Here are a few tried-and-tested direct response copy rules that have been developed after decades of studying response rates to thousands of advertisements, marketing materials, direct mail packages, online initiatives, radio spots, and television commercials. Following these rules will help get your response rates up and maximize your marketing return on investment.

1. Mark out all references to “our company” or “we believe.”
Your prospects are not looking or waiting to read your marketing material. Therefore, your materials need to speak to their interests and their needs. If you write “our company” or “we,” your prospects will perceive that the message is coming from your perspective, not theirs, which will decrease sales.

2. Relate your product or service to items in the news.
Test after test has proven that when you relate an item to something currently in the news, you get a higher response. The subject of the news story is less important than its timeliness, since the more recent a story, the more power it can bring to justifying why buying a product is important right now.

3. Stick to the facts.
Exaggeration can diminish your credibility and kill response. Direct mail packages or online campaigns written using specifics and details without exaggeration get a better return. Generally, people can see through your marketing claims. It they are not verified with facts, figures, and details, it will be noticed, and your response will suffer.

4. Enlarge type to make it easier to read.
Even if it looks really chic, if people have a hard time reading your message, they simply won’t. In fact, in tests that we’ve done, response rates have often been increased by simply making the type larger and, thus, easier to read. This is especially the case if you’re marketing to anyone over the age of 40, as older eyes make it harder to read, and many of these prospects will be reaching for their glasses.

5. Confront any negatives with positives.
If you’re selling, for instance, a health supplement that hasn’t been FDA approved, don’t just sweep that fact under the carpet with an asterisk. Instead, you could bill it as a benefit. “A product so revolutionary, the FDA hasn’t even approved it yet!”

6. Make sure you prove why your products are unique.
Creating product differentiating is essential to garnering response. The ways you position your product using words and pictures are the only things that potentially separate it from the competitive marketing of every other similar product and service. It’s essential that a list of attributes that sound different or are different is clearly articulated.

7. Define your unique sales proposition (USP) at the start, in the middle and at the end.
A USP of two or three sentences helps your readers understand who you are and why it’s in their best interest to respond. Your USP needs to be concise and clear, regardless of whether it’s online or in print.

8. Clearly explain what your benefits are.
Most marketers just list features, but every feature needs to be turned into a benefit. It’s the benefit that the prospect is looking for. For instance, your customer will care a lot more about the rocket-powered (feature), antigravity (feature) car you’re selling if you tell them they can “fly over morning traffic!” (benefit).

9. Position yourself or your company as an authority or expert with a solution to your target’s worst problem.
Every potential buyer wants a company that knows their problem better than anybody else out there and, therefore, has the best solution for it. To help position yourself as such, your copy needs facts, figures, specifics and details that reinforce the perception that you are the expert and the authority. Offer premiums that help reinforce your expertise. For instance, in your first mailing package, include something such as an article reprint or checklist that might help position your company as the expert.

10. Make not acting a losing situation for your prospect or customer.
Make sure your customer understands that there is a tangible consequence for not responding to your promotion. Whether it’s a limited-time discount, a chance at winning a new car, or a product that will make them more beautiful, your customer must be made to feel deeply that something wonderful is lost if they don’t buy what you’re selling.

Check your current marketing materials - do they follow every single rule? P.S. Asterisks draw attention away from your message, and make your prospects feel as if they’re having the wool pulled over their eyes.

Publication date:01/22/2007