What Is Direct Response Copywriting? (And How To Find The Right Direct Response Copywriter To Hire)

Everyone’s been there. Maybe they forgot someone’s birthday, or put off holiday shopping for too long. Either way, they have to buy NOW, or the presents won’t arrive on time.

Now imagine you’re talking to that customer. What do they need to know? How will you convince them to act?

It’s do-or-die time—you’re ready to make a sale. 


Qualities Of Good Direct Response Copy

What is direct response copywriting? (and how to find the right direct response copywriter to hire)

Effective direct response copy grips the reader’s attention at the beginning and drags it until the end. It doesn’t let go for a second.

As Joseph Sugarman explained in his AdWeek Copywriting Handbook way back in 2007: 

  • The purpose of the first sentence is to make you want to read the second sentence. 
  • The purpose of the second sentence is to make you want to read the third sentence. 

If all goes well, it shouldn’t take long until you arrive at the bottom of the page.

That can be easier said than done, though. See, effective direct response copy also contains the following elements:

  • An eye-catching headline - Most people don’t read past the headline before they bounce to another page. "Clickbait" headlines are all over the internet for a reason. It’s because they work. 
  • A clear and compelling value proposition - Identify the reader's problems and present your solution. Then, give a brief summation of what you offer and write the rest of the copy to explain that benefit in greater detail.
  • Adequate length - It may seem counterintuitive to write long copy in the era of Twitter and Instagram, but studies show that it works. 
  • Write for one person - You’re not just writing a pitch, you’re using insight to improve their lives in specific ways.
  • Graphic hierarchy - Direct the reader to the most important sections of the page using size, color, contrast, and position to maximize the impact of your copy. Graphics, videos, and even charts should accompany good copy.


Types Of Direct Response Copywriting

What is direct response copywriting? (and how to find the right direct response copywriter to hire)

Direct response copywriting started out as mail, billboards, posters, and flyers. As technology became more prevalent, it extended to product pages, digital advertisements, and blogs.

Learn how to use direct response copywriting to boost conversions with the help of this article.


Traditional Media

Classic direct response copywriting focused on letters. What goes on the envelope? What makes the consumer want to open it? What goes “above the fold?”

While many people prefer to communicate through email, the average person still gets mail—even if it’s just advertisements. For example, you may get flyers from your local grocery store, letters from charities and schools asking for donations, or any number of papers asking for your attention and money.

The next time you get “junk” mail, look at it before you toss it. What’s the first thing you see? How about the second thing? Does the introduction hook you and make you want to read to the end? You can learn a lot from this so-called worthless mail.

What is direct response copywriting? (and how to find the right direct response copywriter to hire)

Media Today

Direct response copywriting typically involves digital advertising: Facebook advertisements, sponsored Google results, and any pop-up you get from a site when you try to leave without buying the things in your cart. 

It could even be an email that says, “You left three items in your cart,” or a note at the bottom of the product page reminding you that there are only two items left, so you should order now.

Whether it’s paper or silicon, all direct response includes a call to action throughout the text—it’s the purpose of your advertisement, after all.


Steps To Creation

What is direct response copywriting? (and how to find the right direct response copywriter to hire)

It's crucial to craft a compelling headline that immediately captures the attention of your target audience and entices them to read more. A strong headline can make the difference between a reader moving on or engaging with your content.


It’s All About “You”

Address your audience as if they’re the only person in the room. They should feel like you’re speaking directly to them and considering their unique situation and needs.

It doesn’t have to be hard, either. Market research and buyer personas help you put yourself in your customer’s place and imagine what they want to see and want to hear from you.

Research demographics, psychographics, and other details about the people you’re targeting. While you may be speaking to a particular segment of the population, it needs to feel as if you’re only talking to individuals.


Develop a Unique Value Proposition

Don’t only list features. It’s important to know the product or service you’re buying, but what you’re also buying is the idea of what it can do to improve your life.

Let’s think about a self-cleaning cat litter box. Pretty convenient, huh? You could talk about the technical aspects, the science behind it, and how it all comes together. You might list the sizes and the types of materials it’s made from. Still, your unique value proposition needs to go beyond that.

What pain points are you alleviating? Well, people don’t like to clean litter boxes. It’s stinky, sometimes you inhale litter dust, and it could be even more of a nuisance to a partner or roommate.

So who doesn’t want to make their chores easier? Imagine a scenario where two partners argue over who has to clean the litter box next. Suddenly, we have the automatic cat box, and the two people are getting along again. Problem, agitation, solution — a classic.


Market Research

We talked about knowing your audience—making your copy feel like an intimate letter from an old friend. You can only do this if you’ve researched your audience, their demographics, their pain points, and the extent of their coping abilities.

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Look at what campaigns have worked before and figure out why. Then, analyze your competitor’s most successful direct response marketing campaigns.

