Source: Ed Dale

Direct response has existed for a long time now. It's a modality of advertising that allows for precise monitoring of the promotion's performance by means of tracking keys or other mechanisms that operate with a logic similar to keying the response of the advertisement's call-to-action. If you still don't know, an example of keying is the little number some coupons on magazines carried, that if you managed to see it, you always wondered what did it mean.

The person in the gold disc above is Gary Halbert, one of the most famous and controversial copywriters. If you read the Boron letters to learn about copywriting you find out that back then, when Gary wrote his letters, the copywriting business relied very heavily in direct response marketing and its main tool: the targeted customer list for mailings. Variables by which they used to build lists back then were

  • Demographics
  • Frequency of purchase
  • Amount of purchase

I dare say that a quarter of a century ago, lists were the lifeblood of any copywriting business worth its salt. Today there are many more techniques available and buying targeted email lists from brokers doesn't carry the same weight that it did when snail mail was the standard modality of direct response marketing.

Still, there's a market for it and there are list sellers ready to furnish you with from half a million to over ten millions emails if you have the cash to pay for them. I think one should approach this subject very carefully. You don't want to use targeted lists without knowing what you're doing, because you have the potential to deliver a (probably mortal) blow to your business if you do it wrong and get classified as a spammer.

Direct response copywriting and selling using direct response methods doesn't even require the seller to have a website, you can always sell the products of others. It has many advantages when compared to a full fledged copywriting and/or marketing operation. For one, you don't have to worry about web presence. If you can make of your email marketing campaigns an awesome value-dispensing and benefits overdelivering entity, by means of the correct content and copy, you can make a living without the need of a more complex business structure.

You can use advertising-type split tests with email marketing, SEO and a lot more techniques that compare with the ones of search engine marketing and related marketing methods.

A good and safe way to start with direct response, even while one is a novice and still learning is, if you have a website, to implement forms in certain sections of the website for your users to register. This will build you a very good list because is the most targeted kind of one, a list of persons that's already interested in what you have to offer.

Anyway, it's always a good idea to warn them that you are collecting their email to send them an email campaign later. In parallel, you might also build a list from people that contacts you for an x reason, but your contact page must have a different form that will build a different list, separate from your email marketing list. In that form you must give them a 0 spam assurance that it's just a contact form and they are not opting in into any marketing list by giving a contact email address.

Sales Letter

Many categories of sales letter, two of which are the direct respone (email) sales letter and the sales letter as part of the copy in a squeeze page or as component of any other type of long copy advertisement.

There's also de video sales letter (VSL,ᔥ/r/_mai_pen_rai_) which is the same as a readable one, the only difference it's the sales letter is streamlined into the video's script.

Landing Page

A landing page is the masthead of the streamlined, contemporary website. I personally see the landing pages, especially when they make a handsome use of the opportunity that the mandatory hero image gives as an aesthetic opportunity.

To me feels like a revival of websites that were 90% java-powered. What those sites wanted to be two decades ago, couldn't achieve, and made them end up in virtual obsolescence due to their uselessnes for SEO.

Landing pages can be simple, like when they are used as the homepage of a website. Or they can be complex, like in the case of a landing page with heterogenous content divided in more or less contrasting sections.

Some of the elements that make or break a complex landing pages:

  • Embedded video
  • Price list
  • Media carousel
  • Spacer
  • Testimonials
  • Heading
  • Badges 
  • Countdown timer
  • Author box
  • Slide
  • Icons
  • Endorsement
  • Signature
  • Call-to-action
  • Portfolio
  • Google Map
  • Arrow
  • Divider
  • Author mugshot
  • E-commerce integration
  • Block Quotes
  • Icon box
  • Button
  • Form

Squeeze Page

Also known as lead capture page, or opt-in page. These are a more in-your-face sort of landing pages. Generally, they are one click above landing pages, but this isn't a rule and sometimes they're presented as an overlay to the homepage. A common practice nowadays is the fly-in squeeze page.

A great percentage of sites that have some sort of squeeze page have either a light box one or a fly-in one among their lead-generating pages. The mechanics of lead capture is to use a lead magnet to make the opt-in iressistible for the lead.

Lead Magnets

A lead magnet is a relatively short piece of original content that your target market will not be able to resist. Content (written, audio, video, etc) is the most common, most generic type of lead magnet, but I have seen different types of items used as lead magnets, for instance one, ten or 100 resources other than content, that you can only download after you registered with the firm distributing it.

It can be a video to watch on a webpage, a PDF file or other format of document to download, or any kind of similar content format that will be able to hold a substantial piece of content that will satisfy a need or solve a problem of your target market. Still, innovation comes in lead magnets is all about offering something that your users must have, no matter what. It's not a rule that your lead magnet should also be a selling instrument of your product or services, it can be a disinterested piece of value unrelated to your business, but valuable for your customer.


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