Direct Response Copywriter on Writing Copy Quickly

"Speed is a strategy," says one of my mentors in direct response copywriting, Andrew Wood. The concept also comes from one of the world’s most accomplished copywriters, Clayton Makepeace.

Andrew and Clayton write copy quickly. I strive to write copy quickly and I might be faster than the aforementioned. In a copywriting race, it would be close.

Some copywriters like to write between three and five major direct mail promotions a year. These might be upwards of 50 pages. It will take a month to research the project. A month to provide a draft. A month to go through revisions. A month to work on the design with the graphic designer. Then a couple of weeks for final changes.

I’m not one of those copywriters, unless I find a client who is paying me a decent sum up front for that promotion … with the probability of royalties on the back end. This can happen.

However, most of my clients typically want to move much faster. The faster they get their products and services to market, the faster they generate cash. They’re not looking for copywriting perfection. They want copy that will create a positive response and they want it quickly.

One of my clients will contact me on Wednesday. They will need about 4,000 words of copy for a product by the following Monday. I’ll get them the copy and the promotion will be up and running in 10 days. That’s called SPEED. It’s easier to move faster on the web. But you can be almost as fast with direct mail.

Some companies like to take their time and take months before sending copy live, either online or offline. Others like to move extremely quickly. I’m happy working in either environment.

I’ve always written quickly. Back in high school, and even earlier, I was always under some degree of pressure to write a lot in a short space of time. This happened every day with homework. Then it happened during exams where I’d have three hours to write four long essays. I also wrote for the school newspaper, regularly writing long pieces in a couple of hours. Earlier in my career, I’d produce a 100-page quarterly magazine without any freelancers. I’d write the ads and write all the articles plus sell advertising and manage the entire publishing cycle.

Speed is great for my clients. I can turn work around quickly so they generate revenue faster. But it’s also good for the writer because it means more opportunities.

Where can you speed things up when it comes to marketing? Speed is a mindset. I eat slowly. I usually ski relatively slowly and in control. But I can produce copy quickly. I've worked to become a fast professional copywriter.

Direct Response Copywriter on a Part of Writing Copy That's Rarely Discussed

As a direct response copywriter, how are you going to learn to write direct response copy?

You can read all the books about writing copy.

You can buy and study some manuals. The Clayton Makepeace manual is superb, if you can find it.

You can mentor under more experienced copywriters. You can get paid as an apprentice or you can pay for training. I recommend the former.

You can watch videos to learn to write copy. I have some here.

You can work for an agency or marketing department and learn from the other copywriters.

You can attend a copywriting training seminar just about every week of the year. There’s even one in Poland coming up. I could go. The whole trip would cost me a mere $5,000.

All good (except Poland).

I have used all of the above to learn to write copy and to improve my direct response copywriting skills.

But there’s one thing that’s seriously missing in all this training. LIFE.

I was at an event a few years ago and met an extremely accomplished yet totally non-famous copywriter. He actually mentored under Gary Bencivenga. How many copywriters can say that? Not many. How I wish …

We started talking in the area outside the large ballroom. What’s that area called, by the way? I have no idea. Mezzanine? Room with ugly carpet?

Anyway, the copywriter told me a couple of things that were especially interesting.

First, he sold encyclopedias door-to-door as a teenager IN ORDER TO SUPPORT HIS FAMILY. No pressure there.

Second, he would often just sit in a coffee shop, look at the people, and imagine what they’re going through.

I lived in London as a teenager. I didn’t have a car and so I rode the tube all the time. I would sometimes look around the carriage and start to imagine who I was looking at and what their lives were like.

I would make up names and every part of their life.

Right now, as I write, I’m in a coffee shop. I'm looking around.

There’s a big man sitting in the corner. He’s about 45 but looks older and needs to lose around 70 pounds. I imagine he manages the water system for the local government but he loves Chess and is playing a game with someone in Borneo on his laptop.

Next there’s a bald guy, fit and trim, looking at his tablet. How old is he? He’s around 40. I imagine he’s about to inherit around $250 million from his great uncle, who owns a chunk of a Fortune 500 company. To this point in his life, he’s been struggling to make ends meet as an electrician. Now he’s thinking about where he’s going to travel and the house(s) he’s going to build.

There’s a family of five at the next table with three children aged 10, 8, and 8 months. They’re hammering some donuts. What’s the father thinking about? I imagine he works for a big company in the accounting department. He works hard for his family but he just got by-passed for a promotion because they gave the job he wanted to a person with an MBA. He's happy when he's with his family but now he's wondering about his career.

