How to Prepare for Direct Response Copywriting

Prepare Your Copy Like a Trial Lawyer

"For some unaccountable reason, Mrs. Adrian, people in trouble foolishly try to escape it by lying to their lawyers. But your allowing me to go into court without complete knowledge of the facts is inexcusable."

Perry Mason

It takes time to build a open-and-shut case.  Ask Perry Mason, the TV trial lawyer.  It was inexcusable to go into court without knowledge of all the facts.

And so it is with any persuasive writing assignment.

I could be assigned something short and sweet such as a space ad or press release.  Or I could take on the granddaddy of them all, the long-form sales letter.  No matter the copy, there's no excuse for not being prepared with all existing information and facts about the product, service, idea, or purchase decision.

See, Perry Mason knew that there was no way he could build a case or win the day without a complete knowledge of the facts.

So it is with direct-response copywriting.  The project works best when you give your readers the maximum useful information available about the product, service, idea, or purchase decision.

Even if it's a short project like a Space Ad, wouldn't you rather be aware of the most important evidence, facts, user experience and proofs available?  

Give them a headline and lead that speaks directly to the hearts and minds of the prospect, and keep the reader going down the page to read the next line.  And the next line.

If you can put together a literal or digital filing cabinet full of facts, writing the best copy falls into place.  And share the facts that speak the language of your target audience.  Describe them with clarity, using the most powerful and pertinent words available.  Be direct.

But when copywriters don’t bother to dig for facts, they fall back on fancy phrases and puffed-up expressions to fill the empty space on the page.  The words sound nice, but they don’t sell because the copy doesn’t inform.

And when your copy doesn't inform, your readers will leave.  They have no reason to read the next line.

Gather maximum information

I use the following procedure to gather the maximum information so my copy will inform.  This is because I want TOO much information from which to choose.  You can use this to be successful for any type of writing project or marketing objective.

Get any previous information and material about the product, service, idea, or purchase decision.

For an existing product, there’s going to be a huge amount of available material.  This material includes:

  • Brochures
  • Online Catalogs
  • Podcasts
  • Technical papers
  • Copies of speeches
  • Audio-visual scripts
  • Web pages
  • Social media ads
  • Competitor ads and literature
  • Blog posts
  • Online ads
  • Landing pages
  • Any available market research facts and figures

So, what if the product is new?  Just because there's no history of previous information doesn't mean the well is dry.  The birth of every new product is accompanied by a huge sea of:

  • Internal memos
  • Technical information
  • Product specifications
  • Engineering drawings
  • Business and marketing plans
  • Reports
  • Proposals

Ok.  This is a great start, but it's not complete.  We're about 80% of the way there.  Now, it's time to ask questions of key people.  Ask questions regarding the product, talk to the inventor/people closest to the product, the target audience, and the objective for the copy.

It's all about your product, audience, and objective

The following three sections cover similar questions I'll ask for those interested in the Relevant Content Master Plan service.  But I'll also ask these same type of questions no matter the service I offer.

Often times a B2B purchase decision won't require this much depth of product information.  But it's good to know all angles of your product before writing persuasive content.  There's no such thing as too much research!

If I don't get answers to my questions, I'll dig among the available material to find the answers.

Ask questions about the product, service, idea, or purchase decision.

  • What are the features and benefits?
  • What is the value provided by these benefits?
  • Which benefit is the most important?
  • What is unique about your product, service, idea or purchase decision?
  • How is the product different from competitors?
  • Which features are better than the competition?
  • Which features are exclusive to your product?
  • If the product isn’t all that different, what attributes can be stressed that haven’t been stressed by the competition?
  • What technologies does the product compete against?
  • What are the applications of the product?
  • What problems does the product solve in the marketplace?
  • How is the product positioned in the marketplace?
  • How does your product, service or purchase decision work?
  • How reliable is the product?
  • How efficient?
  • How economical?
  • Who has bought the product and what do they say about it?
  • What materials, sizes and models is it available in?
  • How quickly does the manufacturer deliver the product?
  • What service and support does the manufacturer offer?
  • Is the product guaranteed?
  • What objections exist about the product?

Ask questions about your target audience(s)

I ask many of the following questions about your audience so the right language of your target audience is discovered.  With this information comes the right usage of keywords.  As the right language is used in the copy, it begins (or continues) the relationship with the reader to build your Authority within the market.

I ask these same questions in the CORTA planning tool, found in my whitepaper 3 Marketing Challenges and 1 Vital Solution for Wire Harness Manufacturers, Suppliers and OEMs. Please download the whitepaper for an introduction the Relevant Content Marketing philosophy.

  • Who will buy the product, service, info?
  • Who are the stakeholders or decision makers in the purchase decision?
  • What markets is it available?
  • What is the customer’s main concern? (Price, delivery, performance, reliability, service maintenance, quality efficiency)
  • Do you have buyer personas available? If not, describe your ideal buyer(s).
  • What motivates the buyer?

Determine the objective of your copy

This objective may be one or more of the following:

  • To build brand recognition and preference
  • To attract and convert prospects into customers
  • To build company image
  • To transmit product information
  • To generate inquiries
  • To generate direct sales
  • To answer inquiries
  • To qualify prospects

Before a single word is written, the product, service, idea or purchase decision — its features, benefits, past performance, applications, and markets — are studied thoroughly.  Finding the facts will pay off.  In business-to-business advertising, specifics sell.

And Perry Mason would be proud.


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