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.

BUT WAIT … THERE’S MORE.*

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 "Voice" and Whether It's Important. Part 1.

A few years ago, a potential client contacted me about some work. This client needed a direct response copywriter, mostly for landing pages and emails. The client said, “I’m going to ask three copywriters to write about the same product and we’ll see who captures the voice the best.” To their credit, the client offered full pay for the project. Sometimes, a potential client will ask for a “spec” project without any remuneration. I’ll say “yes” only when it’s an established client with a serious copy chief and mega-traffic.

But I digress.

I told the client, up front, that I was more concerned with capturing the sale than capturing the voice but … I would write the spec anyway. The client sells consumer-based financial information based around a celebrity/personality. One goal was to capture “the voice” of the guru.

So I wrote the spec piece to the best of my ability. A few weeks later, I got an email from the copy chief saying, essentially, “we liked your work but we found another copywriter who more closely captured the voice.” A polite rejection, but a rejection nonetheless. I really wasn’t all that worried, even though it would have been a decent amount of work.

Why was I not lying on the floor, weeping?

Who likes rejection?

It’s pretty easy. “Capturing the voice” is seriously overrated and essentially irrelevant in direct response copywriting.

“HERESY!” you shout. “Advertising has to have personality … VOICE … you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Let me explain.

I’m a direct response copywriter, not a branding copywriter. “Capturing the voice” is an ethereal concept that relates to branding marketing and not direct marketing. The person interested in your product or service is NOT interested in your “voice.”

The potential client is asking, “what’s in it for me?” and “how will the product make me feel better about myself?”

I regularly write copy that’s essentially ghostwritten. The “author” of the copy isn’t me … it’s from the owner of the company. Again … I have no interest in “capturing the voice.”

I’m laser-focused on benefits … proof … clarity … grabbing the attention of the reader … the offer … you know … all the crucial elements of direct response copy.

For one of my clients, I write the copy but it officially comes from the founder of the company. This client has never ONCE said, “Scott, we need to talk about capturing voice.” I have written over 250 promotions for this client and every single one has met the sales expectation. Voice schmoice.

I’ve heard people say “copy has to have personality.” Once again … I don’t care. Why? Because the customer/client IS NOT interested in you and your personality. They are interested in themselves. It’s a reason why it’s almost always a mistake to build advertising around a celebrity, even if potential customers like the celebrity … a lot.

“HERESY!” you say.

Again … the potential customer is ultimately more interested about themselves and what they really want than any celebrity, unless, of course, they have a burning desire to learn more about the personality.

My clients are serious direct marketers. Let’s say I write a promotion and it fails miserably. What would happen if I said to the client, “no worries … I did a great job capturing the voice, though.” The client would fire me and I would not be surprised.

I'm in a marketing group comprising serious direct marketers. We recently had a speaker who essentially said he was more interested in capturing the voice in copy than results. I have to admit I was shaking my head in disbelief.

In the next part of this series, I’ll talk about further adventures in “capturing the voice” and a surprising email I received from an advertising agency in California.

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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 Having a Laugh -- Sort Of

I watch very little television. However, during the fall, I watch some football (both types) and this means I, by default, have to watch TV advertising.

As a direct response copywriter, I watch the branding ads and laugh … but for all the wrong (or right) reasons.

On major networks, the ads are the usual pulp … entertaining branding ads with no call to action and, thus, no accountability.

Expensive media placement. Expensive production.

I won’t bang on about how big ad agencies do business (ripping you off) and I won’t mention how branding people view advertising (as a way to deceive clients into placing huge media) and I’ll avoid the subject of 95% of corporate marketing directors (who NEVER want to be accountable and hide behind social media and their branding agency), and I certainly don’t want to mention ROI (in the company of branding people) but a couple of ads currently running for big brands make fun of direct response TV ads.

Hmmmmm …

In a Geico ad, the Tasmanian Devil rips through a direct response TV ad for plates. How this relates to car insurance is a bit beyond me but, after all, I’m just a direct response copywriter. So what do I know? I write direct response copy that generates millions in sales. That’s all.

And another insurance ad, for a company I can’t remember (ha!), is running a semi-spoof of QVC. And QVC is a direct response medium.

Oh how those creative directors must be guffawing when they create these ads. They’re certain to win prizes! They’re so creative! Oh you’re so very very funny! It’s a new level of creativity! We’ll link this to social media and it WILL go viral! The client will be so so happy!

Let me tell you something, you super-clever branding people …

Sooner than you think, your party is over.

TV is over and that’s your medium. Online advertising, according to every source, now attracts more money than “traditional” media and that means, get this, you can measure ROI. And your clients will now be asking you to, get this, if you’ll excuse the split infinitive, produce actual financial results. Return … on … investment.

So while you might mock direct response, direct response copywriters, and direct response TV ads, we’re going to win. Or more saliently, the client is going to win … which is what really matters.

If you continue to hang on to your branding MO, you’ll be out of work extremely soon. Your game is over. If I were you, I would make some time, and soon, to discover the fundamentals of direct response marketing.

All of us will welcome you with open arms. This might shock branding types but direct response is collegial and welcoming. We’re all in this together. We’re all in this to help our clients make some money and build the value of the business. We happily share ideas to help each other grow.

Start with Scientific Advertising.

And spend some time with David Ogilvy, who actually loved direct response … as you’ll discover here.

Rant over.

