In paid advertising and organic marketing, the words you use determine the results you get.

But how do you know what the “right words” are?

That’s where direct response copywriting enters the picture.

In this guide, we’re going to explain what direct response copywriting is, where it comes from, and how to use it to get better results from your advertising efforts.

We’ll also show you 10 real-world examples of direct response copywriting with clear-cut takeaways from each.

Let’s get started!

What is Direct Response Copywriting?

In marketing, direct response copywriting is a form of copywriting that compels the reader to take action now rather than later.

Consider the difference between TV commercials and Facebook ads.

Most TV commercials are intended to get you thinking about a certain product or service and thereby increase brand awareness.

Below is a mash-up of some of the best TV commercials of all time — watch a few, and you’ll notice that they don’t ask you to do anything specific.

They just get you to pay attention for a few minutes so that you’ll learn a little about their brand.

Facebook ad strategies often try to accomplish just the opposite — and this is a form of direct response copywriting — they want you to take action right now.

Foxley facebook ad copy direct response

That’s the heart behind direct response copywriting.

And it gots its start in the late 1800s and early 1900s with now-legendary direct response copywriters like…

  • David Ogilvy
  • Claude Hopkins
  • Eugene Schwartz
  • Gary Halbert

These guys revolutionized the advertising industry by showing that you could send someone you’d never met before a single piece of mail and get that person to send you back a check to pay for your products or services.

Back then, direct response copywriting looked like this…

joe-karbo-direct-response-example

Like this…

ogilvy-direct-response-example

And like this…

schwartz-direct-response-example

These campaigns were massively successful and made money hand over fist.

Obviously, direct response copywriting has changed a lot over the years — now, most of this happens on social media ads, landing pages, and sales funnels.

Let’s take a look at some more modern examples — and tips!

10 Direct Response Copywriting Real-World Examples (With Takeaway Tips)

Onto the good stuff!

Here are 10 real-world examples of direct response copywriting.

We’ve assigned each one a takeaway tip based on what it’s doing really well — because what better way to learn about direct response copywriting than by analyzing great examples?

1. Make a Promise

Behind every great piece of direct copy is a promise — a compelling  promise.

One that makes it damn-near impossible for the target market to stop reading.

In The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, Joe Sugarman explains that the headline’s goal is to get the person to read the first line of your copy. The goal of the first line is to get them to read the second line, so on and so forth.

Eventually, your goal will be to get the reader to click on your CTA and convert.

But you can’t get there if you don’t start with a compelling headline that makes a tantalizing promise.

Here’s an example from a product called, The Viral Product Checklist.

direct response copywriting making a promiseThe name of the product–and the headline and checkpoint summary–make a compelling promise for the target market. Specifically, how to easily create and sell a product with “viral” potential.

Every target market has a problem.

Your copy should promise to solve that problem for them. Ideally, it should also promise to help readers avoid the most common pitfalls.

It’s a simple tip.

But an important one.

Start your landing page, advertisement, or sales funnel with a big and bold promise. You’ll be surprised at how that compels people to want to learn more.

Headlines just scratch the surface…access our entire ad writing formula in PPC Ad Copy: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Ad Copy That Converts

2. Start With Emotion

Emotion is the driving force behind all human behavior.

Don’t believe me?

Think about the last time you made a big purchase — a car, a house, a TV, expensive clothing, a new video games console, an online course, or something else.

You probably didn’t just look at the specs and buy sight-unseen, right?

First, you took it for a test drive, literally or figuratively. You looked at it, felt it, and became excited by the possibility of making it yours.

This principle also applies to many practical purchases — you wouldn’t buy an online course, for instance, with a headline like this:

Get 100 Hours Worth of Details About Direct Response Copywriting!

It’s dull.

But you might buy a course to show you how to make money as a direct response copywriter:

Get My PROVEN System to Making $100,000+ as a Direct Response Copywriter (No Experience Required)

The content within the course could be identical, but the messaging is different.

One triggers your emotions. The other uses logic.

Since we’re humans, we become interested in something because of emotion, and then we try to justify the purchase by using logic.

That’s why you should always start your copy with emotion.

Here’s an example from one of Ramit Sethi’s landing pages.

direct response copywriting emotional messaging

We can talk about the ethics of Ramit’s copy later.

What Ramit does that’s very effective is he touches upon the emotional misconception that many people have in our digital world — other people are far happier, more confident, and more successful than I am.

