Think of the giant faces and logos that flash in Times Square. Think of the commercials that run during the Super Bowl.

These are both great examples of what direct response marketing isn’t, and what a brand awareness marketing strategy is.

If your goal is to convert customers, then don’t worry about having a dollar-draining brand awareness strategy like a Times Square billboard or 18-second, million-dollar slot on Super Bowl Sunday.

It isn’t that car commercials on Super Bowl Sunday aren’t effective; it’s just a different type of marketing. That kind of advertising is more about the long-game.

Direct-response marketing is about the short game. 

In this resource, we cover the basics of direct response marketing and how you can use this more precise, action-driven form of marketing to see what can drive an increase in conversions and revenue.

What is Direct Response Marketing?

Direct response marketing is the advertising equivalent of having a conversation with your potential customers.

Whereas branding ads are a monologue (your brand explaining who you are and what you offer), direct response marketing is a dialogue. It requires you to sell your customers and for your customer to be able to (on some level) talk back.

Direct response marketing is a precise tool that lets your customers take actionable steps, such as buying your product, subscribing to your newsletter, reading your long-form content, or more.

It requires work on the customer’s side, which means how you go about making this ad will be unique.

While a brand awareness ad is focused on creating an idea or feeling, a direct response ad needs to get across an idea or feeling AND propel the customer to take action.

Why Use Direct Response Advertising over More Traditional Marketing?

Think of a direct response ad like a sales rep, even if it’s a Facebook ad, direct mail flyer, or billboard. It’s going to go out in the world to try and convince your customers to commit to your business.

Now, you don’t always need a salesperson. That’s why branding and creating brand awareness exists. When you see a billboard telling you to enjoy a cold, refreshing Coca-Cola, that billboard isn’t propelling you to buy one now. It’s simply reminding you that Coke exists. So maybe, just maybe, the next time you order a soda, you’ll say Coke instead of Pepsi.

That works if you have the history and brand recognition of Coke (and vast resources of capital). Chances are – let’s be honest – you don’t.

But that’s okay because by being clever and targeting your ad correctly, you can see big gains.

When done correctly, direct response marketing contributes greatly to cash flow, customer retention, your subscriber base, and more.

6 Steps to Making a Successful Direct Response Marketing Campaign

1. Target specific audiences. 

The easiest examples are with Facebook and Google ads, where you can use demographics, affinity audiences, and other tools to hone in on your targeted audience.

But you can also target specific audiences with direct mail advertising, TV commercials, billboards, and just about everything. All you need is the data to back it up.

The ad below is an excellent example of being targeted towards specific audiences.

The ad targets Mac users who need a project management tool. It goes one step further than that, though, and uses colors associated with Apple to draw the customer’s eye. Now, just by scrolling casually, a Mac user will see that design and pause.

2. Explain who you are and what’s going on. 

In your ad, you want to be brief but value-driven. You don’t want confusion, as much as you want excitement.

Complexity doesn’t create a call-to-action, at least not one you want. Uncertainty leads people to change the channel, keep on scrolling, and lose interest.

3. Make them an offer they can’t refuse. 

A direct response marketing campaign is transactional. It’s important to target specific audiences because you need to offer them something they want.

If your offer isn’t working, it may be no good, or it may be the ad is targeting the wrong customer (in which case, it’s still no good).

4. Focus on the call to action.

The call to action is the invite to perform the desired action. It’s asking for the close. It’s the “do you want to take this car home today?” kind of thing.

But CTAs are very powerful. We recommend split-testing the copy to see which CTA works best for you.

If you’re relatively new (or need a refresher) on a good and clear call-to-action, check out our post on 50 CTA examples (with tips on how to write your own).

5. Give them the means to respond. 

You already know that direct response ads need to be conversational, but we aren’t done hitting that home quite yet.

You’ve targeted the right audience, and you got their attention, they want what you’re offering…. So how do they get it?

This is simple with digital advertising. They are likely clicking your CTA button to get to a landing page or product page. Or they could be using a Facebook Lead extension to fill out their information and sign up for a newsletter or demo.

And this is still possible with direct-mail advertising or billboards or TV commercials. You’d just need a place for your customers to go, and this can be visiting a website or calling a toll-free number and entering their unique coupon code.

Which brings us to the last step…

6. Track and measure outcomes.

Shockingly, less than 30% of small businesses use any kind of website analytics or UTM tracking. That won’t work for direct response marketing. Direct response marketing thrives on tools like Google analytics and long, custom URLs.

As a business owner or director of marketing, you want to know who signed up for what and why. Because of your direct response ads, if you made them following the guidelines above, you should be converting. And if you don’t track and measure your outcomes, you can’t confidently say if they are or not.

Direct-Response Copywriting: 6 Tips to Engage and Convert Your Customer

Let’s say it one more time: a direct response ad does not function as a traditional ad. So, it makes sense that direct response ads require a specific type of copy.

We’ve talked about how a direct response ad is more conversational than a traditional ad, and that truth trickles down into how you should write your ad’s copy.

1. Stay Focused. 

Don’t have a conversation that wanders or meanders around the point. You’re a busy person, and so is your customer.

