Ultimate Guide to Direct Response Copywriting

direct response copywriting


As a freelance copywriter who specializes in providing direct response copywriting services, I can say with 100% certainty that…

Direct Response Copywriting is Among THE Most Powerful Business Skills You Can Learn

Even with the rise in AI (Artificial Intelligence) writing software that promises to write like a human, there is NO comparison to being able to write your own copy or having a professional copywriter with REAL direct response copywriting skills write for you.

Why? Because no computer – no matter how advanced – can truly replicate human emotions like empathy which is CRITICAL to successful copywriting that speaks to and resonates with another person on a deep level.

A level that persuades them to act.

And that’s what direct response copywriting is truly all about.

In this article, I’m revealing (almost) everything I know from seven years as a freelance direct response copywriter. And over a decade OBSESSIVELY studying the subject.

How obsessive?  When I got married almost ten years ago, I took a copywriting course by legendary ad man John Carlton with me on our honeymoon.

But I would say my catching the “direct response copywriting bug” has been VERY profitable for me as well as my many clients.

If you don’t just read this article but use what you learn, you’ll find what you learn to be EXTREMELY profitable for you as well.

Excited? Let’s get started…

What Is Direct Response Copywriting?

Direct response copywriting is writing that persuades your target audience to take IMMEDIATE and DECISIVE action.

That action could be to opt into an email list for more information or a free offer.

It could be to schedule an in-person appointment or phone consultation.

In most cases, it’s to MAKE A SALE.

That’s why direct response copywriting is such an important skill to learn. After all, your business can’t survive without getting those sales.

However, not all copywriting is direct response and that’s where things get a little confusing.

What’s the Difference Between “Traditional” Copywriting and Direct Response Copywriting?

The big difference is that traditional copywriting is about creating brand awareness through long-term advertising campaigns.

The goal is to build market awareness around your product or service that is always “TOP OF THE MIND” for your potential customers. This is so when someone wants a soda in a restaurant for example they usually say “Give me a Coke” or maybe a Pepsi.

For decades these brands have used cute slogans, jingles, and catchy gimmicks to make sure you always think of them first rather than some “no name” product that is probably just as good or often even better.

And brand advertising does work.  In fact, if you have deep enough pockets to invest in it then it can be very profitable in the long run just as it has for Mcdonald’s or Budweiser.

That’s not to say that brand advertising only works for HUGE companies.  Local real estate agents, jewelry stores, and car lots can often get fantastic results as well.

But in most cases, NOTHING compares with the power of advertising created by direct response copywriting which is about getting immediate, measurable, and scalable RESULTS which turn a profit as fast as possible.

What Direct Response Copywriting Really Is

Direct Response Copywriting is much less about “writing” and much more about selling.

So, let’s spend some time taking a close look at what selling is all about.

If you ask most top direct response copywriters what the number one factor was in their success, I will bet most would say it was first having experience in face-to-face or over-the-phone sales.

Why? Because the fundamentals of getting a sale are the same whether you are peddling vacuum cleaners door to door…

… closing million-dollar real estate deals…

… or are selling financial newsletters online.

What Is the Secret to Success in Sales? 

Selling really comes down to figuring out what someone wants and then finding a way to give it to them.

Yes, there’s more to it but I like to break things down to the simplest way of looking at things.

Now, if you want to be as successful as possible, it’s important to drill down to the most urgent WANT, NEED, DESIRE, or PROBLEM your prospect needs to solve.

You want to target what they are already thinking about.

Hopefully, something they are so consumed with, they are even having trouble sleeping at night or concentrating on during their workday.

Then when you find a way to reach them and start out your sales message by addressing that which you know is important to them…

… it is SO much easier to grab their attention in order to give them all of the details of what you are offering them.

If you have a product or service which solves a problem or fulfills a desire and you can then get …

— > The RIGHT message in front of…

— > The RIGHT audience and make…

— > The RIGHT offer that compels them to act.

Then once you have tested and proven you have a winning formula you can go back to it repeatedly…

… steadily increasing your advertising investment and…

… truly make a fortune with even just one product.

Now, before we get into the advanced techniques of direct response copywriting there are some CRITICALLY important questions we need to find answers for.

Answers which are every bit as important to whether our advertising will be profitable as the magic words we will eventually choose to use as our psychological weapons.


“Is there a market for what you’re selling?”