His target market has already asked themselves this question a million times and never came up with a good answer.

His copy triggers that emotion and then promises an answer to their long-standing question.

And it’s very powerful.

When trying to catch people’s interest and make them desire what you’re offering, use emotion, not logic.

3. Justify With Logic

Emotion is the driving force behind every purchase.

But we also need logic.

Imagine that you’re going car shopping. First, you’ll browse cars based on the style, color, and model you like (emotion). Something will catch your eye, and you’ll want to know more. You’ll probably take it for a test drive.

Once you’ve decided that you want to buy it, your brain switches gears — from a focus on emotion to logic.

You unknowingly ask yourself, I want to buy this… but how do I justify it logically?

To answer that question, maybe you try to negotiate a better price. Maybe you think about how practical the car is or how much horsepower it has.

You justify your purchase with logic because you already know you want to buy it.

You should include this important part of the decision-making process within your copy.

Here’s an example from one of Ramit Seth’s courses (partway down the page) where he helps you justify the purchase you’re contemplating.

logic and trust direct response messaging

4. Keep Them Engaged

Have you ever seen those super long sales pages and wondered to yourself, how the heck does anyone get to the end of that?

The answer is that every single word is crafted to engage the audience, keep them curious, and keep them reading.

Check out the page length on this sales page from Bryan Ward over at Third Way Man:

long form direct response landing page copy

Crazy, right?

But his copy is super engaging — it’s hard to stop reading.

engaging direct response copy example

He tells stories, empathizes with the reader’s concerns, asks and answers interesting questions, and explains his philosophy behind creating passive income (that’s what the course is about).

Even though there are a lot of words on the page, he doesn’t waste a single one.

Some copywriters refer to this as a “slippery slide” — people might want to stop reading, but they can’t because they’re too darn curious.

Whether you’re writing a long sales page or a short sales page, keep people engaged with empathy, curiosity, and story.

5. Control Where They Look Next

You might think it’s impossible to control where people look on your sales page or advertisement.

And you’re right.

But it’s not impossible to predict where they’re going to look.

In fact, that’s relatively easy.

Here’s some proof…

organization of copy example

Uncanny, right?

It’s because where we look is simply a matter of what catches our attention first — big and bold things catch our attention first, and small and subtle things catch our attention last.

When we helped CoachCare redesign their landing page, this was one thing we wanted to fix.

On their previous landing page, it was difficult to predict where the visitor would look first.

And when you don’t know where people are looking, you can’t give them the proper information in the proper order…

before linear design

In the redesign, we added a more noticeable headline, bullets, and lots more to control where visitors would look at each element and when they would look there.

That way, we could deliver each bit of information with maximum impact.

after linear design

Big difference, right?

You have no idea.

Our designer’s work lifted conversion rates by 327%, and decrease cost-per-acquisition by 81%.

You don’t just want to guide your visitor with words; you also want to guide them with your design.

The best landing pages, sales funnels, and advertisements have copy and design that work hand-in-hand to deliver persuasive messaging and high conversion rates.

Want more on high-converting landing page copy? Check out our guide: How to Write Landing Page Copy From Scratch.

6. Create Curiosity

One of the most famous examples of direct response copywriting starts like this:

direct response create curiosity sugarman ad

It’s just an ad for sunglasses.

But Joseph Sugarman turned it into much more than that by making the experience of using the glasses seem almost magical.

And his headline, subheading, and first paragraph are all crafted to make the person so curious that they’ve just got to find out more.

Earlier, we said that emotion is the driving force behind all human decisions — well, curiosity is one of the strongest and most motivating human emotions.

When you’re curious, you’ve got to find out more.

That’s why you can’t stop watching your favorite TV shows, reading your favorite books, or researching your favorite topics.

Here’s a more modern example of curiosity building from a Kissmetrics webinar:

curiosity direct response copy kissmetrics webinar

If you’re part of their target market, then you’re probably going to have some of the following thoughts:

  • I wonder how they verify a business idea so quickly. 
  • If this works, then I don’t want to miss out. 
  • Is it really possible to know if my business will succeed before I even start?

And those thoughts will drive you toward signing up for their webinar.

Because you want — nay, you need — answers.

Create curiosity with your copy, and you’ll be surprised at how effectively it converts.

7. Use Social Proof

Social proof is one of the easiest, most effective, and most overlooked elements of direct response copywriting.

