hours into crafting copy that will entice your prospect into reading about your product or service. All that effort will be in vain if you can’t convert your prospect into a sale (customer) or future sale (lead).
Your copy should include a clear call to action (CTA). How can you create a CTA that your prospect will click with the excitement of pressing PLAY for a Netflix movie?
You experiment. Here are some CTAs that you can try.
NOT ALL BUTTONS ARE CREATED EQUAL
- Not all customers are created equal either. Some like simple buttons with a few words like “Buy Now” or “See Plans And Pricing”. Other customers like CTAs that have an image of what they will be buying. Test and find out what your market responds well to.
- Colors and shapes have different meanings in different markets. Square buttons may work for one market, while rounded corners works better for others. A red CTA may work better for your website. Or maybe yellow. It depends on how well your button contrasts with the other colors of your website, and what the color means to your market. For example, red means urgency.
SHOW THEM THE VALUE FIRST
- By forcing people to understand your offer and the benefits of it, you can increase your conversion rate. They don’t see the CTA button until they have read what you are selling. This helps pre-qualify potential customers.
- The typical CTA isn’t necessarily what works best. You can even try a CTA button in the middle of a video.
- Try reverse psychology. For example, telling them to do the opposite of what they are used to, such as “DON’T CLICK HERE.” Or, remove your CTA button from where they would expect you to sell them something. If there’s no CTA for your product, they’ll wonder if it’s no longer available and they need to email you for more info.
- Be bold and fearless. Catch your prospect as they are leaving your page with an exit call to action, like an email opt-in. You might think it’s spammy, but your market knows best. Test this, and see how they react.
Remember, your call to action is the final chapter of your brilliantly crafted copy. If your audience isn’t intrigued enough to read the final chapter (the CTA), then experiment with CTAs until you find the one so irresistible, they can’t leave your page without clicking it first.
Resources you can add to your bookshelf on direct response copywriting are found here in the section, Must-Read Books on Direct Response Marketing and Copywriting.
Final Thoughts On Direct Response Copywriting
Direct response copywriting has one purpose: to sell. From the first words of the headline, it has to grip your prospect’s attention, and hold it firmly through compelling copy until the call to action.
Long form copy – over 1500 words – has a higher conversion rate than short form. The average attention span is getting shorter and shorter, but depending on your offer, long form copy can answer your prospect’s questions and objections.
The call to action (CTA) isn’t as simple as it seems. Your market will tell you what types of buttons and timing of your CTA will work. Surprise your audience with unusual CTAs or reverse psychology to create an irresistible offer.