The direct marketing copywriter – marketing secret weapon part three

We are onto the final part of the Golden Trio – a secret weapon to improving your business results. And, in today’s post I introduce you to the direct marketing (or DM) copywriter. First of all though, let’s look at the copywriter in general.

The Webster’s Dictionary defines a copywriter as “Someone who writes advertising.”  A fairly brief definition, so let me elaborate.

copywriterA copywriter is a person who writes the words (aka “the copy”) for the advertisements you read, see or hear on radio, tv, direct mail, newspapers, websites etc.  They also write sales scripts, brochures and other written communications. So wherever there is an ad or communications message, there is a copywriter behind it.

Generally, copywriters come from one of three schools – the image or general advertising school, the journalism school and the direct marketing (or direct response) school.

Image advertising copywriters can best be described as word poets.  Their main focus is on using flowery prose to convey warm fuzzies to the target audience.  They typically have a creative writing background and see the written word as a form of art.  You will usually find them in  agencies such as Saatchi and Saatchi.

Journalism school copywriters – as the term suggests – have journalism backgrounds. They may have studied journalism at university and their work background is likely to be in a field such as the news or publishing. Journalism school copywriters are technically very good at the mechanics of writing.

Now onto direct marketing (or direct response) copywriters. They are an entirely different beast.  These guys (and gals) see themselves primarily as word salespeople.  And their job is to use words to sell something to someone by applying the principles of direct marketing.  Let me elaborate on direct marketing for just a moment as it is crucial to what I’m sharing with you.

Direct marketing is a central component of the marketing function and is defined as “an interactive system of marketing that uses one or more advertising media to effect a measurable response and/or transaction at any location” (US Direct Marketing Association).

The concept of the measurable response is what makes direct marketing so powerful.  And statistically, each dollar spent on direct marketing yields, on average, a return on investment of $11.73, versus ROI of $5.23 from non-direct marketing expenditures. (From DMA’s The Power of Direct Marketing: ROI, Sales, Expenditures and Employment in the US, 2009-2010 Edition.)

In essence then, direct marketing is all about getting a response.  And the very best direct response copywriters know how to get a response.  They have an excellent understanding of business and marketing strategy, direct marketing, the sales process and revenue stream modeling.  They often have a sales background and – because of their sales-oriented writing style – are unlikely to win any A grades in a College English course.

Which copywriter is more important for you?  Ultimately it depends on your overriding objective.  If you want the cute and fancy stuff, go get a general/image copywriter.  If it’s lots of text you’re after – for an annual report for example – hire a journalism writer. But if it’s measurable results you’re after, you need a direct marketing copywriter.

How to find a good direct marketing copywriter?  Use the following criteria as a starting point.

  1. A direct sales background.  Not an absolute prerequisite, but it helps.  Having direct sales experience means that the writer has been in specific, real world sales situations where good communication is paramount. As a matter of interest, a number of our greatest copywriters have direct sales backgrounds. For example, the late David Ogilvy, founder of global agency Ogilvy and Mather, began his career as a door-to-door salesman for a company that manufactured stoves.
  2. A direct marketing qualification.  This is important as it means the writer has some understanding of the theory and intricacies of direct marketing.
  3. A portfolio of direct marketing work.  This contains samples of projects the writer has completed.

Please note. Good direct marketing writers are like gold. Which is why some of the top ones charge as much as US$5,000 to write a one page sales letter, and earn as much as US$1,000,000 a year. (A pioneer of direct marketing writing is the legendary copywriter, Claude Hopkins. In 1908 Hopkins was paid US$186,000 a year for his writing skills.  Which equates to more than US$3.5 million a year in today’s money.)

Why so much?  Simply, the ability to persuade is one of the most valuable skills in business.

Here’s the bottom line. If you are serious about improving your marketing results you need an experienced direct marketing copywriter. This person works with the strategist and direct marketing designer to produce the campaigns, tools and content you need to develop in your business. These include:

  • Sales letters (lead generation, customer service and order generation).
  • Direct response advertising campaigns for print, radio, tv, email, the net and other mediums.
  • Sales scripts/telemarketing scripts and presentations for sales/telesales people.
  • Sales proposals and RFPs.
  • Publications, reports and white papers that are used for lead generation and client servicing purposes.
  • Speeches, workshops and training programs that can be used for training or public speaking purposes.
  • Newsletters and other client services communication.
  • Website and blog Content.
  • PowerPoint presentations.

So could you do with a top-flight direct marketing writer to help you in your business?  If you are blessed with such a gift yourself, congratulations.  If you already work with other such writers, then congratulations again.

But if you’re looking for other writing alternatives and resources, you must get part three of the Golden Trio – the experienced direct marketing copywriter.

So let’s summarize. 

  • The Golden Trio is crucial to getting better business and marketing results.
  • Three members or skillsets form the Golden Trio
  • The 1st member of the Golden Trio is the strategist
  • The 2nd member of the Golden Trio is the direct marketing designer/art director
  • The 3rd member of the Golden Trio is the direct marketing (or DM) copywriter

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