This is the part of your sales copy where you prove to people that your products or services work. 

And you can prove it in the following ways:

  • Testimonials
  • Case Studies
  • Awards
  • Relevant Metrics
  • Etc.

That’s exactly what we do on one of our sales pages here at Linear.

direct response copy with social proof

People might feel compelled by the promise you’re making.

They might want what you’re offering.

But do they trust you to deliver?

Do they believe your system will work to solve their problem?

How do they know that YOU are the best person to help them?

That’s where social proof comes in.

Sprinkle it generously throughout your copy to prove to people that you’re the real deal.

8. Tell Stories

Seth Godin once said, “Persistent, consistent, and frequent stories, delivered to an aligned audience, will earn attention, trust, and action.”

He’s right.

Stories are powerful.

Stories have inspired, empowered, and motivated us since we first discovered the fire-side chat eons ago.

And you can use stories in your copy to…

  • Build Rapport
  • Create Curiosity
  • Empathize With The Reader
  • Create Social Proof
  • Build Urgency

And lots more.

Stories — good stories — draw people in, change their mindset, and make them take action. That’s why they’re so effective for direct response copywriting.

Here’s an example from the beginning of one of Bryan Ward’s sales pages:

direct response copywriting impact of stories

The course that Bryan Ward is selling is about teaching people how to make money outside of traditional methods — so you can see how this story connects with his target market and relates to his product.

Your story should, too.

Don’t just tell any ol’ story.

Tell the story of why you created your product or service in the first place, the challenges you faced, and the epiphany you had. If not about you, tell the same story about someone else.

Because when you tell someone a story of going from where they are to where they want to be, the same becomes possible for them.

9. Create Urgency

Most people are procrastinators.

Even if you’ve done a great job of convincing them that they need your product, even if they think your price is fair, and even if they emotionally want to buy…

… they still might not because they think to themselves: Eh. I’ll just buy it later .

That’s why urgency is so important.

In direct response copywriting, you want people to feel like it’s now or never.

The two most common ways to do this are:

  • Setting a Deadline & Adding a Countdown Timer
  • Creating Scarcity By Limiting Stock

Here’s an example from one of our client’s landing pages — look at the bottom of the page.

Audible Genius Confirmation Page-Timer Upsell

We used a countdown timer to add urgency to the specific CTA: Extend Your Access. 

Conversion results for audible genius urgency test

As a result, this thank you page delivered a 39.96% conversion rate on Audible Genius’ paid membership offer.

10. Anchor The Price

Imagine that I’m trying to sell you the car of your dreams.

You ask how much it’s going to cost.

I immediately tell you it’s $30,000.

You cringe and say that’s out of your price range.

“Oh no,” I explain, “that’s the full price. We can set you up on a payment plan where you only will pay $500 per month. And the car is yours!”

Because we started at the $30,000 price point, the $500 per month price seems a lot more reasonable.

This is called price anchoring.

It relies on the fact that people’s perception of price is partly relative. So if I tell you that something is usually $10,000… but I’ll give it to you for $3200… that seems like a killer deal!

That’s what ClickFunnels does on a lot of their sales pages:

direct response tip price anchoring

Notice how you see the $509.95 number first (because it’s red). And maybe for a moment, you even think that’s going to be the price.

But you keep reading and then see that it’s free — you just have to pay shipping and handling ($9.95).

That’s a crazy good deal.

And it’s irresistible.

Anchor your price before revealing your price if you want to get more conversions and make more sales.

Final Thoughts on Direct Response Copywriting

In the early 1900s, some now-legendary fellas started sending mailers to the masses with offers that no one thought would work.

But they did.

And those guys laid the foundation for direct response copywriting.

That discipline has moved online to digital ads, landing pages, and sales funnels. But psychologically speaking, it hasn’t changed all that much.

Direct response copywriters still need to make a promise, start with emotion, create curiosity, use social proof, tell stories, and create a sense of urgency.

With that — and the other tips mentioned above — you’ll be well on your way to writing copy that engages, converts, and sells.

Want the experts to write your copy? Check out our services here!

Luke Heinecke

Founder/CEO

Luke is in love with all things digital marketing. He’s obsessed with PPC, landing page design, and conversion rate optimization. Luke claims he “doesn’t even lift,” but he looks more like a professional bodybuilder than a PPC nerd. He says all he needs is a pair of glasses to fix that. We’ll let you be the judge.

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