Welcome to this special article I have written for you called “The 10 Commandments of Direct Response Copywriting.”
I originally started writing these rules down with the idea of creating a “cheat-sheet” of proven copywriting and direct marketing principles to hang over my desk. But slowly it expanded into what you are reading now and I knew I had to share it with you, my readers.
Now, these are not the ONLY rules for kicking butt with direct response copywriting, BUT they are the ones I am confident you can rely on to help you supercharge the success of any sales message.
Why Is It Important To Follow Rules When Writing Sales Copy?
The truth is, while we all want to think of ourselves as “creative” and there is a certain level of creativity involved in writing an effective sales message, there is something FAR more important.
What is that? It’s called getting RESULTS.
Remember, writing advertising is NOT the same as writing a novel or a screenplay. Our first objective isn’t to entertain (although being entertaining, interesting and engaging for the sake of grabbing and holding attention can be an effective tool).
Our ONLY real goal in direct response copywriting is to get a specific, pre-determined ACTION from our target audience.
I believe if you do more than just read these “10 Commandments of Direct Response Copywriting” but actually put them to work in your business, it will be much easier to succeed in accomplishing ALL of your goals.
Now, let’s quickly cover what these “10 Commandments of Copywriting” are and then we’ll take a deep look at each one individually.
The 10 Commandments of Direct Response Copywriting
Give A Reason for Every Claim You Make
Write With Passion
Only Write to One Person at a Time
The Only Purpose of Advertising is to GET THE SALE
Write Like You Talk
Always Try To Establish Your Authority Before You Sell
Be Willing To Admit Flaws With Your Product or Service
Respect the Power of Your Words
Remember What People Are REALLY Buying
Just Get Started
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 1
Give A Reason For Everything
Direct Response Advertising is ultimately all about multiplying the power of master salesmanship and using it to reach as many of your ideal prospects as you can.
But not just ANY message but a powerful message that will persuade them to buy what you are selling.
But what if you are multiplying an advertisement that’s a big fat ZERO when it comes to effectiveness? Well, it would guarantee to bring you back a big fat ZERO in profits.
So, what kind of advertising is most likely to bring you back that ZERO? It’s called traditional or “brand advertising”.
Now, brand advertising is okay if you have DEEP pockets.
Like the company who makes the soda you are probably drinking now…
… or the corporation who runs the fast food place you grabbed dinner from last night.
But, for the most part, brand advertising consists of limp, trying to be “catchy” or funny slogans, and almost never actually asks for the sale.
Their mission is to constantly bombard you with an image… or a slogan… or jingle that gets stuck in your head.
Then when you are out and about shopping and have a choice to make between a known product and a brand you have never heard of, you automatically reach for the one you are familiar with… EVEN if it’s the more expensive and possibly less quality choice.
So, I’m not saying this tactic doesn’t work, as it does, over time.
But how many of us have MILLIONS upon MILLIONS of dollars to spend… just hoping to get our product name into the psyche of our potential customer?
In fact, trying to be “Cute” or “Clever” in your advertising is a sure-fire way to go broke.
That’s why I preach HARD the Fundamentals of Direct Response Copywriting…
… and more specifically…
“REASON WHY ADVERTISING”
Now, what do I mean by “Reason Why Advertising”? Well, that’s a term coined by legendary adman John E. Kennedy in the early 1900s to describe the foundation of his form of advertising.
What kind of advertising is that exactly?
It’s about advertising that is direct to the point and ALWAYS asks for the sale…
… while consistently backing up and explaining in full detail each point, promise and claim made throughout your advertising copy.
You need to…
Give your readers a REASON why they should listen to you.
Give your readers a REASON why they should believe each and every word you say.
Give your readers a REASON to buy what you are selling.
When your ad contains a good, strong, clear reason why someone should buy your product or service you automatically increase your chance of getting the sale.
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 2
Put Some Passion In Your Writing
When writing sales copy you will always increase your chances of success if you get excited and write with PASSION.
Why is this so important?
Because passion is something missing from most writing of any kind and especially in any sort of advertising or marketing.
When you write with real, heartfelt passion your readers will immediately take note and be affected by the message you are conveying to them.
