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The Secret to Better Response

Posted by Brian Jones on January 11, 2023

There's one sure thing direct marketers know and it's this...

Through scientific testing and retesting — certain direct response techniques work better than others.

And these proven tactics, when used correctly, will virtually guarantee a lift in your response rates.  

Some of these techniques are simple. You're probably using them right now. And as we say at J&C "simple works."

Other aspects, like say copywriting, are a bit more involved and, although they seem straightforward (hey anybody can write, right?). It requires a keen eye, an intimate knowledge of grammar, syntax, human nature, psychology, sales, and expert communication skills — on top of years of direct marketing expertise.

So, to get 2023 off on the right foot, we're going to review THE number one techniques that can give your next campaign that significant boost... 

The #1 Secret to Increasing Your Response Rates in 2023
Good direct response copy

That's it.

Your copy. The words you use. The way you use them, the tone they take, and the way they make the reader feelthat's your secret weapon.

As we said, anyone can write. Your intern can write a letter. Or your CEO. There are plenty of companies that do their own marketing in-house. Some are having success. Others are learning the hard way that a poorly written sales letter WILL absolutely kill response.

Good direct response copy is easy to recognize. It's like a good song on the radio. You know it when you hear it, but could you write it? With just the right rhythm, the right words, with the right number of syllables, the catchy hook, the passion, and the feeling? Could you write a song that moved people so much that they'd run to grab their hard-earned money and give it to you?

Good direct response copy is easy to recognize.

It's like a good song on the radio.

You know it when you hear it, but could you write it?

Well, not many people can.

It's the same with direct response copy.iStock-1208398816 


Good direct response copy is NOT about slamming the toll-free phone number into your letter every chance you get. Yes, calls-to-action are important, but direct response copy also needs to flow — and be logical and persuasive without being pushy or overbearing. 

Why? Because the hallmark of good direct response copywriting is that it motivates your prospect to pick up the phone and call your toll-free number, go to your website and enter a credit card number, or drop that check in the mail right now — because it's THEIR choice. 

You should also know that Direct Response copy works because it’s based on science (read the first five pages of Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins and you'll be sold).

Still, you see a lot of agencies create clever copy and beautiful designs to get attention. That's great, but it's only the first part of the equation. To get new customers you need a strong, concrete, hard-hitting benefit. One that's going to make a difference in your readers' lives. One they didn't know they needed until they read about it. And one that's delivered with an offer that's so good, the reader sells himself. 

That's right. In about a nanosecond, the reader does a calculation in their heads that says "if I divide the benefits of this product by the price of what it's going to cost me, I'll arrive at the value of this thing. And if I find the value to be high enough, I'm getting it." 

Kahneman.jpg.prod_mainAnd yeah, that all happens through what we call fast thinking (read the first five pages of Daniel Kahneman's book "Thinking Fast and Slow"). And it usually is verbalized (either internally or externally) in a phrase like "huh, that's a pretty good deal."

When a direct response agency creates a campaign for you, you can be sure it will be based on the science of what makes advertising effective.


Using these tried-and-true techniques, a direct response copywriter will: 

  • Get the reader's attention
  • Generate interest in your product (usually with a provocative, benefit-driven headline or header/image combination)
  • Create a strong desire (using more benefits) for your product in your prospect’s mind
  • Overcome your prospect’s skepticism, doubts, and objections (usually with a guarantee)
  • Inspire prospects to take action - pick up the  phone, go online, mail in an order form or even stop into a brick-and-mortar store

The difference is that science is driving this copy. Words and images are used for a specific reason. Ideas are arranged on a page in a specific order. Every element on the page has a purpose. And when done correctly, the piece will lead your reader through your message in precisely the order you want, ending in a crescendo of an offer that leaves readers ready to respond. 

It’s easy to see how mastering the science behind direct response marketing can give your marketing materials the power to dramatically increase your sales and profits. But it's all anchored by the words.

Copy Is King

Yes, your copy is what sells. Images attract and can work in conjunction with your words (visual hammer/verbal nail), but copy is whatCopyKingAdjustedSquare delivers the message, copy converts inertia to action, copy is king. If you want your campaign to be a hit, just like a hit song, you should leave the copy work to professional direct response copywriters. 

However, if you think you have the chops to craft a winner yourself, there are a few other things to keep in mind when writing your direct response copy:

It's all about "YOU" 
Yes, good direct response copywriters always start with "YOU" - the reader. 

Before you write a single word, you should know — I mean really know — your target. In fact, you should:

  • Know what’s bothering them, what their challenges are, and what your product or service does to help
  • Know exactly how your prospects will benefit from your product or service
  • Know how they prefer to respond (make it easy and give them options)

After reading your direct response letter, the reader should clearly understand how your product or service satisfies their needs and desires. They should see why using your product is better for them. Your copy will have convinced them — even guaranteed it. And you'll have provided a clear path to action. And they will respond.