Plus, be consistent. From your headline to your CTA (both of which we go over below), your message, style, and tone should be consistent.

2. Hook them With the Headline. 

The headline is your introduction at a speed-dating table. It’s what you lead with during a job interview. It’s your first impression. A headline doesn’t tell the customer everything, but it alludes to it. It captures the attention and the imagination, and it gets the customer to slow down and start reading more intently.

3. Be Brief but Provide Value-Driven Information.

A direct response ad is rarely trying to close the sale in one go. What it is trying to do is to get the customer interested and engaged, so they take action, which sends them down the sales funnel towards purchasing. So be brief but provide just enough information to keep the customer interested.

Note: We said above that all parts of the ad need to work well together, and that’s true. But the headline and the sales copy (whether a product description or an anecdote) need to complement one another.

4. Offer Something they Want. 

After steps 1, 2, and 3, you’re in pretty good shape. But remember, at this point in the conversation, you’re still a stranger to the customer. You’re something new.

Because of this, you always want to offer the customer something in your direct response ad.

5. Give the Customer a Time-Table. 

5 Direct Response Marketing Strategies and Techniques to Try

1. Use Facebook Ads to Increase Revenue

We bet this seems obvious, but there is always room for improvement on Facebook advertising. Plus, Facebooks and direct response marketing are a match made in heaven.


By using Facebook analytics, you can know your audience and create lookalike audiences. Through Facebook Ads, you can create ads with limited time offers, use a variety of copy and design techniques.

You can even utilize lead extensions through Facebook ads, creating a frictionless experience, where your customer can act on the CTA without every leaving their feed.

And remember, 94% of Facebook ad revenue comes from its mobile users. Always optimize with mobile-first in mind.

To become a Facebook Ad pro, check out our post on creating high-converting Facebook ads.

2. Use Pop-Ups as Lead Gen

We get it. Everyone loves to hate on pop-ups. It’s one of those things even non-marketers know to complain about.

But despite the angry anecdotes, the numbers tell a different story. In one study, the average conversion rate for pop-ups was 3.09%. The top 10% of pop-ups had a conversion rate of 9.3%. And finally, some pop-ups were so effective that their conversion rate was as high as 50.2%.

From the lowest average to the highest outlier, those are promising numbers.

The above pop-up is an example running on AdEspresso. Notice the key components. It’s targeted (pop-ups are, by definition, very targeted), it has a compelling headline, it gives just enough information to keep you engaged, it has a deadline, offers you more information, and invites with a clear CTA.

3. Use Direct Response Through Direct Mail

Somewhere along the line, getting an email became a stressor while getting snail mail became fun and exciting. After all, 41% of Americans (across all ages) look forward to checking the mail each day.

Plus, 42.2% of those surveyed said they read or scan the mail they get.

Let’s face it. People like getting the mail.

Direct mail is still very much a valid way to advertise to your customers. More than that, direct mail isn’t just for getting people to show up to a retail store (though that works, too). You can cleverly use direct mail to get your potential customers to interact with your website.

For example, you can use direct mail for retargeting. Simply take your abandoned shopping cart customers and, instead of sending the same ol’ retargeting email sequences, send them a direct mail invite to finish their shopping with an extra coupon added.

4. Spread Word of Mouth with Referrals 

Using direct-response marketing to increase and expedite referrals is easy and intuitive.

You log on to a ride-sharing service or an app like Postmates or GrubHub, and you are greeted with a pop-up, saying: hey! Refer us to a friend, and you get X.

The above example is perfect. It’s clear, simple, and inviting. The headline grabs you, the description informs you about the service and benefit, and the CTA reflects the action required to get the gift.

5. Give Something Away “For Free”

Giveaways are a great way to engage your customers in a dialogue.

By running a giveaway campaign, you can:

  • Share what your company is about (as evidenced by what you’re giving away).
  • Get word of mouth going on social media (every giveaway campaign should have a sharing aspect on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram).
  • Use the giveaway as a lead gen.

The ad above is a fantastic example of using a giveaway campaign as direct-responsive advertising.

First, the copy is fantastic. The first headline reads: WIN A 2 NIGHT BEAUTY HOLIDAY.

The second line: IN BALI.

What we like about that is the ad starts just a little wider than focusing on people who want to go to Bali. Bali is no doubt a fantastic place to visit, but the ad gets more attention from anyone who wants a two night beauty holiday.

Then the ad goes on to list all of the things included in this free trip. And then, at the very end, it gives a clear and simple CTA: enter your email and share it with three friends.


We hope you learned something new about direct response marketing.

In all of the examples we provided, you see it works best when it’s a company having a conversation with a potential customer.

You want to catch their attention, ignite their interest, and then make them an offer.

From there, it’s about collecting data, measuring results, defining success, and doing it all again.

What we like most about direct response campaigns is that they bring you a high return on investment. People want to be treated like people, not just buyer personas.

And direct response ads can do that. These ads reach out to you and say, “Hey, I see you. As a person with wants and needs. I think you’ll like this. Want to give it a try?”