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Direct response copywriters: what aspects of your audience’s psychology / instincts do you tap into when writing copy?

Tamara Marie Johnson

To write copy that sells, you need to know your audience—their hopes, fears, pain points, and more. We asked writers how to put this in action. Read on to learn more.

Shannon Peel

Shannon Peel

Shannon Peel, Creative Entrepreneurial Owner of MarketAPeel.

Each platform demands its own tone of voice

The emotions and behaviors I try to trigger in my writing depend on the industry, the medium, the objective, and the goals of the copy. The first thing I take into consideration is the image and values of the brand because I want the customers to identify with the brand to build trust. The next variable I address is the objective and goals of the project. What does the client want the reader to do when they read the words? Where will the copy be used and where in the funnel is the reader likely to be?

If a brand wants a quick reaction to [encourage] a short-term purchase, then fear of missing out or appealing to one's ego as an early adopter might work.

If a brand wants to build a long-term, trusting relationship with its audience, then the copy needs to speak to the values, opinions, and ideals of the reader to show how they and the brand are aligned.

I like to go into a direct response copywriting project with an open mind, i.e.,

I try not to assume that I know anything about the psychology behind the target audience’s purchasing decisions.

Instead, I schedule interviews with as many members of the target audience as I can, given the particular time limit and budget. This approach allows me to uncover patterns, e.g., several people may mention that given the price, they expect a longer warrantee. A nice side effect of working this way is that I may also be able to pass on insights to other teams such as Sales or Customer Service.

By the way, it’s a good idea to record the interviews you conduct so you can include the terms you hear the target audience using over and over again in your direct response copywriting.

Tamara Marie Johnson

Tamara Marie Johnson is a linguist and marketer with a strong focus on copywriting and brand storytelling. Find her at

Robert Barrows

Robert Barrows is the President of R.M. Barrows Advertising and Public Relations in San Mateo, California. He is also an author, poet, sculptor, songwriter, and inventor. His invention is a video tombstone called the Video Enhanced Gravemarker (U.S. Patent #7,089,495). You can see more about his company at

Say it with copy that really knows how to sell

Copywriting is both a science and an art. The goal is, “Say it with copy that really gets the point across!” and, “Say it with copy that really knows how to sell.”

AND to do it as both a science and an art… before you start writing anything, address these kinds of questions with your client:

  1. What does the product do?
  2. Who buys it?
  3. Why, when, and where do they buy it?
  4. How does that product compare to its competition?
  5. What are the advantages or key selling points of using that product as opposed to any similar products?
  6. In what kind of media will the ads be running?
  7. What will the call to action be to get people to buy the product now?
  8. Then, put your thinking cap on and start doing some writing.
  9. After that, discuss the copy with your boss to see if it's going in the right direction and make any changes your boss suggests.
  10. And then, get ready to discuss the copy with your client and make any changes the client suggests.
  11. Then, discuss the copy with your boss and then your client.
  12. ….and then…get ready to do it all over again if their opinion changes.
  13. Go home and enjoy the evening because the same process will start all over again tomorrow.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors are not necessarily affiliated with this website and their statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.

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