How Science Can Save the Lost Art of Direct Response Copywriting

By Steve Jones, VP Marketing, Corporate Visions

September 12, 2019

how to build direct response copywriting skills

Back in my day, I had to walk ten miles uphill each way in three feet of snow to get to and from school (even though I lived in the California Bay Area). When I finally got home, I’d have to listen to music on a record player with vinyl albums that warped, scratched, and skipped (oh, sorry—for some reason that’s cool again).

Anyway, the other thing I remember about olden times was that demand generation and marketing campaign professionals used to be experts at direct response copywriting!

We didn’t have 7,000 different marketing technologies to master. We couldn’t assume if the campaign was programmed right, it would work. We focused on writing a punchy, compelling story with a powerful call-to-action, walked to our nearest mailbox or fax machine, and sent that message out.

Do I sound like a cranky old marketer yet? Well, that’s how I choose to remember the “good ol’ days.” In reality, my wonderful mother drove me to school every day and when I got home, I actually spent hours listening to state-of-the-art sounds on clear, indestructible CDs. (It’s fair to say that as you get older, you tend to exaggerate most things from your past). 

Unfortunately for many demand generation professionals today, their inability to write a compelling, cohesive story is no exaggeration. Somewhere along the way, direct response copywriting became an underdeveloped and underappreciated marketing skill. But it’s not necessarily their fault.

Keeping Up with Complexity

Campaign Managers’ jobs have become increasingly complex over the years. They need to keep up with ever-changing marketing automation solutions, CRM systems, social media monitors, buyer intent data, digital marketing platforms, analytics tools, and much more. And on top of that, you’re likely asking them to carry some form of “quota.” Maybe not a bookings quota like a sales rep, but make no mistake about it—most have Inquiry, MQL, SAL, and SQL targets they absolutely must hit.

With so much being asked of them, it’s no wonder campaign managers don’t spend time honing their writing skills. But in the face of ever-increasing pipeline goals and revenue targets, the question becomes, can they afford not to?

Don’t get me wrong; technology is critical. It enables your campaign managers to work more efficiently, allowing them to get in front of more qualified buyers than ever before. But if you aren’t telling the right story, at the right time, in the most compelling way possible, then technology really only helps you get your bad message out to the exact prospects you simply cannot afford to whiff on.

If you really want to generate more marketing qualified leads and build a growing pipeline, don’t look for yet another shiny new software tool—get back to basics. Help your demand generation team improve their results with these copywriting tips.

Science-Backed Direct Response Copywriting Tips

“You” phrase your campaigns

Can a single word impact how your prospects react to your messages? Specifically, should you use the word “we” or “you” to in your campaign messages?

Even the most seasoned writers might deliberately use the word “we” to establish a sense of shared purpose with their audience. And in theory, it makes sense. You try and show that you understand your prospect’s world and you can be trusted as a member of their tribe.

But according to our research, we-phrased messages are considered less thought-provoking and less engaging than you-phrased demand generation messages. The study found that your prospects feel more personally responsible for solving the identified problem from a you-phrased message, as opposed to a we-phrased message.

using you-phrasing to improve direct response copywriting

This is crucial because you want your prospect to take ownership of the issue and be willing to champion the opportunity. So, the next time you write an email, write with you-phrasing. It’s a small change. But it makes a big difference.

Learn more about you-phrasing in our State of the Conversation Report,The Impact of You-phrasing on Customer Conversations.

Get smart about personalization

With more sophisticated technology driving an ever-swelling sea of customer data, you may have a natural temptation—even an organizational imperative—to use it all, every time. After all, those systems cost money and promised big ROI. But at what point do the scales tip back? Is there such a thing as too much campaign personalization, specifically as it pertains to Account-Based Marketing (ABM)?

A recent Corporate Visions field test shows that you don’t need to hyper-personalize every email campaign. According to the study results, open rates were higher when using more personal details about the prospect, but the opposite was true for click-throughs. Personalizing by industry (without personal details) returned a 24 percent higher CTR than the company + personal details treatment.

b2b marketing personalization: click-through rates by treatment

By focusing on the approaches that drive the most meaningful results at the first touch, you can scale more quickly and effortlessly—while delivering even better results to your sales teams.

Read our e-book, Putting Personalization to the (Field) Test, for more details and example emails from the study.

More Quick Tips

In addition to the research above, you can also brush up on these direct response copywriting tips.

Lean into the tension. Highlight common trends and challenges that keep your prospects from achieving their goals

Make your copy strong and active. Use powerful verbs and active voice. 

Connect their pains to your solutions. Create a coherent transition from your prospects’ pains to how your solutions can help solve them.

Don’t be afraid to sound human. Avoid filler words, fluff, and buzzwords.

Close with clear next steps. Make sure you close by giving your prospect a clear, well-defined, and—most importantly—EASY way to take the next step. 

In Conclusion

As technology progresses, campaign managers can generate leads more efficiently than ever. But direct response copywriting is still at the core of every successful demand generation campaign. If your campaign managers aren’t telling a compelling story that makes your prospect want to take immediate action, you’re likely missing out on leads, pipeline, and ultimately, revenue.

With Corporate Visions skills for marketers, you can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your messages, content, and campaigns through decision science-based consulting and training programs:

Contact Us to Learn More.