Direct Response Copywriter on The Power of Clarity

Ask a bunch of direct marketers and direct response copywriters, “what’s the most important thing in direct marketing?” and you’ll get a lot of different answers.

The list. The offer. Proof. Testing. Headlines. Research

And so on …

All of the above must be there.

But here’s something you rarely hear. THE POWER OF CLARITY.

In the branding world, obtuse and obscure ads are still popular. I’m certain you can think of examples. These ads are clever and 'super-intelligent' and there’s no way to determine their success or otherwise. These ads often win prizes handed out by people who are interested in producing obtuse and obscure ads.

But in direct marketing and direct response copywriting, we’re all about clarity … or we should be.

I routinely see direct marketing advertising where the benefits, features, and the offer are not totally clear. I work extremely hard on making sure my copy is totally clear.

The reader must INSTANTLY understand exactly what’s going on, and, most importantly, what’s in it for them when it comes to the product or service.

Look at my work for my clients and the work might seem overly simplistic. I keep the headline clean and clear. I organize the copy so the scanner “gets” what is happening right away. And in the body of the copy, I make totally certain the reader fully understands what he/she will get in return for their money and/or information.

I get this desire for clarity from the work of direct response copywriters Gary Bencivenga and Clayton Makepeace. Their copy is always crystal clear. You can easily find examples of their work online.

The next time you’re watching network TV, pay attention to the clever, obtuse, and obscure ads. You’ll see plenty of them. Then switch to QVC and you’ll see total clarity. At QVC, they measure their annual revenue in the BILLIONS.

Here’s a reason my copy resonates with potential customers and motivates them to try a product or service. CLARITY.

Before your ad goes live, ask yourself, “is everything totally clear?”

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I'm a direct response copywriter working for clients around the world. Enter your information to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or [contact me here][2] when you have a project you'd like to discuss. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.

Direct Response Copywriter on The Crossroads Close and Open

I’m sure you’ve seen the crossroads close. I use it for just about every promotion I write. It's an important tool for the direct response copywriter.

Basically, I write, “you have two ways to go here … you can continue to live without a head on your shoulders … OR … you can get the Acme Head Attacher and live with a head firmly on your shoulders for the rest of your life. I know you’ll make the right decision. Click here now to get your head back.”

It’s a little bit aggressive, for sure, but it’s copy that moves the prospect toward buying the product or service.

But have you considered the crossroads open?

I rarely use the crossroads open in print or web copy but it’s a vital part of writing for video sales letters. I write about VSLs in a later chapter. But here’s how it might go in a VSL.

Look … you have a really simple decision to make right now. You can ignore this free presentation and never really discover this new way to find stocks that are poised to explode in value … OR … you can stay with me for a few minutes and you’ll get some exclusive information about the financial expert who has created this new stock-picking algorithm. And one more thing … this free presentation may be gone if you come back later or there may be a charge for it. Watch it now while it’s still here and still free.

You can even use the crossroads open in a headline and/or deck.

“You Can Ignore This Page and Continue to Suffer With Painful Feet … OR … You Can Meet the Doctor Who Recently Helped A Patient Go from Being in a Wheelchair to Climbing the Highest Mountain in Colorado.”

You can also use the crossroads open in your lead plus there are subtle variations. Here’s an example of a lead.

I know you’re busy and I know your time is precious. And I know you could be doing something else right now. But stay with me for the next few minutes.

Why?

Because I’m going to reveal an all-new way to take your accounting business from a disaster that’s always a headache … to a practice that’s fun and 4 TIMES MORE PROFITABLE.

Try the crossroads close, certainly, but also try the crossroads open.

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I'm a direct response copywriter working for clients around the world. Enter your information to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or [contact me here][2] when you have a project you'd like to discuss. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.

Direct Response Copywriter on Branding and Building a Brand

Serious veteran direct marketers, and direct response copywriters, like this one, get headaches when they hear the word 'branding.'

I've been told by potential clients that my direct response copywriting, which has helped my clients generate over $400 million in revenue in the last 5 years, is a bad fit for their 'brand idendity' ... whatever 'brand identity' means. I could help these prospective clients generate a lot more revenue if they hired me. But the potential client believes that focusing on 'brand identity' instead of paying for direct response copy, and testing, must provide more revenue. Some people are on the bus. Some are not. Oh well.

Most of the action and talk in the advertising and marketing world, especially when it comes to advertising agencies and corporate marketing departments, revolves around ‘the brand.’

Why?

Here’s a guess. Business schools teach branding and not direct marketing. You won’t find a serious direct marketer teaching classes in a business school. Plus there’s a general aversion to the raw accountability of direct marketing in corporate marketing departments. They’ll take credit in those departments when things are good and blame the economy when sales are down.

I’m not totally brand averse. It’s good when a company, however small, has a well-designed logo and a consistent ‘look.’ A well-known name can help when people are choosing products or services. Big companies with big budgets, and I mean HUGE, can afford to spend tens of millions on branding advertising. It’s basically an exercise in name recognition. That’s it. And there's no way to measure its effectiveness.

Unfortunately, there’s a bevvy of consultants, advertising agencies, and others who tell their clients to focus on the brand.

That’s a huge mistake.