This doesn’t mean there has to be a HUGE market for your product or service to be viable. There are MANY entrepreneurs out there making BIG money selling to SMALL niches.

But you do need to make sure there is enough of a market for you to be able to easily reach them. And then to be able to sell something to them they will desire enough to hit that “BUY” button.


“Do you believe in this product?”

If this is your product that you are writing the copy for, then you ask yourself this and if you are writing for someone else, then ask them.

But the heart of this question is this:

If someone is to buy this product or service, are they going to be better off than if they had just kept their money in their pocket?

If the answer is anything OTHER than their life is enhanced by buying what you are selling, then you might want to go back to the drawing board BEFORE you start writing the copy for a sub-par product, as you will ONLY be hurting your business in the long run if you have unsatisfied customers.

Now, I am NOT saying you should only sell products or services that people “need”.

If the only things sold starting now, were things that people NEEDED then our economy would CRASH in less than a day.

What I am saying is that what you are selling should be something that provides a benefit in SOME manner to your prospect…

… even if that benefit is ONLY an emotional benefit like…

… making themselves feel a little smarter, better looking, confident, or anything else that we as humans desire.

In other words, don’t sell garbage! Selling garbage will instantly disappoint.

So, keep things on the up and up and give your customers something of value.

Many people will buy a product JUST for the feeling they get knowing it is there and they MAY someday use it…

… if they desire to.

Direct Response Copywriting is About EMOTIONS First

Human beings are very EMOTIONAL creatures.

We might think we’re logical but trust me, Mr. Spock we are not.

All buying decisions are based on how that product or service makes the customer feel.

This is why good copywriting is EMOTIONAL copywriting!

Your copy should be SOAKED in emotions in order to be successful.

The most powerful emotional triggers that need to be pulled in order to get the sale are:

* Greed

* Flattery

* Fear

* Anger

* Guilt

* Salvation

* Pride and Danger

* The Desire for Gain …

… with the overwhelming most persuasive emotion being FEAR!

“Fear. Everything is based on Fear.”

Quote by Mel Brooks

Why Is Fear Such A Powerful Emotion?

If you want to guarantee the highest rate of sales conversion, then you can never go wrong selling from the perspective of FEAR.

While traditionally, most experts give the advice when crafting the headline of a sales promotion is to always begin with the BIG benefit your product or service provides to your prospect…

I believe it is more effective to lead with a FEAR headline.

You can create the foundation of your FEAR headline by writing a “Fear Statement”.

A “Fear Statement” is a short summary of the deepest, darkest fear your prospect has that your product or service will ultimately solve.

This fear statement should be featured in the headline and then hammered home throughout the body of your copy over and over again all the way through the close.

If you can catch your prospect’s attention in the headline by saying something that hits hard on a deep emotional level, then you have a good chance of pulling them into the body of your copy…

And keeping their attention all of the way until the close.

The key is to keep stoking the fires of that deep emotion until you introduce your product as the solution.

Fear is the ultimate villain that your product “the hero” can vanquish.

A great example of a classic headline that provokes both fear and its frequent ally curiosity at the same time is:

“What Never… EVER… to Eat on An Airplane!”

When this was written, meals were still commonly served on airplanes whenever you would fly.

If you were someone who flew frequently for work (as did most of the target audience, this ad was written for) then this headline would have made you react to it by needing to find out the answer… right away!

And anxiously hoping for it to arrive soon. Preferably before your next flight.

Fear of Loss Is Far More Powerful Than the Desire for Gain!

When I first learned this “Rule” of marketing it really surprised me, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to me.

When we have something, and there is a threat of us losing it, we get VERY defensive and will do almost ANYTHING to keep whatever it is.

This is why a guy or gal might totally take their partner for granted but as soon as someone else shows interest in them…


They are ready to FIGHT, BEG and PLEAD to keep their once-neglected love for becoming someone else’s neglected love.

Using FEAR in your marketing and especially in your HEADLINES, the more success you are almost guaranteed to have!


Because FEAR motivates us to TAKE ACTION!

This is why you always see politicians using fear tactics in their advertising to try and SCARE THE HECK out of you from voting for anyone on the other side of the aisle.

Because it WORKS!

How To Become a Great Direct Response Copywriter

So, can anyone REALLY learn to be a great direct response copywriter?

That’s a question I’m often asked.

And my answer is Yes. But only if you are willing to work hard at it.

Let me explain further. Copywriting is not a talent you are born with.

