Direct Response Copywriter on The Big Idea

A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to introduce a “big idea” into something that you’d probably think is totally unrelated to direct response copywriting.

I won’t go into the precise details here, because they’re not totally salient, but the person I was working with asked, “what’s a ‘big idea’?”

It’s an excellent question.

The big idea in copywriting is, essentially, a theme.

In branding advertising, examples are the famous Ogilvy ad …

The Man in The Hathaway Shirt.

Then there’s the now extinct ad … The Most Interesting Man in The World for Dos Equis beer.

It’s not a coincidence I’ve mentioned these ads. They’re really quite similar. Hmmmm.

In the world of the direct response copywriter, you’ll see a lot written about “the big idea.” I'm not a huge fan of the tactic. Why? Because the prospect isn’t interested in your big idea. They’re interested in themselves and how the product/service can help them get where they want to get.

When I’m writing direct response copy, I’m focused on communicating, with intense clarity, how a product or service will help the prospect. I’m not so interested in a big idea.

The big idea is the foundation of a branding ad campaign. Right now, you’ve seen these ads for Bud Light. They’re built around the idea of people from medieval times enjoying Bud Light. I’m not certain I get the concept but it’s an example of a big idea.

A lot of big-time direct response copywriters like the idea of the “big idea.”


It’s a way to get, and more importantly, keep, the attention of the prospect. It can also be a way to provide clarity and maintain focus.

So … instead of blabbing away with a lot of features and benefits, the big idea keeps everything together.

I use a big idea more than I think, without really ever thinking about a big idea.

Here’s an example. Click this link now.

A lot of golfers hit good shots on the practice range then fail to take them to the golf course. This applies even to the top golfers like Tiger Woods.

So I built a promotion around this theme. It’s the big idea.

If the big idea works for you in your advertising, and you can measure a jump in revenue through your testing, then use a big idea. But a big idea isn’t always vital.

People in the branding world LOVE big ideas. But they’re not measuring results. Things are very different in the world of direct marketing and the direct response copywriter. We’re measuring everything to the penny and if an ad with a big “big idea” is outpulling an ad without a big idea, then the big idea is big.

But I’ve written plenty of direct response ads that don’t have a big idea. These ads give the prospect plenty of reasons to try a product or service.

Remember … the prospect is more interested in THEMSELVES than your big idea, however brilliant it might be.

Direct Response Copywriter on Whether or Not to Attend Conferences

If you’re a direct response copywriter or if you’re a direct marketer, you could attend a conference or seminar or some type of salient event every single week with the possible exception of the last two weeks of December.

And that’s in person. You could also attend events virtually or buy access to the DVDs or videos after the event.

Should you attend events?

For about 6 years, I regularly attended events. Plus I was in a marketing peer group and we met 3 times a year.

I spent quite a bit of money attending the events. There’s the cost of attending plus the cost of travel plus the indirect costs associated with not writing.

Was it worth it?

Yes and here’s why …

I learned a huge amount about direct marketing and direct response copywriting.

It was fun to travel and see new places.

I got to meet a lot of wonderful and fantastic people.

On many occasions, I got to meet some fascinating and accomplished pros.

I received some assignments directly from certain direct marketing companies.

It also sent a message to my clients that I’m working hard to improve and learn.

I have taken what I’ve learned directly to my clients and to my practice.

However, at least for the next several months, maybe longer, I’m probably NOT going to attend any events.

I just received an invitation to attend an event next month in Brooklyn. It’s for direct response copywriters and I’m not even remotely interested in going.


For that particular event, I know some of the speakers and they’re rubbish. There are some accomplished copywriters who are attending but I’ve heard them speak before. I know what they’re going to say.

I’ve heard a lot of great speakers but I’ve also seen some speakers I find a bit galling. I don’t agree with their basic approach OR their presentation is/was poor. But that’s to be expected. You can’t like ALL the speakers at an event.

It’s happening less and less but some conferences are partly a pitch-fest where the speakers are trying to sell something. That’s a controversial subject, I know.

After about 4 years of attending events, something interesting happens. The same speakers start appearing at all the events. There are speakers who are simply famous … for being famous.