 When done correctly, direct response copy  delivers consistently better returns on your marketing investment 

General ad agencies charge a lot of money for slick TV commercials. And sure, a lot of people may see those ads — but do they impact sales? Who knows? But a trackable, hardworking direct response letter is still one of the best investments you can make in your business. 

And the beauty of direct response copy is that it's not just for mail — you can use it to craft emails, websites, landing pages, banner ads, or any other kind of communication.

 When done correctly, direct response copy

 delivers consistently better returns

on your marketing investment 

And you can rest assured that direct marketers have been testing and analyzing and retesting these techniques for dozens and dozens of years. Over time, direct marketers have looked at response rates for tens of thousands of ads, billboards, direct mail packages, radio spots, television commercials, websites, emails, banner ads, and pay-per-click ads as well. 

And they've...

  • Compared marketing copy and strategies with the number and quality of responses they've generated
  • Discovered which tactics were wildly successful, which were OK, and which were abject failures
  • Analyzed exactly WHY and HOW successful marketing techniques earned revenue and why some didn’t
  • Validated their discoveries and re-tested again and again

And over the years, direct marketers have developed an invaluable database of copy strategies and techniques that are proven to work. Good writers also know when they work, and why they work. 

Many have codified what they’ve learned into rules of direct marketing. We have a list of 20 Copy and Design Rules here at J&C.

That said, great direct response copywriters know when, why, and how to break those rules, too. But the bottom line is, direct response copy typically gets more results than almost any other type of advertising copy. 

Direct Response Copy Rule #11: 
In many cases, long copy works better than short copy (direct response copywriters know when longer copy is appropriate).

iStock-589542594For example, if your product or service is worth selling, your best customers will want to know all about it. Think about something you considered buying recently. If it was important to you, you probably sought out every detail you could find.

You wanted to know the benefits, why it was better than a competitor's, and get answers to your objections. So when you clearly and completely tell readers about your product, what you want them to do and why it might take more than one or two pages of copy. 

Likewise, the more expensive or complicated a product is, the longer your copy needs to be. Conversely, if you're looking to generate leads, your copy will probably be shorter than if you're trying to make a sale.

Writing great copy requires expertise  
A direct marketing expert is someone who has a deep and intimate knowledge of proven direct marketing strategies and techniques. Big agencies will tell you that copy should be clever or funny or entertaining (take a look at the Super Bowl commercials this year). And that's fine — unless you're responsible for sales, response, and revenue.

Some companies believe they can enlist a secretary, sales manager, or the company's president (...heiStock-517877754 wrote for his college newspaper — he's a great writer). But he's never heard of direct response.

In addition to the raw knowledge required, writing copy that sells embodies elements of psychology, logic, and common sense. But here's the good news:

  • Writing direct response copy isn’t a mystery. It’s equal parts art and science, and direct marketers have mastered both.  
  • Your response rate can easily be doubled,  tripled, quadrupled, or more when you hire a professional direct marketing copywriter
  • Your direct marketing investment can easily pay for itself
  • Direct response copywriters use scientifically proven, time-tested words and phrases
  • Clear, concise, and compelling words, sentences, and paragraphs are the foundation for good direct marketing

BONUS (for reading this far):
Here are some other proven tactics you can use right now. These are all second nature to good direct marketing copywriters:

  • Use short sentences. They are easier to read
  • Use one-syllable words. They're easier to understand.
  • Break ideas into short paragraphs
  • Indent copy and use white space to open up the page
  • Keep the opening paragraph short
  • Vary paragraph lengths, give your copy a rhythm
  • Use color for subheads, bullets, and indentions 

  • Don’t use clichés or industry jargon.
  • Give readers clear instructions — “over please,” “call now” or “click here.”
  • Make sure "YOU" is the subject or understood in most of your sentences.
  • Use an active voice rather than passive 
  • Use the present tense verbs
  • Write with a single person in mind
  • Don't use exclamation points — they're a poor substitute for genuine enthusiasm. Let your facts, benefits, and offer get people excited
  • Use an ellipse (. . .) or dashes (—) instead of periods (a period is the equivalent of a stop sign to your reader) to keep people reading. 

Ok, we know, that's a lot to take in. So, if you need help putting your next
direct mail letter together, let us help. Or maybe you’re looking to improve the copy for a campaign you’re already running. Well, J&C has over 40 years of direct response experience and would be happy to learn more about your company and your objectives. Contact J&C today. That way, we can give you an honest assessment of how direct mail can work for you.

Topics: Direct Marketing, Direct Mail, Creative

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