While there are some aspects of natural talent that may make you a better direct response copywriter, it really can be learned.

But that’s not to say it’s easy.

I personally hate all the “gurus” out there who tell people they can become a “top direct response copywriter” in a single weekend of taking their crash course in writing sales copy.

It’s just not that simple.

To learn to be a world-class direct response copywriter I hunted down and read (multiple times) every book on copywriting and direct marketing I could, in addition to taking multiple copywriting courses.

Then I was absolutely OBSESSED with studying the top direct response ads written by whoever was considered the masters of copywriting.

And when I say I obsessed over them, I’m talking about reading them line by line, word for word, repeatedly plus … HANDWRITING them.

To really learn to be a great direct response copywriter on a deep psychological level…

Nothing Compares with Copying Great Sales Copy by Hand

I’ll admit, it is VERY tedious. And your hand will cramp up and ACHE just like your muscles after you hit the gym for the first time in years.

In fact, I promise you’ll HATE it!  At first anyway.

But I’ve been doing it for so long now that I love it, and it is one of my greatest secrets to becoming a top direct response copywriter.

It’s something after almost a decade of studying copywriting that I STILL do every single day with the goal of continually sharpening my chops as a great direct response copywriter.

Now, a serious warning for you. If you are going to attempt this, DO NOT just copy any random advertisement or sales letter.

Only write out PROVEN ads like this one below by legendary copywriter Gary Halbert.

Gary HAlbert

What I suggest is to get your hands on as many classic “Old School” ads from legends like Eugene Schwartz, John Caples and more from one of my heroes featured above – Gary Halbert.

You can’t go wrong learning from these guys and it’s relatively easy to find copies of their top-producing ads by doing a basic Google search.

Also, make sure you ONLY WRITE IN CURSIVE.

There is a proven neurological connection between writing something in cursive and in retention on a subconscious level.

Writing out complete ads and sales letters, exactly as written with each indent, underline, capitalization, etc. will download in your brain the rhythm and structure of great copywriting.

I promise you, that doing this is the fastest way possible to leapfrog to the top level of copywriting greatness. But please accept the fact that this takes time.

I spent YEARS writing out 8, 10 even 20-page sales letters and multiple-page ads before taking on my first copywriting clients.

Maybe it won’t take you quite as long as it took me but be prepared to put in the work.

I guarantee it’ll be worth it in the long run whether performing copywriting tasks for yourself or clients.

Another important tip is to start building your library of classic books on advertising and copywriting.

Here are some of the books in my library that I highly recommend you track down and start reading immediately.

(By the way, you don’t have to just go through Amazon. I’ve found many of these books in used bookstores, second-hand stores, and libraries where they sell off old books to make room for new ones.)

Here’s a partial list of my most prized copywriting classics:

  1. Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
  2. The Robert Collier Letter Book by Robert Collier
  3. Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
  4. The Copywriter’s Handbook by Bob Bly
  5. How to Write A Good Advertisement by Victor Schwaab

Again, this is a partial list. There are many more but if I had to part with every book BUT five, these are the ones I would keep.

Go out… FIND THEM… READ THEM… STUDY THEM. Repeat at least once per year.

Follow this advice and you too can become a truly great direct response copywriter.

Conclusion to the Ultimate Guide to Direct Response Copywriting

I hope you enjoyed the Ultimate Guide to Direct Response Copywriting as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you put everything you’ve learned here to work in your business I KNOW you’ll experience better overall results.

About Direct Response Copywriter Robert Sean Pascoe

Direct Response Copywriting

Robert Sean Pascoe with Copywriting Legends Matt Furey and Ted Nicholas

Robert Sean Pascoe is a direct response copywriter and marketing strategist who works with entrepreneurs worldwide to create advertising and marketing campaigns that maximize their profits.

With 16 years of copywriting experience and a lifetime in sales, Robert knows how to use the power of words to sell virtually anything to anyone, especially if the market has been properly defined.

Robert enjoys primarily working with small business owners to sell more of their products and services through the power of direct response advertising and marketing.

He has written sales copy for companies in such diverse niches as Weight Loss Supplements, Skin Care, Male Enhancement, Local Marketing Agencies, Live Event Seminars, Software Developers, Insurance Agencies, Real Estate Brokerages, Marketing Consultants, and many, many more.

To learn more about his copywriting services please visit https://worldclasscopywriting.com