There’s also another important reason why writing with passion is so critical to being successful with your copywriting. And that’s if you present nothing but cold facts and logic you risk boring your prospects practically to death or at least putting them to sleep.
The Truth Is, There is Nothing That Will Kill Your Chances of Making a Sale Faster Than Losing the Attention of Your Prospect
The second your potential customer starts yawning or think what you are saying doesn’t relate to them…
… or offer them some sort of benefit to keep reading or listening…
… then you’ve lost them. Maybe even forever.
There IS a place for logic.
There IS a place for facts.
There IS a place to highlight features.
But, facts, logic, and features all need to be passionately tied to the emotional benefits that your prospect is really interested in.
Passion Is the Secret Ingredient To Writing Effective Sales Copy and…
It’s What Many Entrepreneurs Fail to Grasp When Writing Their Own Ads.
Now, you might be thinking…
“How do I write passionately about a subject that bores me to tears?”
Well, it really makes no difference at all if you feel the product or service you are writing about is inherently dull.
You Must Find A Way To Bring Some Excitement Into Your Sales Message By Finding An Emotional Benefit to Attach To It. Hopefully, a CORE EMOTIONAL BENEFIT Your Prospect Will Be Excited About.
Let’s think of a relatively dull product and try to come up with something we can get passionate about.
Hmmm, let’s take a Hot Water Heater. Now, that is certainly not the sexiest thing to write about, so how would we inject some excitement into writing an advertisement or marketing piece about it?
Well, imagine you are writing to the ideal prospect for a hot water heater.
I guess this would be someone who doesn’t currently have a working hot water heater or has never had one.
What are they sick and tired of? Well, I would think they are fed up with having to take COLD showers. I know I would be! Even ONE cold shower would be enough for me. I’d be ready to shell out a small fortune to remedy the situation immediately!
So, what is it that our prospect is feeling after they have bought their new how water heater that we could highlight in our sales message?
Hmmm, let’s write about how wonderful that first HOT shower is going to feel, okay? Maybe, something like this:
“Imagine your new hot water heater has just been installed.
You walk into your bathroom with anticipation of how wonderful that hot shower is going to feel.
Next, you turn the faucet of your shower on and step in.
Ahhh, it feels like heaven on earth as the hot water massages your skin, washing off the layers of un-cleanliness you have been suffering with.
As you turn off the water and step out into your awaiting bathrobe you soak in the wonderful feeling of being fully clean and refreshed.”
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Maybe you’re even thinking about how good a nice, hot shower would feel right now yourself.
If you do your research and put yourself in the shoes of your prospect, you’ll find there are usually ways to make even the most mundane product or service more enticing.
If You Can Put Yourself In Your Prospect’s Shoes and Imagine the Real Benefits They Are Going to Feel, Then You Can Write in a Way Which Can Glamorize Almost Anything.
From this point on I give you permission to…
Be BOLD with your writing.
Be FEARLESS with your writing.
Write with PASSION!
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 3
Write To One Person At A Time
Here’s a lethal mistake often made by new copywriters.
It’s the idea of speaking to “Everyone” instead of speaking only to “YOU”.
What does this mean?
It means you write out your sales message speaking to a group of people instead of with one person in mind.
The Dialogue of Your Message Should Be …
YOU and ME …
and Never ME and EVERYONE
If your prospect starts reading your sales message and they get a sense that it isn’t specifically for…
… THEM and THEIR unique needs…
… they will quickly abandon your web page or discard your sales letter into the closest garbage can.
You always need to write to your prospect like you are two old friends sitting in a sports pub throwing back cold ones. It’s like all of the sudden say excitedly to your friend…
“Hey! I heard something I think you’re going to be REALLY interested in.
Let me tell you all about it! Here it is…”
And then you go into the details of your sales message.
This is really the bottom line of EVERYTHING written in this special report and everything you need to know about copywriting and advertising.
It’s really all about passing along a feeling of excitement about “something” to another person.
You should know through research what this person will be interested in hearing all about it.
Then taking that whole package of BIG EMOTIONAL feelings and the message that conveys it.
Then send it out to the masses but speak only to … ONE PERSON AT A TIME!
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 4
Remember The Only Real Purpose For Advertising
There is one purpose for the writing of your ad.