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My thoughts about the tragedy in Paris. Here in the United States, there’s a reason the First Amendment is the first amendment.

Free speech is the foundation of a free society.

For the last 30 years, the merchants of political correctness have been trying to take away our free speech by telling us what we should say and what we shouldn’t. It's an attempt to control us and take away our freedoms.

I wonder how the merchants of political correctness feel right now. I very much doubt they even get the connection.

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I'm a direct response copywriter. I specialize in providing direct response copy for the direct marketing environment for clients around the planet. I specialize in sales page copy ... copy that persuades readers to pull out their credit card and buy. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here if you have a project you'd like me to quote.

I'm also a Dan Kennedy Certified Copywriter for Info-Marketers.

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Disclaimer for the above.

The Dan Kennedy Copywriter for Info-Marketers Certification is awarded to professional copywriters who have successfully completed a course of study of preparation for such copywriting. This Certification has not been provided by an accredited education institution. It does not constitute endorsement of or liability for any individual copywriter by Mr. Kennedy or any companies or organizations affiliated with Mr. Kennedy. The client's relationship is solely with the individual copywriter retained via any agreement.

Direct Response Copywriter on Branding Copywriters

When I retire, I will become a branding copywriter.

I will get a cushy job at a big agency in a big city. The office will have exposed girders, vents, and pipes. Industrial.

The agency will have a wall with lots of awards. The office will have a phalanx of vixen-ish young girls…media buyers with beautiful hair and busy weekends.

Account executives will ask me to come up with ideas and concepts. I will spend caffeine-fuelled hours in meetings with award-winning art directors, creative directors, and producers. When I get stuck, I’ll leave the office for a walk and dive into a café for a couple of hours to “get the creative juices flowing.”

I’ll suggest a TV shoot somewhere in northern Arizona and we’ll trundle off in February to Flagstaff and quickly outspend the unlimited budget.

We’ll create funny ads that run on TV shows like The Simpsons. People in Lousiville, Kentucky and Beaverton, Oregon will laugh. The client will laugh. We’ll have client dinners at upscale restaurants and I’ll order comically expensive Bordeaux.

Of course, I’ll win some awards and this will delight the client. We’ll have a lunch that will start at 1 p.m. and end at a 1 a.m. somewhere in Brooklyn.

At some stage, inevitably, the client will ask about the lack of impact on sales. The Executive Vice President of Nothing in Particular, or the agency owner's expensively suited daughter, will remind the client that “we’re not really trying to push a response here” and that we’re helping to maintain “brand integrity” which can be especially important when the competition is spending $125 million on TV this year.

Sales will drop but I’ll get a raise and my work will appear in Communication Arts. I’ll get a confidential call from a brisk Manhattan headhunter named Holly who has a really exceptional opportunity in a big agency that's looking for a new senior copywriter. I'll leverage the offer for another raise.

That might be exceptionally pleasant. One day.

But for now, I’ll stick with being a direct response copywriter.

I will continue to dig deep to find what really matters to the buyer. I’ll spend hours trying to get into the head and soul of the customer to find what they really, really want. Headlines will float around in my head and I’ll write 20-30 before settling on one I like.

Laughter? Forget it. We’re trying to persuade someone to pull their credit card out of their wallet and BUY. I'm not trying to be funny. I'm trying to be persuasive.

Something I write won’t work so I’ll try again. And again. And again…until I beat the control or establish one that helps the company get in the black.

I will get the snot beaten out of me. I'll have success. But I'll have failures. But I will ALWAYS be accountable.

It’s not easy being a direct response copywriter.

As David Ogilvy said in perhaps the most perfect endorsement of direct response marketing...

The problem with many copywriters is that they don’t really think in terms of selling. They’ve never written direct response. They’ve never tasted blood.

I've tasted blood, my friends.

I spend my days at a desk or cyber-tramping in a coffee shop, tweaking copy to improve response from 2.3% to 3.1%.

And yes, I will giddily write “your satisfaction is completely and totally guaranteed” and “finally—there’s an easy way to…” and "It's clear you have nothing to lose."

There won’t be any awards on my walls. No prizes or languid company dinners.

But my clients, hard-core entrepreneurs, will benefit massively from my work. They get it. They don't want awards. They want customers and clients.

They know this important truth:

“The ability to organize words that motivate people to buy is a super power.”

That’s from Dan Kennedy, for the record.

Writing direct response copy is sheer joy and never a job. Yes—the ancillary stuff is a pain but actually creating copy that’s going to help a company thrive is a lot of fun.

No—I have no desire to become a branding copywriter. I’ll stick with being a direct response copywriter as long as someone will invest in my services. You branding copywriters can keep your awards and exposed brick offices and funny ads.

I’ll be busy helping my clients make money.

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I'm a direct response copywriter. I specialize in providing content and copy for the direct marketing environment for clients around the planet. I specialize in sales page copy, landing page copy and copy that persuades readers to pull out their credit card and buy. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here if you have a project you'd like me to quote.

I'm also a Dan Kennedy Certified Copywriter for Info-Marketers.

Disclaimer.

The Dan Kennedy Copywriter for Info-Marketers Certification is awarded to professional copywriters who have successfully completed a course of study of preparation for such copywriting.  This Certification has not been provided by an accredited education institution.  It does not constitute endorsement of or liability for any individual copywriter by Mr. Kennedy or any companies or organizations affiliated with Mr. Kennedy. The client's relationship is solely with the individual copywriter retained via any agreement.