What Great Content Can Learn from Direct Response Copywriting
Writing content has a lot to learn from the world of copywriting. Specifically direct response copywriting. The old masters of this field, people like Gary Halbert or Gary Becegniva, crafted letters that sold millions and millions of dollars worth of products and smashed their controls. And possibly the most important thing all these sales letters had in common was a story, well told.
Which is where we’re going to start too.
A story is a great icebreaker
We've all been there. Invited to a party with people you do not know. You look around and sip your drink until a slightly overweight man you’ve never met before walks up and starts talking to you. At first, it’s great: someone new is talking to you, someone who may have something interesting to say on a topic you don’t usually talk about…
But quickly, he switches topic. He talks to you about trains. He talks to you about the political situation in Andorra. He talks to you about aliens on Jupiter’s moons. In fact, he talks to you about so many different topics in such a short space of time, you barely hear any of what he says. You’ve zoned out, and are instead just looking around the room hoping for someone to bail you out.
Well, if you don’t sort out the structure of your content, you're going to be that slightly overweight man in baggy trousers. Except on the internet, no-one is bound by social niceties. Your audience is simply going to vanish into the night. And likely start talking to that sharp dressed man with the perfectly groomed beard.
So while the first step in content creation is research, the second is most definitely planning. Plan your article’s flow, otherwise it will run away from you.
The power of a story, well told
But telling a story doesn’t end then. The best copywriters use stories extensively. They build emotion and they persuade by putting their product’s benefits into a believable setting.
And content doesn’t have to be any different. In fact, content should not be any different.
A story does not have to mean an aside. It doesn’t have to be an anecdote. It can be a direct story about how you, the producer, did something directly related, and came to a result that could be improved with your product.
For instance, Direct Response copywriter Ray Edwards, when talking about the importance of closing a sale, told this short, to the point, gem:
But there’s something else you may have noticed in that story from Ray, something important.
Perfect grammar is not always a good thing
The internet is full of people who will pull you up on every single tiny grammatical mistake. But are they right?
Put simply, no.
Grammar exists for one simple purpose: to make words make sense. Grammar should add clarity to your writing first and foremost. If you have to break grammar for that, do it. Need we remind you of this great advice from George Orwell?
Grammar in Copywriting
Sales letters always have a target, and your content should be the same. And that is why “perfect” grammar is not always necessary. Not everyone cares about grammar. In fact, only a small minority care about grammar.
Writing to your audience comes first, which is where that research comes in. Always take a long look at your target audience first, and tailor your message to speak to them directly. And that means your grammar, too.
Copy Analysis is a great way to learn
When looking to improve your own content, one of the best places to start should be looking at other people’s content. Content that has performed incredibly well and stood the test of time. Think of why it performed so well. What was it that had such an influence on the readers, and almost forced them to share.
Direct Response copywriters learn their craft analysing others’ work. If a letter or landing page does particularly well, they break it down and look at each component part.
How did the headline gain the reader’s attention?
How did the lead pique interest?
How did the story relate?
Where was the first offer?
What tone did the writer use?
And so on and so on.
Remember Ray from above? His YouTube channel is full of breakdowns, and one of those is a letter rated as one of the best ever, from the Direct Response legend that is Gary Halbert.
So when you analyse content, you should go into the same depth. Don’t just skim it and take away the tone, the subject and the hook. Look into the words and phrases used, how it talks directly to the prospect, and the rhythm of the piece in general.
Writing for your audience
But by far the biggest thing to be learnt from direct response copywriting is writing for your audience.
There’s a reason the best copywriters charge 5 figure+ fees. Letters are written directly for the audience. They are written and edited and rewritten until the tone is perfect and the voice talks directly to their reader.
Whatever you think of Trump, there is one simple reason he got elected as President: He talked in the language of his electorate. He mimicked them, and delivered his promises in their language. He didn’t use big, fancy words, he spoke directly to the audience.
So do the same. Learn from the best and tailor every sentence, every paragraph to the people you want to reach. And it will improve your content.
Of course, there’s far more to learn from copywriting than the above. But it’s a start. No discipline exists in a vacuum: we need to learn from each other.
So research. Test. Edit and edit again. And don’t be afraid to vary your voice, or break any rule you learned, to get results. Because that’s what matters after all.