Direct Response Copywriting – 10 Great Strategies

copywriting strategies

What is Direct Response Copywriting?

Julia McCoy at Express Writers, defines it best:

"...direct-response copywriting focuses on the immediate moment. This is copy that’s about inspiring the buyer to take action as soon as they’re finished reading."

One reason many start-ups fail is because of ineffective direct response copywriting efforts.

They find it confusing and difficult, so they end up producing a quick piece that (barely) defines what they do and then send it out in an email, or post it on social media, with the hopes that it's "good enough".

Generally, it isn’t.

Sure, the email may get opened, but if the recipient isn’t “sold” on the your idea, and its benefits, then it’s a waste of time - for you and for them.

Most new entrepreneurs don’t have any idea of what effective direct response copy looks like, or how to be write their own persuasive copy.

If more business owners understood the power behind using a direct response copy formula, they would attract customers that are pre-sold BEFORE signing an offer, AND those customers are more likely to:

  1. Actually try out the product.
  2. Follow through if they have problems since they already have a bias towards the product or service’s worth.

In the five years of running contents sites garnering millions of view, working with TechStars, heading a copywriting and growth hacking agency, and overseeing a fast-growing Facebook group, I've identified 10 strategies every small business owner needs to know when it comes to their ad copy:

The 10 Strategies

1. Direct response copywriting success is 10% writing... and 90% promotion.

As Gary Vee from Wine Library puts it, it’s “20 minutes a day creating the video and four hours trying to promote it and get shout-outs from bigger channels.” In other words, it’s all about the hustle.

2. The first line of your promotional copy has only job - to get the reader to the second line.

The second line leads to the third line and the third line to the fourth, and so on.

People struggle to keep their focus; your job is to do the work (writing great copy) to get that focus...and to keep it until the job is done.

3. Utilize the “curiosity gap” – it still works.

Your customers are naturally curious, so leave a little bit out of your headline or title. Stimulate them to be curious enough to click through to get the rest.

For instance, here is an awful title: "Snapchat Becomes Top Marketing Channel for Innovative Brands."

You could make it more mysterious. Something like: "Innovative Brands Favorite Social Network – It’s Not What You Think."

Mystery will get you more clicks.

4. Hold people’s attention with pattern disruptions.

People are easily bored - and tend to skim copy quickly - without really focusing on what's being said.

Do, or say, something they are not expecting.

For example, swear, mention sex, create new words, and misspell words, use emojis and slang.

This keeps them from clicking away because they are looking for the next novelty tidbit.

5. Write in a narrative voice.

Want to sound human and not like a robot?

Write ad copy as if you are talking across a table with the reader. In other worlds, write like you would talk.

Writing coach Paul Graham suggests that you read your posts out loud. If they sound false or weird, make changes.

"As for how to write well - here’s the short version: Write a bad version 1 as fast as you can; rewrite it over and over; cut out everything unnecessary." Paul Graham

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Personally, I hold my writing to the standards of my favorite authors. Would I want Bret Easton Ellis to read my writing?

6. Remember there are always exceptions.

Of all the advice you will hear, including mine, it’s not 100% true, 100% of the time.

Experts will tell you that people have very short attention spans or they only want to view videos.

That is not my experience, and I know a lot of people who are making a ton of money by ignoring that advice and breaking many "rules".

7. Sales letters are still useful for selling.

For those who have never heard the term “sales letter,” it’s a direct response copywriting strategy from the direct response era of the 70s and 80s.

A great sales letter follows an 11-part formula that includes:

  1. Headline – This is your attention-grabber and the most crucial part of your sales letter.
  2. Subheading – Introduces a big benefit and validates any outrageous claim in your headline.
  3. Identify the problem – What problem are you solving? If you don’t know, you need to find out!
  4. Build your story and list credentials – Your story makes you believable to your future customers. Insert your credentials here as well.
  5. Product benefits – List the benefits the will receive from your product or service.
  6. Show social proof – It shows that you’ve had success with others. You can display company logos from those you’ve work with or have been mentioned in and, more importantly, share customer testimonials.
  7. Make the offer – This section is second most important, right after the headline. Reveal your offer and show how much value they are getting in comparison to the price.
  8. List your guarantee – Few start-ups do this, but you will see a massive increase in conversion rates. Let your confidence that people will love your product outweigh the potential refunds. Also, the more audacious the guarantee is, the better the conversion rate. For example, offer to double their money back if they don’t achieve the desired outcome. Of course, they must show they actually used the product first.
  9. Create scarcity – Let your reader know that this deal doesn’t last forever, and only a few can apply. Let’s say you are testing out a new product. You only need a few beta testers. Product Hunt pulled this off amazingly when they only allowed journalists and investors onto the platform in its early stages.
  10. Give your call-to-action – Let them know why they need to act now, not later!
  11. Add a P.S. – The P.S. is the third most important part of your sales letter, believe it or not! It provides you the opportunity to re-enforce your guarantee, remind the customer of the primary benefits, or make a slightly modified call-to-action.

This old standby format has made billions for companies over the last decades.

Don’t ever think that just because these days this tested and re-tested format is under-rated - it's not going to work today. It has stood the test of time.

8. Avoid neutral clichés.

Example, “Here’s something we can all agree on.” – Just don’t use them in any of your marketing copy. Period.

Clichés are overused expressions. At one time they might have been original. But now they’re old and stale. They make reading (or listening to a speaker) boring and bland. This is bad news for any business.

After all, you don’t excite employees by being boring or bland. Nor do you inspire customers.

Source: 7 Business Cliches You Should Avoid… Publication Coach

9. Know your target market before  you start writing.

If you don’t know their thoughts, fears, or needs, nothing you write will convert well.

Get to know them. Then write.

10. Do opposite of what you think.

Imagine what your direct response copy “should look like” and do the exact opposite.

Avoid being salesy.

Instead, think humour, dark, or different, and see your ad copy come across 10x better.


There they are – 10 direct response copywriting strategies you need as a small business owner. What about you? What’s your #1 copywriting tip?

Like this? Vin has just collated the 100 best growth hacks in the world into a book and course. You can get it at Ace the Game

Additional Resources That Can Help When it Comes to Learning Effective Direct Response Copywriting:

Vin Clancy

About Vin Clancy

Why Me And How I Can Help You?

I was on welfare four years ago, living off government assistance.

I launched two websites that received over 20 million visitors, two rounds of funding, and got into the TechStars accelerator.

After starting a six-figure copywriting and growth hacking agency, I started teaching others how to gain traffic, followers, and users without spending large amounts of money.

In the last year my book on innovative marketing (growth hacking), launched on Kickstarter, raised over $100,000 in pre-orders, and I completed a 100-date speaking tour.

If you’re looking to grow or start a business, I can teach you the secret strategies I used to do all of the above, as well as the latest techniques that are working right now.

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