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Direct Response Style Copywriting – The Ultimate Cheat Sheet

January 22, 2015 | Copywriting

A well written sales letter is the perfect way to gain new clients both on and offline. Yet the amount of businesses who fail to even follow the basic foundations of copywriting is quite frankly shameful, and boggles my mind. Most direct response sales letters fail because they are not direct and don’t evoke a response from the prospect.

If I have just described your businesses’ sales letters, turn off your phone, close your inbox, and read every word of this article.

Copywriting and content writing – what’s the difference?

Think of it as good cop, bad cop. Content writing is nice, worded in a way not to offended or provoke (usually), used to help brand a business or inform prospects in a none sales kind of way. Content writing is the good cop.

Direct response copywriting is unapologetic and has one goal in mind, getting the prospect to take action. The person writing the copy needs to have a deep understanding of writing psychology, marketing, sales and be creative while writing a copy that also resonates with logic to ensure prospects respond using whatever tactics possible. Copywriting is the bad cop.

While content writing can be done by most people with next to no experience, copywriting is a true art. Follow our fundamental tips to rock your sales letters into shape.

Understanding your audience

This doesn’t mean to find out their age, location, sex or anything like that, if you’re writing a direct response sales letter you should already know that by now. You need to find out what gets them excited, what problems they face, what keeps them up in the middle of the night or holds them in misery and fear.

How did they find your sales letter? Did they go looking for a problem and find you, or did you send them an email or redirect them from a landing page? If it’s the former, they will want to know right away whether you can help them or not. If you sent them an email, they will want to see the proof that you can help them.

Understand the prospect and what they want from you. In the examples above you would need to create two different sales letters to address the needs of the prospect, even though you’re selling the same product.

Putting the prospect first

Your copy should be focused around the prospect. Nobody cares if your business is expanding their portfolio and looking to take on more clients, or if you’re releasing a new product line. A direct response copy is all about the prospect, not you.

What’s in it for them? What benefits will the get from buying your product? The body of the copy should be to persuade the prospect into making a response, not to tell them of your expansion, business objectives or how many units you sold last year.

Leave the waffling for breakfast

“Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon” –David Ogilvy

Direct response sales letters should be straight to the point, no jargon, no waffle, no essays. After all, it’s called a ‘direct’ response sales letter for a reason. A well thought-out sales letter will focus on three areas, they are:

  1. What your business does
  2. How you can help the prospect
  3. How they can follow up for further information if interested

It’s as simple as that. Address these three points in as few words as possible while getting the message across clearly.

Most sales letters would work better as children’s bedtime stories

Too many direct response sales letters are boring and lack creativity. Most of them appear to becoming from a stock template with a few words mixed around to suit a particular product. Your prospects have hundreds of sales letters shoved in their face everyday, if your sales letter looks like the rest, you won’t be getting anywhere.

Writing a creative copy which is short and sweet is no easy task and usually requires the expertise of a specialist copywriter. Sure they cost a bit of money, but picking the right one can provide an huge return on investment.

Most direct response sales letters have only a few seconds before the reader clicks elsewhere or choose to keep on reading, without creativity or flair in your writing, most will click elsewhere.

Sell the idea, not the facts

Let’s assume you own a big fitness complex that is targeting people who want to lose weight. You offer several get fit courses and diet plans that will help prospects lose 25lbs before summer. When it comes to writing the body of your sales letter, don’t focus on what the course involves or how its been backed by science to work. The prospect doesn’t care about the class, they are more interested in the idea of losing weight and looking good on the beach.

Mentioning the product or service is fine, but ultimately the sales letter should focus on how it will make them feel and what they will get out of it, such as feeling more confident, attractive and so on.

Why are you reading this Jabroni?

You’re not really a Jabroni, I am just using the headline to illustrate my next point.

The headline of any direct response sales letter is what prospects see first. Something that bores or is unenthusiastic is not going to get a lot of opens. When you look at your email inbox each morning or collect letters from your mailbox, what is the first thing you do? Delete and get rid of everything that looks like spam.

There’s no one right headline as each one is completely unique based on what you’re offering and the demographic of your prospects. Test various headlines to see which copies yield the best result, the headline should compel the prospect to click or open your sales letter.

Using the right tone

The right tone depends on your prospect. A business may want to deal with someone who is professional, confident and can clearly demonstrate that in the copy. While an individual may want a more casual, fun and personal approach in the copy. This isn’t to say when selling to businesses you need to stay rigged and professional, as they are people too.

In a nutshell, understand how your audience want to be spoken to and deliver.


Most of the tips I have listed come from some of the world’s best copywriters such as Gary Halbert and David Ogilvy. You don’t need to be the next Shakespeare to write a killer direct response sales letter, you just need to understand the theory behind how they work. This guide purely focused on the writing aspect of sales letters, don’t forget the layout, images, colors and A/B testing will all be factors in how successful your sales letter will be.

Have a question or feel we missed something out? Feel free to leave a comment below letting us know what you think.

James Dickerson

Founder of CrushCampaigns

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