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3 Lessons to Learn From 2 Examples of Direct Response Copywriting 


As a financial services marketer, you should have a full understanding of what makes your campaigns work, and what doesn’t. Because that knowledge is what makes the difference between success and failure for your business. As a direct response copywriter, I have collected two examples of direct response copywriting that present three lessons (I believe) every direct marketer should learn. 

The first example is a direct mail letter written to promote the Wall Street Journal. The letter, titled “Tale of Two Young Men”, is also known as the $2 Billion Letter. Because it generated two billion dollars in revenue during its run from 1975 to 2003. Many direct marketers regard it as The Greatest Sales Letter of All Time. 

Victor Schwab wrote example number two. The ad, titled “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was created to promote the self-improvement book of the same title. Dale Carnegie is the author of the book, which many consider as a must-read for any aspiring businessperson. Schwab’s writing sold over three million copies of the book (according to Ogilvy on Advertising). 

3 Lessons to Learn 

Drawing from these two copywriting pieces, and my experience as a direct response copywriter, I have produced three lessons every direct marketer should learn: 

Build a Core Desire 

Core desires are those things you want more than anything else in the world. Could the woman of your dreams, to become ultra-successful, or to have a house in the Bahamas. They are what you want to have, and who you want to be. Both direct response copywriting examples in this article bring about the core desire for success. And each presents their offer as a tool to achieve success. 

Presenting a core desire gives the reader a reason to stop what they’re doing and bring their attention to you. If you take the headline written by Vic Schwab, you quickly get the promise of fulfilling a want we all aspire – being successful. 

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a headline that tells you exactly what you’ll get: the knowledge to help you make more friends and become an influencer.  Who doesn’t want to own those skills? Everyone does. Which is why everyone will stop and read. To find out how they can get that knowledge. 

Look to build that core desire right from the get-go. How-to based and list headlines are the best way to do this. Because you tell people exactly what they get from reading your information. And regardless of whether it has niche or broad appeal, whoever has an interest in what you present will stop to find out how to get it. Bringing you one step closer to getting that sale. 

The Power of Storytelling 

Nothing captivates an audience more than a remarkable story. And both examples above connect their offers to stories that people can easily identify with. And that’s one key to creating powerful marketing campaigns. Both WSJ and Dale Carnegie bring up stories that you and I can read and go “Yeah, that was me at XYZ time”. And you keep reading to find out how the character you identify with solved their problem. That’s one way to get the reader engaged. But you need another element to get them hooked. 

That other element is the journey. 

You must make the reader care so much about the story, they want to read it from start to finish. Many times over. And to do so, you need to make the journey within the story as much as an emotional rollercoaster as possible. That way, the readers can invest emotions into what they’re reading. And they won’t stop until they reach a satisfactory point. That’s how you get them hooked. 

But now… how do you build a story that includes a character people empathize with and a journey the reader invests their emotions in? I have a simple four-step formula that can help you produce stories like that: 

  1. Put some shine on your main character: don’t make them seem like they’re a bum. Bring out as many positive attributes about them as you can. Make them seem capable of succeeding – if they can only get that one obstacle out of their way. 
  1. Bring the heat to the obstacle/problem: whatever is keeping your character from reaching their goal – you must present it as the worst thing in the world. Bring up in which ways this problem is affecting your character’s life – their family, health, finances, and community. The more “heat” you can put on the obstacle, the more hate (an extraordinarily strong emotion) your reader will feel for the problem. And the more chances you get to have the reader identify themselves with the character. 
  1. Your character’s comeback: now it’s time for your character to overcome what’s been holding them back! They have gotten whatever skills or tools they need to achieve their goal, and now they’re executing. Again, bring as many details as possible when describing the solving of this problem. 
  1. The finish: how’s life after your character overcame their obstacle? Describe how their family, their community, and the character themselves have progressed after solving the problem. 

Follow this simple structure and you will tell amazing stories that will keep people on the edge of their seat wanting to know what happens next. And FYI… this is a construct my case studies for B2B clients. 

Build Credibility 

Trust is something that takes a lifetime to gain and a nanosecond to lose. And today, with the ease of access some unethical people have to the rest of the world, it has become even harder than ever to gain people’s trust. This is why it is so important for you to set up as much credibility as possible within your marketing campaigns. 

Remember that you’re looking to get people to invest their resources into what you offer. Therefore, you must reassure them that it’d be wise to put their trust in you. And by constantly proving your claims, you bring down that wall of skepticism that customers bring with them when they look at advertising. If you can show (without a doubt) that you’re authentic, people will buy from you. 

There are several ways to prove that your offer is for real: 

  • Use reliable and verifiable sources – specific names, numbers, and statistics 
  • Real-life testimonials display what you can do – keep them pure to support your integrity 

Be honest. Be real. And prove what you claim. 

That’s how you build credibility and gain the trust of your market. 

3 Lessons to Learn from 2 Examples of Direct Response Copywriting 

Starting today, you should make sure to build your marketing campaigns around an appealing core desire. You should also tell a powerful story that gets the market emotionally invested. And you should use facts and testimonials to build the credibility of your offer. 

Do you have a comment or question about these examples of direct response copywriting? Leave a comment explaining your side of things. And if you think this article could be useful to someone you know, feel free to share it with them! 

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