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.

Direct Response Copywriter on Gary Bencivenga and What It Really Takes

I've been listening to an interview with Gary Bencivenga. Brian Kurtz calls Bencivenga the greatest living copywriter. I just spent two days with Brian and other direct marketers at a mastermind group run by Brian.

One of the guest speakers used to hire Gary Bencivenga. The speaker revealed the amount of just one of the royalty checks he signed for Bencivenga. I can't 'print' the exact amount here but it was jaw-dropping. A ton of money today. A ton of money 20 years ago. It's no wonder that Bencivenga had a house in The Hamptons among the titans of Wall Street.

I wonder what those Wall Street types thought about Bencivenga, especially when he said, "I'm a direct response copywriter." Did they give Bencivenga the "blank stare" I get 495 times out of 500? Or did they instantly know about the work and potential power of a copywriter like Gary Bencivenga? Maybe one day I'll find the answer.

But I digress.

The interview with Gary Bencivenga reveals the following.

He learned from the best of the best, including John Caples and David Ogilvy. He spent almost two decades around direct marketers who tested the actual results of his copy ... before heading out on his own. He initially struggled to find clients when he began his life as a freelancer. He stayed mostly quiet about his techniques and kept his secrets, secret. He was fiercely competitive, despite being very soft spoken and having a kind and welcoming disposition.

In essence, Gary Bencivenga spent at least 20 years working at being a direct response copywriter before getting out there and working for the big mailers and competing against the world's top copywriters.

I see a lot of copy today saying, "you can be a successful and practicing copywriter in just 6 months, even if you've been repairing motorcycles for the last 23 years."

Nothing against people who repair motorcycles, just so you know.

If you're considering a career in direct response copywriting, that's great. It's a fabulous career. But you have to understand you won't be a top copywriter in 6 months. You won't be a top copywriter in 6 years.

It helps if you've spent a chunk of your career in writing, publishing, sales, advertising, communications, or some type of related field. But anyone who says, "you'll be on top in 6 months" is not telling the truth.

You can get started and get some basic work in 6 months but to come anywhere near mastery takes many, many years and a ton of failure, hard work, reading, researching, and sales work. You can accelerate the process a little but it takes time.


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.

Direct Response Copywriter on What You Can Learn from a Bookstore

Who would have thought?

Film cameras using real film are becoming more popular. Vinyl records are making a comeback because the sound quality is better than digital. People are buying cassette tapes. Independent bookstores are thriving.

Even in this digital age, “old school” treats are alive and well. I was recently in New York City and visited one of the city’s literary institutions, Strand Bookstore. It has three (or four?) floors of new books, used books, gifts, records, and other stuff. It’s one of my favorite places to visit when I’m in Manhattan. I also like to visit my local independent bookstore here in Colorado.

So … what can a direct response copywriter learn from a bookstore? A lot but I want to focus for now on the most important lesson, which is looking at book titles.

There’s an irony here: book publishers are typically terrible at marketing books. But they are off-the-charts epic when it comes to titles. Go figure. I'm not talking about novels and similar books. I want you to focus on the non-fiction side.

Gary Bencivenga tells direct response copywriters to look closely at book titles for inspiration when it comes to headlines.

Let’s take a look at some currently popular titles.


The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Blast the Sugar Out!: Lower Blood Sugar, Lose Weight, Live Better

I Will Teach You to Be Rich

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age


You could easily spend at least an hour looking up book titles to get inspiration for headlines. All the headlines above are totally based on direct response copywriting headline templates. I bought one of those books based on the title. The actual book itself was terrible. But the title … sorry, headline … drew me in.

So next time you’re in a bookstore, or scanning a list of bestsellers, notice the title of the book.


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 Another Big Mistake

This blog is for my fellow copywriters … mostly.

Most of my clients are happy most of the time.

I suppose, as a direct response copywriter, I should be more specific about the above statement.

One client has been a client for over 3 years; they’ve gone from 3 employees to 56. Another contacted me for a large project after I hadn’t heard from them for 18 months. My copy has helped this client generate over $200 million in revenue. Another client in Orange County, California, sends me “emergency” projects and the head of the company calls me because I keep beating his controls ... plus I can turn work around fast.

I have repeat clients. I also have “one and done” clients who only need my work one time. But even members of the latter group re-contact me from time-to-time.

