Direct Response Copywriter on What it Takes to Succeed

For whatever reason(s) lot of nascent direct response copywriters have contacted me in the last three months asking for career advice.

Here’s the problem: unrealistic expectations.

Clayton Makepeace, currently the #1 copywriter in the world, writes in the beginning of his two-volume copywriting manual, “copywriting is not a get rick quick scheme” … or words to that effect. I totally agree.

Here’s one thing people have to understand in the world of direct response copywriting … a lot of copywriters, and I won’t name names, plus a lot of companies/entities who sell products and services to aspiring copywriters, and again, I won’t name names, tell boldfaced lies about copywriting.

You have to remember this: I’ve been writing copy pretty much my entire professional life so I know the business extremely well. There’s a lot I don’t know, which is why I’m always trying to learn and discover more, but I know more than the people who call or email me asking for advice. I know a lot more than these nascent copywriters.

Writing branding copy is super-easy because it’s not accountable. But writing direct response copy is extremely difficult because it’s accountable plus you have to have a serious grasp of direct response copywriting techniques.

For every 500 people who strive to get into direct response copywriting based on the “six-figure … work on the beach” promise, 499 fail. Why? Because they think it’s a get rich quick scheme where they will be earning well over $100,000 in the next 6 months, just by showing up.

The somewhat tired cliché of the “10,000 hours” applies.

It’s not really all that complicated.

Success in this business requires experience, hard work, graft, persistence, desire, passion, thorough knowledge of the techniques, great clients, plus marketing expertise. Anyone who thinks otherwise has bought into a promise that can’t be kept.

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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 AIDA. Part 4: Action.

In the last few emails, I talked about the first three parts of AIDA: attention, interest, and desire.

Now it’s time to discuss the “A” … action.

Take a look at advertisements in the branding world and you rarely see any type of call to action. Take a Budweiser ad, for example. You watch the ad then the ad ends. Nobody says to you, "go into your local convenience store or supermarket and buy Budweiser."

But in the world of direct response, action is vital because action is a vital part of ... well ... DIRECT RESPONSE. A response, by definition, requires action.

But there's more to action to the direct response copywriter than simply organizing a "buy now" button or including a phone number.

In physics, we learned "for every action, there is an equal or opposite reaction." Or something like that! It's somewhat the same in direct response copywriting. For every person thinking about taking the action you'd like them to take, there are 10 people who don't want to take the action, even though they might really like the product or service.

Why the non-motivation?

Pretty easy, really.

They have objections. These range from "it's too expensive" to "it's the wrong color" to "I don't know these people."

One of my jobs as a direct response copywriter is to find these objections then address them. Why? So the person on the fence takes the action I'd like them to take.

Here are some other ways to overcome objections.

  • The guarantee.
  • Two/three different price points.
  • Testimonials.
  • Different ways to respond, if possible.
  • Bonus items.
  • A free sample, if there's a soft offer.

I also like to TELL the prospect what to do next. I see a lot of copy that leaves out the "5 steps to take now" and related copy. Everything must be super-clear in copy, especially the steps you want people to take. A lot of companies just assume that people will know what to do next. I never make this assumption.

When I worked in a store seeling outdoor equipment, I was really good at helping people get interested in something. I was even better at moving them to the cash register and buying. I would find their objections, overcome any, and simply say, "are you ready to buy this?"

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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 AIDA. Part 3: Desire.

In the last couple of emails, I talked about the first two parts of AIDA: attention and interest.

Now it’s time to discuss the “D” … Desire.

I have the attention of the reader. I have maintained their interest. Now it’s time to tap into their desire. Initially, the desire is NOT for the product. A golfer can be at the golf course thinking, “I’d like to hit the ball a lot further with my driver.” The golfer can also think, “I’d like to get rid of my slice.”

But they’re not thinking, “I have to have to have Driver A.” To create DESIRE for Driver A, I have to link the desires of the golfer to the product. Here’s where bullets and research come in. I research Driver A so I can reveal to the golfer exactly how Driver A will help them reach their golf goals. It could be the design of the driver, its adjustability, the shaft, etc. Then I have to provide proof to back up the claims I make about the technology and design.

When a direct response copywriter gets this right, the potential client has desire for the product or service.

It all works for other products. A person might want a new car that goes super-fast. They want to be feel better about themselves by having a car that will really move. So the direct response copywriter has to focus on the features that lead to the benefit the driver wants. It’s also important to include secondary and complementary benefits like brakes, handling, and overall safety. It’s called “piling on.”

Again, here’s where a long list of bullets are so important.

In the information marketing space, it’s easier to create this desire. The key? The use of fascinations.

Let’s say I’m writing direct response copy for a weight loss book. The book offers a new approach. I could write a “fascination” like …

“10 things you must never eat if you want to lose weight.”

