Direct Response Copywriting Formula

Direct Response Marketing is designed to generate an immediate response from consumers. This includes measuring each consumer response or purchase and attributing it to specific advertisements. This is different than ads that drive consumers to retail locations. Instead, consumers buy the product or service directly from the seller and usually via the ad (“call now,” “click to buy,” etc.).

The whole point of direct response copywriting, whether used via TV or radio commercials, in direct mail solicitations, for website sales videos, email marketing, etc., is to get you to “respond” directly to the message by purchasing from the advertiser right now.

How many times have you purchased something from TV or the internet? Buying online can be by way of an internet ad, video, social media, email or website research. Any time you’ve made such a purchase – especially via TV, video or long-form written advertisement – you may have passed through the following copywriting formula.


  • Get attention. Successful copywriting is designed to boldly grab your attention now. The opening message or headline should ideally pull you from your life right into the message in such a way that you will ignore the conversation you are having, or the magazine you may be browsing, or your desire to run to the kitchen for a snack, or anything else you may be doing or about to do. If your are not instantly engaged, the rest of the copywriting will not likely move you to make a purchase.
  • Pose a problem. Whether it’s your weight, your hair, your breath, how you prepare food, personal finances, debt, health, the performance of your car, or countless other issues, you were presented a problem. Such can even include positioning something you hadn’t previously considered to be irksome as old and problematic. The more generally troublesome something can be presented, the more you are likely to relate to it.
  • Solve the problem. Yay! The product you purchased was demonstrated to save the day. On TV or web video, this is often represented by visually showing benefits and results as effectively, quickly and easily as possible. With written text, the words will be woven to create similarly strong visual impressions.
  • Offer a great deal. This is where you were presented a special price, purchasing instructions, added incentives, bonuses, and anything that increased the value of what you purchased.

You were directed to call a toll-free number by seeing and/or hearing it repeated over and over and over. Whether on TV, radio or in a written advertisement, that number was presented so that you would take advantage of it now!

If the copywriting directed you to a website to complete your purchase, the web address was shown, announced and/or featured prominently enough for you to get some paper and write it down (even if you had to run across the street to borrow paper and pencil from a neighbor).

  • Guaranteed! The guarantee was designed to lower your resistance and assure you that you made a right decision to purchase the product or service because you could get a refund for any reason. A “no risk,” money-back guarantee would have been emphasized to ensure you reach for your wallet and make that phone call.

As a bit of counter-intuitive benefit to advertisers, in many cases, the longer the guarantee period, the less likely a refund will be requested. It doesn’t make sense, but I have conducted tests that have shown longer guarantees to be more effective in generating sales and still result in less refund requests (obviously this would not hold true with an inferior product). Better guarantees should be longer than 30 days, and in some case can go as far as offering “Lifetime guarantees.” (Although the latter is less effective for companies that are not well established and might even raise doubts about the sincerity of the guarantee for a new company).

  • Call to action. This is when you were told to “BUY NOW,” “ORDER NOW,” and/or “CALL NOW.” This was likely accentuated by emphasizing that the product or service is available only for a “limited time” and/or “while supplies last.” The success of many direct response offers, whether by commercials, infomercials, website ads, direct mail ads, email marketing, magazines, newspapers, etc, is a result of impulse decision making, which diminishes rapidly with passing time.

Furthermore, successful direct response campaigns have had each of these elements (and more) tested and tested and tested again to refine the copywriting and the presentation for the purpose of generating the most sales or responses. (For more complex or expensive products, the “response” may not be a sale, but a sales lead or prospect, who has requested information in exchange for their contact details).