It’s NOT to entertain, although sometimes being entertaining in the process is effective.
It’s also NOT to inflate yours or your client’s ego which is something that happens WAY too often, especially in local television or radio advertising.
So, what is it?
The sole purpose of direct response advertising is to get the sale or convince them to take an action that leads to the sale.
The Job of a Copywriter is to Persuade Your Reader to Take a Specific Action Which You Have Determined is the Ultimate Goal
In order to accomplish your goal of selling you must always start with your customer in mind.
To do that, continually ask yourself these questions while you’re writing:
Does this make sense to my prospect?
Is what I am saying important to my prospect?
Am I speaking to my prospect on their level without appearing to speak down to them in any way?
Am I writing to them about what’s important to them and not to me?
Selling is Ultimately About Transferring Emotions from Yourself to Your Prospect On a One on One Level
This is why you always write to your prospect like you are speaking to an old friend about something you are both interested in.
Keep in your mind as you write that you are speaking directly to them about what they desire.
How do you know what they desire? Through Research!
Before you ever start writing you must know your market inside and out but never assume you think you know your client without first putting in some serious research time.
What’s the fastest and most effective way to know what your prospect really wants?
It’s simpler than you probably realize.
You Ask Them!
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get face to face with anyone or even on the phone (although that is still probably THE most effective way).
There are some very powerful online tools you can use to find out what your perfect prospects are looking for.
You can use QUIZ and QUESTIONNAIRE apps and plug-ins for your web site or Facebook Page to target your ideal customers are thinking and what they really want so you can focus your product or service on fulfilling it.
Use these inexpensive tools to your advantage!
Never write a single word of your ad until you know exactly what your prospect really wants and THEN and ONLY THEN start writing.
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 5
Write Like You Talk
Have you ever sat down to write and suffered over what to type?
Then you fight to get a few sentences down and then when you read them back, they seem really stiff and robotic?
Well, don’t get down on yourself. We’ve ALL been there.
For some reason, most of us can ramble on and on verbally with no problem at all. Yet, when it’s time to write something down our brain just shuts off. We end up struggling to string along a couple of basic sentences.
At least any sentences that sound anywhere near like normal conversation. And that is the BIG problem.
We for some reason don’t naturally translate our thoughts to our fingers to get out what we want to say so we beat ourselves up thinking we just CAN’T write and that is total nonsense.
Every one of us is capable of writing.
The truth is…
You just need to train yourself to write exactly as you talk.
If You Can Talk. You Can Write!
It sounds simplistic and it is… but it’s also EXTREMELY effective.
How do we actually accomplish this? You start by turning off your internal editor and inner critic.
What I mean by that, is when we are talking out loud, we just let it all flow.
We don’t worry about every word before we say it.
We don’t start a sentence and then stop and start over with what we think is a better word.
We don’t worry about punctuation or concern ourselves much about what people will think about how we say things (although in many cases we should).
Nope, but when we are writing, we find ourselves constantly judging every word we write, and then we start, and we stop and then we get frustrated and give up.
So, what should we do? How do we conquer this?
Well, I believe the solution is to write in two completely separate phases.
In Phase 1 You Just Simply WRITE, WRITE and WRITE!
You must learn how to turn off your “inner editor or critic) (mine has a REALLY loud voice which sometimes paralyzes me with anxiety) and just let everything pour out of your heart, soul and mind out through your fingers onto your pad or computer.
During this phase, you must …
Give Yourself Permission To Suck!
Now, this doesn’t mean you stop trying to do your best. You still strive to be as good as you can, but if you’re not, WHO CARES?
No one has to see your first, second or even third draft of something. I’ve sometimes written and re-written something OVER 20 TIMES before turning it into a client or even before using for my own products or services.
Then, when you get to Phase 2 you take off your creative hat and put on your editor’s hat. This is where you meticulously read and cut and revise and read and cut again until you have trimmed away all of the fat and have gotten your writing into the place where you are satisfied enough to turn it in and move on to something else.
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 6
Establish Your Authority
To be persuasive with your writing you need to be able to answer these questions to establish the proper authority with your prospects:
Why should I listen to you?
Why should I listen to you about this?
This is particularly important if you are writing something which asks your prospect to change a habit, a negative behavior or to convince them to follow you down a new path in life.
