Power your Marketing.

How to Write Direct Response Copy in Any Channel

Marcus Johnson

Staring into the abyss of writing direct response copy for a multichannel marketing campaign? Pull up a chair and let’s discuss.

First, define the scope. Say you have direct mail, email, ad-like objects (think banner/display ads, including those for different online platforms like mobile, tablet, and desktop), and social media. We could go deeper, but those examples offer enough opportunity to discuss varying copy approaches for both print and digital channels.

Before we proceed, however, a word about “types” of writers: These days, you’ll see a lot of job postings for a “digital writer.” It’s a pet peeve of mine, because a good writer can comfortably and competently write direct response copy for a variety of channels and media. Yes, someone may have more experience in one channel or another. But these days especially, if you know and practice your craft, you ought to be fluent in whatever medium you’re asked to write in.

For that reason, given my druthers, I’d choose a “writer” over a “digital writer,” because I want someone on my team who’s adept at changing styles to tackle a variety of communications.

And now, let’s get those channels humming.

Direct Mail: The Long Form We Know and Love

Why do we like direct mail? It’s personal; you’re not just throwing a message out into the world and hoping someone reads it. The long form enables you to engage your audience, explain your product or service, and expand on the benefits of buying said product or service. Plus, a direct mail letter does a better job of conveying the reasons why you should act on the offer. And it gives you a chance to develop a voice, tone, point of view, and even offer up a little brand flavor, if that applies. All in all, it’s a superior form of selling.

Another advantage of direct mail is that it allows you to think through the selling points of your product or service. What are the key benefits? Why would anyone want to buy it? What should people do to raise their hand? With the long version of your messaging refined, it’s easier to translate and refine your most important selling points to short-form media. That’s next.

Display Ads: Short and to the Point

Display ads, aka banners, are all about brevity. First, despite the image that the word “banner” calls to mind, online banners are typically short on space. Second, the internet is a fast-moving medium; you either catch someone’s eye or they’re gone. So, as a former mentor of mine used to advise me: Get there fast.

In other words, you have time and space for one thought. So you’d better convey your benefit and call-to-action right now because no one is going to linger over your banner ad. What’s more, you may be dealing with word or character limits—all the more reason to keep copy short and sharp.

Mobile: Fighting the Scroll

Writing marketing copy for mobile deserves its own consideration because people spend a good chunk of every day interacting with their mobile device(s). As you consider what and how much to write, put yourself in the shoes of your audience and think about how you interact with your mobile device. A lot of scrolling, right? So, how does that translate to effective, readable direct response copy? Think punchy headlines, liberal use of bullet points, short sentences and crisp writing overall. And don’t forget multiple action buttons.

Social Media: Feeling Boxed In? It’s Not Your Imagination

The “Big 5” (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Twitter) are masters at controlling their page pixels. That means you can expect to deal with more limitations. Tightly defined space and restricted word and character counts are the order of the day, so you need to be on your game as a writer. Given these constraints, you might be tempted to omit social media in a multichannel campaign. However, then you run the risk of missing a key benefit: users on these platforms can like, share, and comment on ads, which results in a significant multiplier effect for your message.

Email: The “Good Ol’ Charlie Brown” of Digital

One of the first forms of digital communication, and still a pretty good one, if you avoid certain traps. We like email because it gives you room to “go long,” i.e., make your case with additional copy. On the other hand, since it’s now competing with other forms of digital marketing, one could argue that here, too, brevity is your friend. I try to find a happy medium. Keep emails short and lean on bullets to carry your message, but use the expansion room for additional selling wherever it makes sense.

Know your rules: Write a hard-working subject line and pre-header (in fact, more than one of each so you can test which works better). BUT, avoid “spammy” words or punctuation or else your email will end up where no one sees it. Plus, make sure you have a strong benefit-promising headline and CTA button “above the fold” (in newspaper parlance) in case someone just looks at the top of your email. A short intro paragraph is usually okay, and I’m talking two sentences. But waste no time getting to the scannable stuff (bullets) to make it easy for readers to understand and act on your pitch.

There’s No Better Time to Talk to the Pros at IWCO Direct

Every marketing dollar counts these days, and direct mail has a median return on marketing investment (ROMI) of 29% (among other benefits which we’ll gladly explain). So if you want to put some muscle into your marketing mix, come to the direct marketing source. Contact me to learn how IWCO Direct can get you on the fast track to strategically planned, data-driven, performance-tested direct marketing in any channel.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2020/11/18/direct-response-copy-for-digital/
Marcus Johnson


Marcus Johnson

Marcus is a Senior Writer who blends creative writing and idea generation to bring copy to life for leading financial services organizations, professional sports teams, healthcare, and outdoor brands. The question this University of Minnesota graduate and former winner of the Best in Show from the National AgriMarketing Association loves to ask is, “How can I help?” When he’s not pounding out copy, he loves doing yard work, especially leaf blowing. In sports, Marcus cheers for the Humboldt Broncos, the Canadian hockey team that lost 10 players in a 2017 bus crash.

More Posts by Marcus


Subscribe via email to our Stevie® and Feedspot award-winning blog and get a fresh post delivered weekly to your inbox. We promise to keep it interesting, but you can easily unsubscribe if we don’t.

Join us for Walk-in Wednesdays hiring events on our Chanhassen campus! Learn More
keyboard_arrow_upBack to top