Repeat work comes my way NOT because the client likes me personally. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. They call me because they measure the results and my copy converts. That’s because I use tried and trusted direct response copywriting techniques but also because the client has a good offer.

Gary Bencivenga said it best, “don’t take on marketing challenges” and I’ve been pretty good at taking this advice. No, I cannot sell sunlamps, heating, and tanning equipment to a list of people in tropical locations.

But it can be difficult to stay away from work, especially when there are targets to meet for monthly production.

I took on a bad project a few weeks ago. It just went bad. Here are the details.

It was a dietary supplement – for men’s performance aka erections.
I got half up front.
I wrote an outline the client approved.
I wrote a draft based on the outline.
The client didn’t like the first draft and suggested some changes.
I made the changes.
The client also asked me to hide the ingredients. No client has ever asked me to do this.
Then the client showed the copy to several people who hated it.

The client fired me. I wasn’t about to argue with someone so totally clueless. I pointed out that the “copy police” would hate some of my highest-performing copy. The ultimate judge is the potential customer. If they buy, the copy is great. If they don’t, the copy is awful and it’s time to try something else. I returned most of the initial deposit and hopefully, this client won’t make life miserable for any other direct response copywriter. He’s not getting anything from me again.

So what’s the lesson here? I need to go back to the 80/20 model. 80% of clients are not going to be serious direct marketers. 20% of clients are. After about 30 seconds chatting with a client on the phone, I can tell the difference between the 20% and the 80%. The 20% will likely be great clients. The 80% will not.

I don’t have to deal with the 80% and nor do you.

If you’re a potential client reading this, then don’t be alarmed … just understand that serious direct response copywriters with a track record of generating revenue simply want to work with direct marketers who truly understand direct marketing … and won’t judge an ad by what his or her auntie thinks. Don't expect a copywriter to solve your marketing challenge.

A couple of potential clients called me last week. One wanted me to work on a “partnership” basis, which is basically translated to “we have no product and no money plus a terrible offer.” He was somewhat shocked when I said “no, I do not want to work with you.” I said it politely, of course.

Another potential client asked me for a quote then went to Upwork. So price was the only factor in that person’s thinking. Whatever. I wish I had known this upfront.

In speaking with both potential clients, it was clear in the first 30 seconds they were not serious direct marketers.


While it’s on my mind, I don’t like it when I take time to get on a conference call with “Ron” and “Ryan” and the people on the call are clearly not named “Ron” and “Ryan” but Rajiv and Prakesh. I also don’t like it when they set up the initial contact through a Linked In profile that’s clearly fake.

I sometimes get cold calls from a call center outside the US and the cold caller calls himself Fred. I always ask, “is your name really Fred?” and they answer, “yes.” Why should I buy from a liar?

End of rant. It’s my birthday.


I'm a direct response copywriter. I write direct response copy 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 Reads The New York Times and Sees Something Missing

On Sunday, while getting my coffee in the local Starbucks, I splashed out $6 for the elephantine Sunday edition of The New York Times. I love visiting New York and, periodically, I like the full ‘old-school’ feel of a big city newspaper.

From a content standpoint, the sheer depth and breadth is impressive. A lot of typing. The quality of the writing surprisingly varies from the sublime to the shoddy. And the writers, fully supported by the copy editors, are never afraid to insert an adverb or adverbial clause between the infinitive version of a verb.

Memo to said writers and editors...a split infinitive is poor writing.

But moving on…

After reading chunks of the content, I read every page looking at the ads.

This exercise coincides with going through Gary Bencivenga’s 7 Master Secrets of Wealth Creation for Marketers and Copywriters DVD product.

Full disclosure: no affiliate deal here.

Much of Gary Bencivenga’s work appeared in newspapers. Here’s an example.

Direct marketers, armed with a direct response copywriter, earned millions through these relatively simple space ads. The copywriter charged a lot and the space was expensive but the ROI was through the roof…on the front end and back end.

I saw just ONE ad in The New York Times that may have qualified as a direct response ad…for The Great Courses. I saw a lot of expensive branding ads and it was hard to find an offer, CTA, or arresting headline.

And all of this in a city that remains the epicenter of direct response advertising.

Yes—circulation numbers are down for print versions of newspapers but I still think there’s a massive opportunity for the serious direct marketers to generate leads and revenues in newspapers.