I have potential clients talk about “brand voice” and I tell them, “that’s irrelevant.” I've written copy based on how I always write copy, based on proven direct response principles, and not worrying about 'brand voice' and the client has said, "you did a great job capturing the voice." I'll say thank you and ask about what really matters, capturing the revenue.

Advertising agencies work with EVPs of marketing and get all gushy about ‘brand authority’ and such. It’s a waste of time, energy, and money for all but the world’s biggest companies. And I mean Fortune 200.

Here’s my biggest problem with branding.

In direct marketing, we know something that’s absolute. THE CUSTOMER IS NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR BRAND. THEY’RE INTERESTED IN THEMSELVES.

That’s so important, I’m going to paste it in again, using my pasting skills.

THE CUSTOMER IS NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR BRAND. THEY’RE INTERESTED IN THEMSELVES.

It’s why ugly advertising from companies nobody knows about works … when the company uses direct response tactics and focuses exclusively on the needs, goals, dreams, and desires of the client.

I’ve worked extensively with two clients who have built super-successful companies. One company is a huge 'brand' in the sports space. The other is a huge ‘brand’ in the health space.

Six years ago, when I started working with these companies, nobody knew who they were. But now they’re big. NBC Sports just bought one company. Another has sales in the $400 million range by now and is on TV all the time.

What built these brands? Was it hours spent talking nonsense with branding agencies and branding consultants? No.

DIRECT MARKETING built these companies. The people who run these companies are direct marketers.

Joe Sugarman built a huge name in sunglasses with his famous Blue Blockers. A big brand, a big name, if you like. He built this through the rigorous execution of direct marketing principles.

Ditto David Ogilvy who started his agency with direct mail to marketing directors. Want proof? Go here to this famous video. It’s a video branding people hate.

Want to build a successful brand? Use direct marketing and hire a direct response copywriter. Direct marketing brings you revenue, precisely measured. Branding brings you awards and kudos but little else.

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I'm a direct response copywriter working for clients around the world. Enter your information to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or [contact me here][2] when you have a project you'd like to discuss. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.

Direct Response Copywriter On The Offer

Soft Offers. Hard Offers. Flaccid Offers. Continuity.

I’m confident you can define a soft offer and a hard offer but just in case these are new to you, here you go.

• Soft offer. The marketing company lets the new customer try the product for free and then bills the credit card after a certain time. One of my clients provides a 30-day free trial for a dietary supplement. The client pays the $4.99 shipping then gets billed after 30 days for the next shipment at the full price.

• Hard offer. You buy the product right there and then.

In both cases, there’s usually some type of guarantee. Plus you’ll see variations that combine soft offers and hard offers. Sometimes you’ll see an installment offer where you can make “nine easy payments” but get the product right away. I use this technique for my copywriting course.

“What’s a flaccid offer?” you’re asking. The flaccid offer is not clearly defined and just confuses the consumer to the point where they don’t buy. I see this all the time.

The role of the modern direct response copywriter is to suggest offers to the client and to write copy that makes the offer totally clear. Here are the basic types of offer in direct marketing.

HARD OFFER … Pay right now.

SOFT OFFER … Send no money now.

NEGATIVE OPTION … Bill me until I tell you to stop.

INSTALLMENT OFFER … Pay once a month for a pre-determined number of months.

CHARTER OFFER … Be the first to get this … at a special low price.

EXCLUSIVE OFFER … just to a special few.

LIMITED OFFER … only a certain number available and only for a certain time.

ONE TIME … it’s the only opportunity.

You can combine some of the above for an even more powerful offer.

Some additional thoughts about offers.

• Your job as a direct response copywriter is to help the client with offers and the positioning of the offer. In a perfect world, you are also testing offers.

• If you’re unsure about your offer, take a look at what Claude Hopkins said … “Make your offer so great that only a lunatic would refuse to buy.”

• Is there a reason for a special offer? Maybe there was a fire in the main store. Maybe the bank is about to repossess everything. A relocation means a moving sale. In a perfect world, there’s always a believable reason for the current offer but don’t make it up.

• Can you come up with two versions of an offer for one product? It’s the simple A vs. B technique, often successful with children who don’t like vegetables. Beans or carrots? I only ever like to sell ONE product in the promotion, with copy targeted to those who will buy … but a solid A vs. B offer eliminates the “no” reflex from the potential customer.

• What are the competitors offering? If it’s been running a while, then it’s working.

• When you’re testing price, you may discover the higher price increases response.

• Can you organize the offer so it becomes a monthly plan? Continuity is lucrative but the product or service has to be like electricity … so vital that you can’t possibly stop. It’s not as easy as people say.

There’s been a lot of advice given to ambitious copywriters in the last few years about moving away from being a direct response copywriter and becoming a ‘direct marketing specialist who also writes copy.’

I’m not a big fan of this advice as it usually comes from people who are not copywriters. The number of direct response copywriters who can convert readers into buyers is extremely small, at around 200, if that, but the number of people who call themselves a ‘marketing consultant’ is vast. So I’ll stick with being a direct response copywriter … BUT … as I stated earlier, your job as a copywriter is to help your clients with direct marketing tactics and strategy. You can start with organizing the offers for maximum revenue.

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I'm a direct response copywriter working for clients around the world. Enter your information to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or [contact me here][1] when you have a project you'd like to discuss. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.