Did you get an email promising you can make six-figures as a direct mail copywriter? Want to know more?
Direct mail copywriting is the process of creating sales materials that are mass-mailed directly to prospective customers. Typically, these sales letters are unsolicited and commonly called junk mail.
Direct mail copywriting can indeed be lucrative, but as with any highly rewarding profession, you must first pay your dues.
In this article, I show you what it takes to succeed in the lucrative world of direct mail copywriting and how to get started.
What is Direct Mail Copywriting?
On any day of the week, there’s a better than average chance you’ll find an unsolicited sales letter in your snail mail.
You might toss it unopened in the trash. Many people do and then complain about all the junk mail they get.
Waste Away Group, a waste disposal company based in Indiana, estimates that a 100 billion pieces of junk mail is delivered each year in the United States.
While it’s true that most direct mail pieces get tossed in the trash, enough are opened and read to generate millions of dollars for the companies that use this strategy.
Compared to most marketing methods, direct mail is more personal. A sales letter is one person communicating with another.
Although most direct mail is massed-produced and sent in bulk to thousands, if not millions of people, the reader experiences it a personal correspondence for her eyes only.
A skillful direct mail copywriter will capitalize on the personal nature of a letter to build trust and rapport with the prospective customer.
Unlike most other forms of marketing, direct mail permits the copywriter to inject warmth, personality and sincerity into the marketing message.
What Do Direct Mail Copywriters Write?
Direct mail copywriters create materials that promote local businesses like fitness centers, car dealerships, restaurants, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, or political parties and campaigns.
Direct mail campaigns that market nationally will typically promote credit card offers or high-end financial services.
Some of the pieces may only be a postcard making an offer or building a brand. Others will be longer, and some will look like personal letters or official government correspondence.
A direct mail copywriter will usually create multiple variations of each piece. During the campaign, the different versions will be tested to determine which performs the best.
Persuading a prospective customer to open an unsolicited sales letter, read it to the end and make a purchase is the job of the Direct Mail Copywriter, also known as a Direct Response Copywriter.
What is a Direct Response Copywriter?
A direct mail copywriter, aka direct response copywriter, faces many challenges and the longer the marketing piece, the more engaging and persuasive it must be.
First, a direct mail copywriter must entice the recipient to open the letter. Second, they must capture the reader’s attention. And, finally, they must engage the reader until the end.
It takes extraordinary writing skill to accomplish all three to such a degree that a marketing campaign is profitable.
Direct mail copywriters who can pull it off make big bucks, sometimes 7 -figures for one campaign.
Direct mail marketing has evolved with the internet. It now encompasses both traditional snail mail and online strategies for directly marketing.
What is Direct Response?
The term direct response copywriter more accurately defines the role once held by direct mail copywriters.
Direct response marketing is a marketing strategy where a customer is presented with sales material and persuaded to take a specified action, usually to provide information, enroll in a program or make a purchase.
Direct response includes traditional direct mail marketing and various digital marketing strategies including email, online advertising and social media.
A tremendous difference between traditional direct mail marketing and direct response marketing online is the ease and efficiency of testing campaign results.
When a direct snail mail campaign is launched it might take weeks before the first sales begin to trickle in and weeks more before a company knows if it was successful or not.
When a direct response campaign is launched online, the results are tracked in real-time. Marketers know within hours if it is performing optimally.
Digital marketing permits real-time A/B testing between two variations of a sales page. The poorest performing variation is abandoned, and a new version is created.
Online, a sales page or ad copy can continually evolve to become more efficient and profitable over time.
In comparison, with a snail mail campaign, it will take weeks to compile data, adjust the campaign and track the new results.
How Much Do Direct Response Copywriters Make?
Direct response copywriting is a valuable skill.
The value of a direct response copywriter is based on her track record of making money for client companies.
Copywriters who consistently write profitable campaigns are paid well. Some direct response copywriting rock stars earn millions a year.
