Direct marketing formulas sell words as well as products

Or how to get your writing read using direct marketing (DM) rules

Some leading DM copywriters have been kind (or astute) enough to share their knowledge and writing formulas over the years. I’m thinking about the works of such luminaries as John Caples, Drayton Bird and Denison Hatch, for example.

You could say direct marketing has traditionally been the sharp end of copywriting; it’s not funny, clever or cute, it’s about getting results that can be measured. And, thanks to the internet and online marketing, we can now measure the effectiveness of copywriting a whole lot more than used to be possible.

Apart from the odd foray into direct mail and coupon ads, I’ve spent most of my career at the other end of the spectrum, writing newsletters, articles and brochures, often explaining difficult concepts or  delving into technicalities rather than selling an actual product.

All writing needs to be ‘sold’

But no matter what the piece of writing is, I believe that the principles of DM  copywriting can be applied to increase its appeal.

Take the headline, for example, which is vital for getting a reader’s interest and ‘selling’ the copy, whether it’s an article, web page or whatever.

Not all copywriters are able to get as much feedback or measurement on the effectiveness of our copy as we’d like for various reasons and this is something I”m working on.

But let’s do a little experiment here with these pretend web page headings to see if I’m right….

Was it the first, using the tried and trusted DM ‘how to’ headline formula? Did the other two fail to appeal? Which made the information to follow seem most valuable?

I know some writers find this type of copywriting cheesy and would rather throw in the towel than stoop to these levels. But I think they’re missing the point. The aim is simply to appeal to people’s self-interest. Otherwise, why should they bother?

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