In the next corner, there’s a young woman on her laptop. She’s on Facebook (wild guess, I know) and thinking about a trip to Australia and New Zealand. She’s also chatting with some friends who might make the trip. Or maybe she’s a medical student starting to figure out what she’s going to specialize in.

And what about the five employees working behind the counter?

I don’t know their names. I don’t really know anything about them, other than their place of employment. Why are they here? It’s hard work with strange hours. Almost all the punters are pleasant, I’m sure, but what about that 1% who are jerks? I'd tell the person who is ordering their coffee while on their cellphone to go to the back of the queue.

Are the baristas here for the pay? The health insurance? The tuition reimbursement program? The stock options? The free shift beverages?

I can only imagine.

I will NEVER be correct when I imagine what people are going through and what they’re thinking. How can I ever get this right? It’s an exercise.

But I know, with total certainty, all these people have the following …

Dreams, goals, and aspirations. Feelings. Skepticism. Days of confusion and days of clarity. The ability to love.

I would add A LOT OF TATTOOS but that’s probably going a bit far.

There are lots of copywriting courses and events making a lot of crazy promises … like … be a world-class copywriter in 6 months.

It’s not hugely difficult to learn the craft of direct response copywriting. The techniques and so on. Headlines … bullets … writing a guarantee. That’s not impossible for a decent writer.

But here’s the difference between the copywriter who generates $50,000 from a promotion and the one who generates $500,000 … THEY UNDERSTAND PEOPLE.

Claude Hopkins touched on this in his book My Life in Advertising. He said that young graduates from expensive universities rarely make good copywriters. But it’s the hustling, street-smart person who writes direct response copy that converts.

That was in the 1920s but it’s the same today.

I’m fortunate in that I was very well-educated but I was never part of the “ivory tower” club.

I’ve been writing copy for over 30 years now but I’ve had a wide variety of jobs before I wrote copy and concurrent with copywriting. Here are just a few …

Application screener in HR department. Quality control specialist in an ice cream factory in West London. Filing clerk. Publishing salesperson. Magazine publisher. Ski instructor. Waiter. PR hack. Reporter. Soccer coach. Published author.

The result?

I understand people and what motivates them.

People who are brand new to direct response copywriting? They don’t have this. They can write some clever branding ads but they can’t write direct response copy that generates results because they just don’t fully understand people like I do … like that copywriter I mentioned earlier.

There’s no training course for this part of being a direct response copywriter. It’s something that happens over time but it’s a skill, if that’s what it’s called, that can be fostered.

For example, use that exercise above.

Here’s something interesting. With all those jobs I’ve had and all the varied experiences, and especially all that selling, you might call me a hustler.

In fact, I was at a meeting of the mastermind group I was in and there was a famous copywriter there. He said, after hearing about my work, “oh … you’re a hustler.” I'm not sure precisely what he meant, derogatory or otherwise, but I’ll take it as a compliment.

I’m a hustler. So I understand how human beings work. It’s one reason I’m a successful direct response copywriter.

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And by the way, I didn’t spend $5,000 to attend that seminar in Poland. Why? Two reasons. One … the copy was rubbish. Why should I attend a copywriting training seminar when the copy selling the event is F-grade twaddle? Two … the copy mentioned a speaker who speaks at just about every event I've seen advertised by saying “he rarely speaks so now is your chance.” Or something like that. Lies.

Plus think of the opportunity cost of $5,000 … that’s a lot of bananas.

Direct Response Copywriter on Why Long Copy Beats Short Copy

EVERYONE in direct marketing knows the following …

THE MORE YOU TELL … THE MORE YOU SELL …

And …

Long copy, provided it’s thoroughly salient and written by a professional direct response copywriter, ALWAYS outperforms short copy. We base the above on decades of actual sales data. In the world of branding advertising, copywriters believe that a couple of photos with a few words of copy will create a flood of new customers. They’re wrong. We know that longer copy will always outperform short copy.

Let me explain why …

• When a prospect is reading copy and they’re genuinely interested in the product or service, they’re often looking for that one benefit or feature they really, really want. Long copy gives me the opportunity to include EVERYTHING … including that one sentence that will motivate the reader to buy. • For each promotion, I like to try to include 40 proof elements. Longer copy provides room for as many proof elements as possible. • When a prospect sees long copy, they subconsciously think, “there must be something to this.” But when they see short copy, they quickly move to the next product or service. • For each promotion, here’s how readership works.

o One third will glance at the copy and make a decision. o One third will look at the headline, the subheads, the photos, the captions, and some of the body copy … then buy. o One third will read every word three times … then buy.