Sometimes, an event planner really works extremely hard to find people who aren’t famous but are really getting it done. Those are the people I want to hear and meet, even if they’re not the greatest speakers.

My ego says, or used to say, that I should be up there on the platform speaking. But I’m not super-interested in that anymore. I’m more interested in helping my clients succeed … and building my own business. I have plenty to say, based on my success, but event organizers never contact me. But I don’t contact them, either. It’s not a big deal, really.

So take some time to attend events but check out the speakers and the organizers first. You’ll learn a great deal at the right events, but, after a while, you might end up hearing the same material.

Direct Response Copywriter on The Not-So-Secret Secret

I run into a lot of people in/from the business world. I meet people with business degrees. I meet successful entrepreneurs. I meet business academics. Pretty much the whole shebang.

Many of these people want to know what I do.

I tell them, “I’m a direct response copywriter.”

And then I get a blank stare or a few moments of embarrassing silence … even from people in business.

Quite a few people think I’m some type of lawyer, specializing in the realm of intellectual property, specifically the little ‘c’ sign.


That’s copyright, not copywriting.

Quite a big difference.

Even though I’m in the writing business and words are my day-to-day existence, I’ve never really come up with a quick and simple definition of what a direct response copywriter really does.

Here are just a few of my efforts.

*It’s sort of like those infomercials.

I’m a salesman in print.

I write ads.


The problem with the last explanation is this … it makes me seem a tad low-end. That’s not how I operate. I’m not trying to fool or con anyone. I’ll leave that to the bankers from a certain national bank.

Let me make it much, much easier for everyone.

The people who know what a direct response copywriter does … and hire a good one … make a TON of money.

One of my clients has organized sales in excess of $400 million for their products. A major international company purchased another client for tens of millions. The copy is part of the equation.

Let me say it again …

The people who know what a direct response copywriter does … and hire a good one … make a TON of money.

Certain people in advertising and marketing fully understand my work and how I write copy. But they won’t hire me or another direct response copywriter because they’re worried about “brand equity” and other such nonsense.

Oh well … that’s your loss as the money leaves for your competition.

How many direct response copywriters are there in the world? About 200-300 who can genuinely motivate potential customers to become actual customers.

This explains, in part, why so many people in business don’t know what I do.

I hope that changes.

I’ll write it one more time.

The people who know what a direct response copywriter does … and hire a good one … make a TON of money.

Direct Response Copywriter on Excuses and People Who Know Everything

I love direct marketing and direct response copywriting for many reasons. One of them … I never hear excuses from serious direct marketers. When sales are lower than usual, direct marketers find a way to increase revenue.

So you can imagine my SHOCK when I recently received an email blaming a lack of sales this year on something that happend LAST YEAR.

I thought I had seen and heard pretty much everything in the world of marketing but that’s a first.

Let me say that again … sales are down this year due to conditions last year. If I were the CEO or owner of that company and I saw something like that coming from the marketing department, two things would happen. First, the head of marketing would be given a straight red. Then I’d find a direct marketer who could actually generate sales and revenue whatever is happening.

The direct marketers I admire are the ones who get the job done whatever is happening in the economy and the world. Imagine what would happen if I wrote some direct response copy and it failed and I blamed conditions last year … or ANY year.

The client would go totally berserk … and with good reason. If things aren’t going well revenue-wise then direct marketers dig deep and find that revenue.

Let’s change the subject before I implode.

I belong to a number of groups on Facebook and Linked In. I can’t say that I spend a great deal of time participating.

Here’s one reason … I see a TON of awful advice and information in these groups. A few months ago, I criticized a person for providing information I know is blatantly wrong. I received a fast response from the person who leads that group saying I was wrong and she was right. I won’t go further into the exact details. I stopped right there with the conversation because I have better things to do than get into online arguments. I'm a busy direct response copywriter.

What’s my point here?

Don’t listen to people in those groups. Base what you do on advice from people who actually know what they’re talking about. There’s one problem here … these direct response copywriters don’t hang around in Facebook and Liked In groups.

Don’t make excuses. Be careful who you follow and believe.


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 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?”


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.