Now the reader, who has the desire to lose weight, will be thinking, “I wonder what those are … I really want to know.”

The features of the product must be translated into desirable benefits. I tie these benefits into the product, making the reader aware … “you can only get the benefits you want through this product or service.”

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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 AIDA. Part 2.

In the last blog, I wrote about the first part of AIDA. Let's review what AIDA stands for.

A = Attention I = Interest D = Desire A = Action

If I've been successful then I have the attention of the reader. Now it's time to keep the attention of the reader by being interesting.

It's not easy to be interesting in copy. I like to think about the reader sitting in front of my copy going, "WOW! I never knew that!" If I'm writing golf copy then I like to write about a new way of solving a common golf problem. Golfers typically find this type of content extremely interesting.

Here's where the research comes in. I like to find facts that tie back to the benefits that really appeal to the potential customer.

Let me give you an example.

I was watching a VSL the other day. The VSL was for a subscription to an investment newsletter. The "big idea" the direct response copywriter used was to reveal how to profit from stocks that would rise and fall based on wars.

After getting the attention of the reader, the copywriter wrote extensively about 10 different wars that could start in the next five years ... and why.

It's brilliant copywriting. The copywriter keeps the interest of the viewer. Most of the viewers are interested in global conflicts but probably didn't know about all these potential wars. It's also a way of proving the link between conflicts and the opportunity for profit.

Again ... research is so extremely vital here. Fascinating facts come from this research. The research must focus on what's interesting to the potential customer ... and it must also relate to the product or service.

Of course, every piece of direct response copy has to be fascinating from beginning to end. But there's a point in the promotion, usually right after the introduction or headline where the interest level has to increase dramatically.

Let's go back to a hyper-successful magazine like Cosmopolitan Magazine. The headlines on the cover get the attention of the reader. Then the articles are interesting because they reveal things the reader doesn't know ... but wants to know. Would articles about golf be valuable to the Cosmo reader? NO! Would articles about how to dress to attract men be valuable in Golf Digest? Negatory big brother. The fascinating facts must be salient.

In the next blog, I'll talk about the "D" part ... DESIRE.

Anyone can find interesting facts. But it's only the skilled direct response copywriter who knows how to find the interesting information that's relevant to what the potential customer really wants.

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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 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 AIDA. Part 1.

No ... it's not the opera by Giuseppe Verdi. It's a famous direct response copywriting formula. Who created this formula? I have no idea. Maybe I should know. But here's what it stands for.

A = Attention. I = Interest. D = Desire. A = Action.

It's a good start, in a way, and it's very much an overview. It's not a precise template for copy but it's important for every direct response copywriter and every direct marketer to understand, at an almost professorial level, AIDA.

The four components of AIDA are linked. They must all be present in copy that's striving to maximize conversion. One part of AIDA leads to the next.

In this four-part series, I'm going to introduce AIDA, beginning with attention.

It's tempting to look at AIDA as just the headline and yes, the headline is vital to gain the attention of the reader, viewer, or listener. I typically use headline templates based on headlines that have worked for other promotions.

But there's much more to getting someone's attention than a "how to" headline.

I can walk into a crowded, loud bar and yell to get everyone's attention and then say, "free hamburgers right now at the restaurant accross the street." I would get everyone's attention for about 3 seconds and then everyone in the bar would continue drinking and bantering. I would be a pure annoyance.

It's the same with all the ads I see on the New York Subway. They get my attention because I'm there but it's all for the wrong reasons.

Attention that leads to a sale is what I'm striving to achieve as a direct response copywriter. My job is to get the attention of the man or woman who wants what my client provides and then keep their attention by providing interesting information.

That's very different from just getting someone's attention.

To enable the former, I must fully understand what the potnetial client or customer truly wants. Maybe it's to end joint pain. Maybe it's to look years younger. Maybe it's to hit a golf ball a long way.

Think about Cosmopolitan Magazine. Its readers want to look great, have a great love life, and enjoy great relationships. So the headlines on the cover gain the attention of the readers based on what the readers want. It's not really that complicated, my friends!

The editors could put a photo of a film star being beheaded on the cover ... and this would get everyone's attention ... but it's the wrong type of attention.

Want to get the right type of attention? Let's go back to that crowded bar. Let's say I see a friend who told me he is planning a trip to England. Imagine what happens when I say, "Hey John, I know a lot about England and I'd be happy to point you toward some places I know you'd like."

That's going to get the attention of my friend, John. Let's remember ... the goal of the attention here is to pique the next step in AIDA, which is INTEREST.

Anyone can get someone's attention. But it's only the skilled direct response copywriter who knows how to get the attention of the person in a way that keeps someone interested so they ultimately buy the product or service.

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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 when you have a project you'd like to discuss. I'm also a Dan Kennedy certified copywriter for information products.