If you haven’t been able to establish both TRUST and PROOF in your copy then it will be very hard to lead them to a newly desired action.
Having authority with your prospect should result in them agreeing with your suggestions and allowing themselves to accept your offer and then actually USE your product to help them live a better life.
Ways in which you can establish authority:
Highlight Your Accomplishments In This Area or Niche.
Proudly Flaunt Any Relevant Status You Currently Enjoy.
Display An Attitude of Indifference
Now, I’m not saying here that you should be a jerk in any way. But you don’t want to come off as a pushover either.
You want to work on developing a persona which is calm, confident, strong and indifferent to their approval.
There needs to be a mutual understanding that…
THEY NEED YOU… YOU DO NOT NEED THEM!
Let them know it’s not going to hurt you if they don’t follow your lead… it will be their loss and you are not afraid to let them know it.
Most importantly, when you are in this phase of trying to establish your authority make sure and TELL YOUR STORY! If you have a story that can somehow be used to influence your prospect or create a connection between you and them, then tell it.
This is something I learned from legendary marketer Dan Kennedy.
He has remarked at how there were times where he got sick of hearing his own story and assumed his audience was sick of hearing it to. But he found when he left out his story, his sales dropped dramatically.
So, tell your story every chance you get.
Tell your story even if your prospect has heard it before.
Don’t ever assume anyone knows or remembers your story.
Keep telling it to them.
Keep reminding them who you are and why they should care about what you are saying.
If your story contains elements of BEFORE and AFTER, it is especially powerful as this kind of demonstration creates a sense of camaraderie and a feeling of…
“If He Can Do It, Then So Can I”
This is how you will establish the authority you need to resonate with your prospects and turn them not just into buyers, but loyal followers who will come back time and time again to buy from you.
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 7
Make the Skeleton Dance
I first heard the term “Making the Skeleton Dance” from Ben Settle of BenSettle.com, but he credited it to George Bernard Shaw who said…
“If You Can’t Hide The Family Skeleton, You Might As Well Make It Dance!”
It means that if you have flaws with your product or service, don’t try to HIDE them… instead, you point them out and figure out how to use them to your advantage.
It is a VERY memorable way to remind yourself that NOTHING is perfect, and your prospects already know that.
If you act like your product or service is perfect with no flaws, your prospect’s BS alarm will go off, they’ll assume that you are full of it and won’t believe ANYTHING else you say in your sales message.
If You Present Your Product or Service as “Perfect” You Risk Your Prospects Doubting Everything in Your Sales Message
So, go ahead and reveal a flaw or two in your product or service as it will create a report with your prospect and will shine a new and very positive light on the big promises that you make.
By admitting that there might be an area where your product is lacking your customers will find the benefits you are stressing much easier to believe.
This will contribute to the trust factor which is vitally important in moving your prospect towards making a positive buying decision.
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 8
Respect The Amazing Power of Your Words
Often a single word can make a huge difference in the ability of an advertisement to make money.
In the 1920s, an ad for a Music Correspondence Course featured a headline which ran with a mistake.
The original headline was “Put Music in Your Life” … it ran with the mistake of a single letter being changed and the result of that letter change created an increased response of THREE TIMES the original ad.
What was the mistake?
The new headline added an “S” to the first word making the headline “Puts Music In Your Life”.
Why did this one letter change make such a difference in the pulling power of the ad? It’s all about human psychology.
Put make you think “Work”. Puts make you think “Done for you”. Or easy. Or no work involved.
We as humans are inherently LAZY and are always searching for a FASTER and EASIER way to do something.
If you can emphasize the FASTER and EASIER in your advertising, you will always have a selling advantage!
More importantly, this example shows you how much POWER there is in your words.
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 9
Remember What People Are REALLY Buying
What is that people really want?
What is it people are REALLY looking for when they buy your product or service?
From all of the research I have done and everything I have read about human motivation, I would say:
Everyone desires a change of some sort.
Everyone seeks a transformation from where they are to where they want to be.
Everyone wants a better, more fulfilling life.
This means different things to different people, but we are all human and are constantly searching for the missing intangible that we think will make us happier. Even someone who seemingly has everything this life can offer is rarely completely happy and satisfied.