Create a detailed buyer persona once you know your target audience. For example, do they live in the country or a city? Are they married? College educated? Do they have kids? These factors affect what value proposition will appeal to them the most and show how effective your call to action will be.


Attention-Grabbing Headline

You’ve heard it before: 80% of readers never read past the headline. Bounce rates for landing pages confirm this. Even worse, without a great headline, someone might not even click on the article.

Coming up with the right headline is a tricky business. You want to use powerful words, such as:

  • Revolutionary
  • Breakthrough
  • Exclusive
  • Unbelievable
  • Incredible
  • Amazing
  • Remarkable
  • Stunning
  • Sensational
  • Unprecedented

But when does a word or phrase stop being powerful and become a cliche? Take a look at these phrases to get a better idea of what not to write:

  • Easy Lifehacks
  • “You won’t believe…”
  • X Shocking Reasons Why…

One person’s cliche is another person’s power phrase. So know your audience and your competitors, and find out if your headline is fresh, enchanting, or stale.


Active Voice

Use the active voice, not the passive voice. Yes, it sounds like advice from every freshman creative writing class professor you ever had, but it still rings true.

Picture this:

“We picked half a dozen fresh bananas.”

Now make it this:

“Half a dozen fresh bananas were picked.”

Doesn’t the second sentence sound wishy-washy and weak? It’s like you’re trying to avoid responsibility for your actions. Maybe you’d see it in a legal document or something equally formal, but it’s not riveting copy.


The Trouble with Adverbs

Here’s some other 101-level advice that rings true: don’t overuse adverbs. As a rule of thumb, adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They often end in “-ly.”

Many free editors, such as Hemingway or Slick Write, will track how many adverbs you’ve used in your copy and make recommendations. For example, they’ll suggest a certain amount of adverbs and passive verbs per word count. 

Other editors like Quillbot and Grammarly will make alternative suggestions to reword your copy for clarity. 

More than anything, avoid intensifiers like “very” or “really.” Choose a stronger adjective instead. The same goes for verbs: don’t “run quickly” to the store, “dash” to it.

What is direct response copywriting? (and how to find the right direct response copywriter to hire)


The Ancient Greeks described persuasive logic in three categories:

  • Logos - Your rational mind.
  • Ethos - Your conscience and what society expects of you.
  • Pathos - Your emotional mind

The secret to persuasive direct response copy is that human beings use “pathos,” or emotion, to process their initial response. Then they use “logos” and “ethos” to justify it.

Advertisers take advantage of this quality all the time. Maybe you see a really nice jacket for sale, but it’s $200, and you just bought one last month. 

You’re about to walk by when you notice a sign: “5% of this purchase goes to The Nature Conservancy.” Well, who wouldn’t want to save the planet? So into your shopping cart it goes. 

Here's how you can find and hire the perfect direct response copywriter for you.



“Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.” If you can capture your audience’s interest and make them wonder what else you have to offer, you’re on your way to making a sale.

It’s even better if you give them a deadline—they only have a limited time to get the deal or find out what’s what. 

Companies do this on their websites all the time. For example, they’ll have a countdown timer for when a sale ends. Never mind that they’ll have the exact same sale the following weekend—you have to make your decision today.


Price Anchoring

This trick is old but still golden. Set an initial price, then offer a discount. If you charge 20 dollars upfront, they might think it’s too much. But if you offer it for 30 and say you’ll make a deal and sell it to them for only 20, suddenly, it feels like a much better deal.

Every company does this. The principle behind those “customer cards” is that they make you sign up at the supermarket. Not only do you get a discount on your groceries, but the company can also track your spending and send you information about more deals. 

Mention a higher price, then offer a lower one. It’s a simple, time-tested way to sway the reader in your copy.



You might know AIDA, but meet AIDCA, the slightly more sophisticated sibling. 

  • Attention - A short, striking headline or a great image makes the reader stop and look at the page.
  • Interest - A compelling introduction hooks your readers' curiosity and holds it until the end.
  • Desire - What does your reader need? How can you provide that for them? How do you show them how your product or service benefits them?
  • Conviction - Back it up with social proof. This could be a testimonial, a review, or an award from a certifying organization. Tell a story of how you’ve helped other consumers and back it up with facts.
  • Action - The response you wanted. Whether it’s a sale or a request for more information, this was the reason for writing your copy in the first place. You know you’ve succeeded when readers make it through all the phases until the end.


Testing… Testing…

Is this thing on?

Back in the old days, when the rules of direct response copywriting were being written, it wasn’t as easy to test as it is today. But marketers still did it.

“Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” — David Ogilvy

“The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is TEST. If you pretest your product with consumers and pretest your advertising, you will do well in the marketplace.” — David Ogilvy

“Almost any question can be answered cheaply, quickly, and finally by a test campaign. And that’s the best way to answer them. Not by arguments around a table.” — Claude Hopkins

A hundred years ago, Hopkins was one of the first copywriters to describe the Test-Measure-Refine loop (TMR). He included coupons in his ads to make it easy to track which copy was the most effective.