• So … with long copy, you gain sales from all three types of reader. With short copy, you lose the 2/3rds of prospects who are looking for more information. • When someone is genuinely interested in the product or service, you cannot provide them with enough information. It’s especially true when the product or service is expensive. With short copy, the reader will soon leave your message and start to find information elsewhere. Who knows what they will find. There could be a lot of negative reviews on nefarious websites. But with long form copy, it’s much, much easier to control the message and keep the prospect from wandering off. • If you’re competing against another company and you have more information than your competitors, you’re ALWAYS going to win. • Long form copy gives you the ability to charge higher prices more often and get out of the “race to the bottom” price battle. It’s because long-form copy means you can justify the higher price for the superior product you’re offering. • You can overcome objections and this instantly means you will generate more revenue. • I can overcome skepticism in long-form copy. I can’t in short copy.

People who believe copy is too long forget two things.

• People still read … a lot … when they’re genuinely interested in something. • The only metric that really counts … revenue … shows that long-form copy generates more MONEY than short-form copy.

The most successful companies in direct response use long-form copy. It’s a huge part of their success.

Famous copywriter Gary Bencivenga sells a series of DVDs from his retirement seminar. The cost? $5,000. The length of the copy? 30,000 words. When Boardroom sold subscriptions to a newsletter for $39 a year, the copy was 36 pages long.

When I sell a golf training aid that costs around $50, I write at least 4,000 words of copy and the copy generates tens of thousands of dollars … out of thin air. The tactic that always worked the best was … long-form copy written by an experienced direct response copywriter.

How Long is Long Enough?

Famous copywriter Clayton Makepeace says, “the copy needs to be long enough to sell the product.”

In some cases, short copy can get the job done. But in most cases, long copy is going to smash short copy when it comes to actual money generated, short-term and long-term.

In a perfect world, you can test enough to the point where you can determine the perfect length to sell what you’re trying to sell. In almost all cases, the copy that will give you the most revenue will be longer.

When There Isn’t Much Space

There’s only so much I can write in a 2-page letter. There’s only so much I can write on a post card. There’s only so much I can write on a Facebook ad.

So there are plenty of times when I have to write short copy. The fundamentals of direct response copywriting apply. It’s actually more difficult to write short copy because I have to choose what to leave out. In longer copy on a web page, which has no length limit, I can include everything I believe is relevant … everything that will motivate the prospect to try your product or service.

I’ve had plenty of success with shorter copy but when I can write a ton, I’m always the happiest. Why? Because my client is on the road to being very wealthy.

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 AWAI Bootcamp. Part 1.

By Scott Martin

Or should it be boot camp? Either way, I spent a chunk of last week at the AWAI Bootcamp in beautiful Delray Beach, Florida. Over the next few days, I'll provide some thoughts about the event, focusing on some techniques I picked up and can share. I will also describe the event itself -- from the perspective of a direct response copywriter. I paid my way to attend so it was important to pick up some techniques and make some solid contacts.

Officially called the AWAI 2013 FastTrack to Copywriting Success Bootcamp and Job Fair, the event is an annual gathering of sorts for copywriters from around the world. Some are totally new to the game while many of the rock stars of direct response copywriting attend: Clayton Makepeace, Bob Bly, and Drayton Bird. Most of the events take place in the ballroom at the Delray Beach Marriott which is a resort hotel right next to the Atlantic. It's a pleasant spot and I enjoyed my walk back and forth over the Intracoastal Waterway to my hotel which was a little inland.

The event comprises seminars, speeches, contests, and a meet and greet (the job fair) where about 30 direct marketers can liaise with direct response copywriters.

Bill Bonner was the keynote speaker on the Wednesday night. Bonner founded Agora and is currently president of the company. He's a big name in direct response. I was especially keen to hear Bonner as I'm working on a promotion right now for an Agora entity.

He gave a wonderful speech, bouncing around from topic to topic. My biggest takeaway? He likes copy where the reader becomes the hero in the story. I'm going to use that technique more over the next several months.

Sometimes these gatherings can be a major pitch-fest but, for the most part, the bootcamp provided valuable speakers with useful information. So no complaints there.

In the next blog, I'll discuss Drayton Bird's speech.

Before the bootcamp, I entered one of the competitions: the Clayton Makepeace Spec Challenge. I came 3rd out of 48 entries which was fun.

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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, 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.

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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.