However, entry-level copywriters typical earn about $40K a year if they are employed by a company.
Freelance copywriters might earn $20K a year if they’re part-time. If they are full-time, their income depends on their fees and the number of projects they complete each year.
How to Become a Direct Response Copywriter.
Becoming a direct response copywriter begins with a passion for writing well.
If you don’t love stringing words together and polishing them until they shine, it’s doubtful you’ll enjoy writing direct response copy.
Beyond a love for writing well, copywriting requires the ability to sit down and get the job done.
If writing is how you get your dopamine each day, all the better. If when you’re writing you lose track of time, better still.
Like every copywriter, a direct response copywriter is focused on writing persuasive copy. And, while they might share some characteristics with journalists and creative writers, a direct response copywriter is a different breed.
A direct response copywriter is fundamentally a businessperson who writes well.
They understand business and are committed to writing promotional pieces that help a company reach its marketing objective.
A direct response copywriter is also a salesperson. They use written text to move a prospective customer through the sales process either to buy or to take a specific action.
A Professional Direct Response Copywriter must have:
- A keen interest in research. A direct response copywriting assignment usually begins with finding information about the product and prospect.
- Impeccable Writing Skills. Without solid writing skills, a direct response copywriter cannot clearly communicate with the prospect.
- Thorough Knowledge of The Elements of Copy. The elements of copy are the raw materials of the copywriting process and include headlines, leads, captions, etc.
- Creative Intelligence. Creative Intelligence is the capacity to find unique solutions to marketing problems.
- Empathy. Empathy gives the direct response copywriter insight into the needs, desires and emotional state of the prospective customer.
- Salesmanship. Copywriting is the process selling through print. Understanding the sales process is essential to effective copywriting.
- Typing & Computer Skills. A direct response copywriter who cannot type or use a computer is like a basketball player who can’t dribble.
- A Mind for Business. An employer or client who hires a direct response copywriter will expect her to know fundamental business protocol and how copywriting fits into a business’s yearly goals and long-term marketing strategy.
- Knowledge of Digital Marketing. Every significant business has an internet presence. Knowledge of digital marketing is essential. If you don’t understand digital marketing, this is the place to learn. The basic course is free.
A freelance direct response copywriter also needs to be a fearless self-promoter with strong negotiating skills.
How to Be a Good Direct Response Copywriter.
A good direct response copywriter must possess a full array of copywriting skills.
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of direct response copywriting is the ability to be creative on demand. A copywriter does not have the luxury of waiting to be inspired.
A direct response copywriting serves the needs of businesses and must deliver compelling copy that achieves stated marketing goals.
A good copywriter is not only cool under pressure, but he’s creative under pressure too.
Additional traits of a Good Direct Response Copywriter.
Good direct response copywriters tend to be…
- Attuned to visual and verbal aesthetics
- Detail focused
- Accomplished researchers
- Knowledgeable of a wide range of topics
- Able to creatively process large amounts of information
How to Break into Direct Response Copywriting.
The mechanics of direct response copywriting can be learned by anyone who can read and write. However, that doesn’t mean anyone can succeed in the profession.
There are several expensive copywriting courses online and some colleges teach copywriting too. Some include coaching and feedback, but why pay top dollar to learn the fundamentals?
The best way to learn direct response copywriting is to practice the basics over and over until they are second nature. You learn copywriting by doing the work, even if you’re only writing for yourself and not a client.
The Best Copywriting Guide.
Copywriting is a simple and mostly mechanical process. To learn everything you need to know about copywriting, read The Best Copywriting Guide.
Is This the Easiest Writing Career?
If you love to write, there are dozens of ways to make a living at it. Some take longer than others to establish and some have intolerable negatives, like impossible clients or irrational bosses.
If you love to write, but don’t love dealing with people, I recommend blogging.
Blogging is super easy to get into. You can do it from anyplace with access to the internet and the earning potential is unlimited.
To learn more, read The Easiest Writing Career.