Whereas the TMR used to be weeks or even months, now you can get results in hours or even minutes. Thanks to the internet, we have more data than we know what to do with and the tools to get any information we need.



You’ve cast your line into the water, but the fish aren’t biting. Why’s that?

One of the more critical aspects you can test is the headline. Much like the top of a resume, the headline is the first thing the reader sees and what makes them decide whether to keep going.

Some copywriters used to spend hours agonizing over creating the perfect headline — now you can generate one online in moments.

However, you should still understand the principles behind an eye-catching and useful headline. Use generators as a starting point, not a crutch.

For example, headlines should be exciting. They should create curiosity. Open loops create a lack of closure that compels readers to keep going. What’s the secret to making the perfect banana bread? Keep reading to find out.

See how that works?

“On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of the dollar.” — David Ogilvy


Buyer Personas

You’re reaching a broader audience but not getting those conversions. Have you considered that you might be talking to the wrong group of people? 

Marketing surveys and user testing show which demographic you want versus the one viewing your copy. Split test for different versions until you find the one that speaks to the appropriate audience.

Still trying to figure out who your audience is? Look back at your buyer personas. Refer to research data from previous sales and competitors. 

What are they like? What are they looking for? What are their pains and goals?

If it helps, you can divide an online audience into four major categories:

  • Competitive - Looking for an advantage, highly logical, and wanting answers NOW.
  • Spontaneous - This is instant gratification. The audience wants answers now and goes with their gut feelings about decisions.
  • Methodical -  They want details and evidence and make slow, logical decisions. This segment is not receptive to direct response copy.
  • Humanistic - They value long-term relationships. They take their time and speak from the heart. While pathos arguments work well with this segment, making them take immediate action is difficult. 

Use these customer research strategies to help elevate your conversions.

What is direct response copywriting? (and how to find the right direct response copywriter to hire)

Bounce Rate

So, you’ve looked at your figures and statistics. You’re finally reaching the right audience, but they’re not getting to the bottom of the page.

Maybe it’s your bounce rate. What’s that? Well, your bounce rate measures how quickly a consumer leaves the page after it loads. It’s determined by many factors—internet speed, for one. 

While you may not have this problem, not everyone has 4G on their phones. So you should optimize for different browsers and different connection speeds. Look at your demographics again. Are they accessing your page from a phone or a desktop?

Remember, TMR — Test, Measure, and Refine until you’ve reduced your bounce rate to unacceptable levels.

You tested and found the appeal to the best audience. You’ve got the fish’s attention. So why aren’t they biting?



All this top-grade effort will be for nothing if you’re not getting the response you want from the audience you’ve worked so hard to captivate.

What’s the purpose of direct response? To compel the reader to take immediate action. It doesn’t matter how beautiful and clever your writing is if it doesn’t also get results.


That’s All, Folks

Remember, some of the most important qualities of direct response copywriting are:

  • An eye-catching headline that stimulates curiosity and creates an open loop. Ask a question and tease an answer. Use evocative language to grab their attention. Try numbered lists to plug into the user’s analytical side.
  • Slippery slide body content that urges the reader to continue reading to the end. Think of a 5-year-old. Ask yourself, “Why?” until you’ve run out of arguments.
  • All points to and supports a value proposition. What unique selling point do you have to offer, or what’s the reason for the copy in the first place?
  • Length. At the end of the marketing funnel, this is your last chance to anticipate and address all potential objections to your pitch. By now, the reader should already be familiar with your brand and curious about your offer.
  • One-on-one. You may address a particular audience or demographic, but the reader needs to feel you’re talking to them, not to a number. They should feel as if the reader and the writer are the only two people in the room having a personal conversation.
  • Follow the basic rules of layout, composition, and graphic design. More than making text bigger or smaller, examine color, contrast, and creative placements to determine where the eyes fall first. This isn’t just moving eyes from the top to the bottom of the page.


Get Your Response

What is direct response copywriting? (and how to find the right direct response copywriter to hire)

Direct response copywriting is a powerful technique that helps businesses to persuade their customers to take a specific action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a service. 

It is essential for businesses to have an effective direct response copy that grabs the reader's attention from the beginning and holds it until the end. 

The elements that make up good direct response copy include an eye-catching headline, a clear and compelling value proposition, adequate length, writing for one person, and graphic hierarchy. 

To find the right direct response copywriter to hire, it is important to consider the writer's experience, portfolio, and testimonials from previous clients.


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About Daniel Doan

Daniel is a proven Neuro-Response copywriter with over a decade of expertise bridging the gap between what your company wants to say and what your customers actually want to read.

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