How To Write Direct Marketing Copy

Direct marketing is one of the most lucrative copywriting opportunities around. And it’s well worth the hype. Unlike other forms of advertising, direct marketing gets immediate, measurable and plain-as-day results: a campaign is either successful (lots of conversions) or not (low conversions). There are no intangibles — like mindshare and awareness — to measure. Instead, it’s all quantifiable numbers that give you immediate feedback as to your results.

Sales Letters

Arguably the oldest form of direct marketing copy, sales letters have been around for at least a couple centuries. And, yes, it’s been selling products successfully since then, too.

These days, despite the proliferation of electronic media, sales letters remain one of the most viable forms of direct selling available. While you probably receive less of them in the mail these days, we bet you get a ton of the same thing on email. Same with many landing pages on the web, a lot of which use the sales letter format as their text body.

Sales letters work because they feel personal and intimate. Instead of being sold a product by a graphic and some text, you get a long and earnest (at least, the good ones feel that way) discussion of the benefits that using that product can give you. The length is also a great way to filter the buyers from the browsers — those who are in a position to take action on the spot are able to get all the information they need.

Other Direct Marketing Copy

While sales letters are the predominant example of direct marketing copy, writers do a similar style of marketing copy for other medium, including flyers (with a call to action at the end), print ads (e.g. “call 1-800-XXXX for more information”), magazine inserts, brochures, and sales landing pages (regardless of whether the user comes from search, Facebook, Adwords or some other place). Any copy that seeks to produce an action that’s measurable and quantifiable usually falls under this category.

Tips For Writing Direct Marketing Copy

Most experienced direct marketers will have dozens of tips for producing effective sales copy. If you compile them all together, in fact, you’ll likely end up with a list numbering in the hundreds. And that will likely be more confusing to newer copywriters than helpful. Here are some of what I’ve found to be most valuable:

  • Sell one product at a time. Don’t undermine your own efforts by combining multiple sales pitches in a single copy. You want a clear and unified message, not a convoluted one. Anything more can end up confusing the reader, rather than selling them.
  • Write to one person, rather than a group. Picture a single prospect in your mind (the ideal prospect), rather than writing to a group of people. Doing so compels you to write in a more personal and intimate manner. As a result, the text feels more like a real conversation than a sales pitch.
  • Write in the second person, addressing the prospect as “you.” Again, this creates the impression of being more intimate — like a friend talking to a friend, rather than a chunk of text produced by some obscure copywriter trying to get you to buy stuff.
  • Put your biggest selling point on the headline. If you’re using a headline, might as well make it pay off by putting your biggest selling point on it. This could be your most compelling benefit, your most attractive offer or the most interesting feature of your product. Either way, it’s what you believe will appeal to most of your prospects, so showcase it.
  • Focus on the benefits. You can write about any product or service in one of two ways: by discussing its features or by discussing its benefits. The former is great for detailing information, but it does nothing to convince people to buy. The latter, on the other hand, shows how a product or service can enhance your life, making it a better fit for any type of marketing material. If you want to talk about your product’s features, use them in support of the benefits, not the main thread of the conversation.
  • Get to the key points right away. Sales copy doesn’t require any warm-ups. Unlike short stories or some types of features, marketing text doesn’t require an elaborate set-up. So get to the key points right away, saving the reader from the hassle of wading through piles of material before figuring out what you really want to say.
  • Don’t tease the reader. You may think teasing the reader with a suspenseful cliffhanger is cute for drama, but those techniques tend to backfire more often than help the sale. Even with longer copy (as is the case with sales letters), it’s best to steer clear of them.
  • Don’t assume a hostile reader. If you’re selling a pair of Nike shoes, don’t go in writing a pitch for people who don’t like Nike. Chances are, those people will never even look at a Nike ad. Use your time wisely and write for folks who will be into your product, instead. Leave the whole “converting the non-believers” to the mindshare advertisers. Focus on those that you have a good chance of selling to.
  • Write like a newspaper reporter. That is, use simple words (choose common over esoteric), short paragraphs (even one-sentence paragraphs are acceptable for effect), and a straightforward message. No need to dress up your message with creative instruments. It can help, but it’s not necessary.
  • Always close with a call to action. Make it a strong command using active language that suggests urgency (“call,” “buy”, “now,” “immediately”), one that motivates and drives readers to take the next step. An effective call to action outlines the exact steps the reader has to do. The more hoops they have to go through, the less effective your call to action is going to be.
  • For sales letters, use a postscript (P.S.) always. It almost always gets read because it literally draws attention. You can use it to highlight a benefit, add a special offer, or just offer a quick summary for the reader’s benefit.