You look at someone who is a multi-millionaire, lives in a mansion, is married to a super-model, drives a luxury car and think, “This guy has got it all!”
But in reality, even with all of the physical comforts of life, all of the toys, all of the things which are supposed to make you happy, this same person is probably quietly dissatisfied and looking for a real solution to whatever they feel is lacking.
It’s your PRIMARY goal as an entrepreneur or as an advertising writer or marketer to spend the majority of your energy finding out what that solution is your primary prospect is looking for.
And then how your product or service is going to fulfill all or some of those WANTS, NEEDS, DESIRES or urgent PROBLEMS they are facing in their life.
To be Successful With Your Advertising You MUST Position The Product or Service You Are Selling As A Savior… Their Knight in Shining Armor… A Hero On a White Horse Who is Riding Into Town to Rescue Them from Whatever Is Causing Them Pain
Or, you need to be able to show up excitedly at their proverbial front door, like a salesman of old, there to fulfill a great DESIRE they are longing for either overtly or secretly.
Maybe, something that they are lusting for down deep inside where we often bury our true emotions.
This is how entrepreneurs hit gold in the world today.
You fill a hole that is lacking in the marketplace.
You solve a problem which no-one else has been able to resolve.
Often, you “create a problem” your prospect doesn’t even realize they know they have… until you let them in on it… and then introduce your product or service as the hero.
Obviously, this is a huge subject and many books have been written on it but the bottom line with direct response copywriting to always keep in mind is:
“Find Out What Your Market Wants and Then Find A Way To Offer It To Them!”
Direct Response Copywriting Commandment 10
Just Get Started
When you have a writing job to do, what is the best way to get started?
Do you meditate and wait for inspiration to hit you?
If you are not feeling “inspired” do you get up from behind your laptop or writing desk and … go fishing … or to a movie …
… or (insert any other mindless distraction) until you get hit with the proverbial ‘lightning bolt” of sudden inspiration which you have been waiting for?
The Truth is, if You Have a Writing Job to do, You Need to Sit Down and …
JUST GET STARTED!
A good example of this comes from one of my true copywriting and advertising heroes, Eugene Schwartz who was a copywriter who made millions marketing his own books via mail order in the ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s.
He is the author of “Breakthrough Advertising” which in my opinion is one of the two best “Classic” books on copywriting ever written (along with Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples).
Anyways, in a seminar he gave to a group of advertising professionals, Mr. Schwartz gave his secret to maximum productivity as a writer and never have to worry about that most common of enemies… “Writer’s Block”.
Basically, he said that he started each work day with one simple goal. Just to sit down at his desk, with a cup of coffee and a kitchen timer.
The timer would be set for 33 and a half minutes and the only requirement he made of himself was to sit there until the timer went off. No other goals. No mandatory pages are written. Not even a minimum word count.
Nope, just sit there doing whatever he wanted… as long as he didn’t leave his desk.
He said that normally after just a couple of minutes of sitting there sipping his coffee he would start typing some thought into his typewriter.
Maybe he would look at something he wrote the day before and make an edit or two. Pretty soon, without even thinking about he was banging out fresh, new copy and when his timer went off, he would have had a VERY productive writing session.
Then he would take a short break. Stretch. Grab a snack or whatever. And then he would repeat the same ritual again. Over and over, he used this method to be one of the most prolific writers and most powerful copywriters who ever lived.
It’s a GREAT lesson that I have taken to heart. Now, my methods are different, but the basic idea is the same.
When you need to write something, just start with a small, easily attainable goal and then let yourself gradually build up momentum until your moving along breezily.
Remember that great saying by Woody Allen:
“80% of Success is Just Showing Up”
I think that may be a bit simplistic, BUT there is definitely some truth to it.
Everyone is different. You will need to find a routine which works for you, but your main goal should always be to JUST GET STARTED!
The Conclusion to The Ten Commandments of Direct Response Copywriting
Thank you for reading this special article. I hope that it will be useful to you and you can refer back to it whenever you have any advertising or marketing pieces to create.
If you haven’t downloaded my new book “The Entrepreneur’s Essential Headline Writing Blueprint”, you can get it for FREE at http://howtowriteheadlines.com for a limited time.
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