Direct Response Marketing Principles

In this article I’ll give an overview of classic, direct response marketing based business principles and attitudes.

I hope this becomes an evergreen resource for you, and you want to get back to it over and over again to revise and continuously improve your business.

These principles can change the way you do business completely as they are extremely powerful once you start implementing these with consistency.

Chances are, we can optimize a thing or two in our businesses.

We should incorporate these improvements into our marketing and sales processes, track and measure the results, and test, test, test.

Let’s dive in.

The Direct Response Marketing Process

The Benefits Of Direct Response Marketing

These are the main benefits of direct response based marketing:

  • Generating Immediate ROI. Direct response marketing is all about immediate results and revenues from direct sales. Profits can be re-invested for (faster) scaling.
  • Specific Targeting. By targeting a specific audience, fears and problems can absolutely be nailed (addressed in a very focused way). Then, specific solutions to these problems are offered. We can focus on our ideal, high-value clients. Ideal client’s reaction: “Hey, this is for me!”.
  • Profitable Advertising. Direct response based advertising allows for cost-effective advertising. Every marketing dollar spent gets measured. Every advertisment gets tracked, nothing is wasted. What doesn’t work gets improved or discarded. What works gets scaled.
  • Powerful Lead Generation. Ideal outcome and goal for (direct response based) lead generation advertising: Spend $1 to get back $1+ in revenue plus gaining a new client on our buyers list. We can sell to that person over and over again later.
  • Efficient Business Process. Direct response marketing is ideal for most small businesses to guide potential customers / leads from vague interest to making the sale. Modern (online) platforms allow for highly targeted advertising, this is powerful.
  • Allows for “Expert Positioning”. No more cold calling, no more inefficient and annoying lead generation / prospecting practices that nobody likes. No frustration, instead dealing with (more) ideal prospects and clients, being the hunted instead of the hunter.

The Philosophy Of Direct Response Marketing

How does our product or service really solve a pressing issue / problem / pain in the marketplace?

What is our USP (unique selling proposition)?

Do we communicate it clearly and consistenly?

Always lead with value.

Educate and become a thought leader.

Teach people valuable stuff and they are more likely to buy.

The Goal: They Must Know, Like, And Trust You

Some mention RTR instead: Respect, Trust and Rapport.

In the end, it’s the same.

We educate through our marketing: (Educational marketing)

That means, we add value and educate our prospects.

Then we pre-frame our product/service as the solution.

We always strive to deliver incredible value upfront and become the leader in our field.

Expert positioning: We want to position ourselves as the expert, as the trusted advisor, and as the solution.

We choose to be the person who delivers consistently value in advance.

This positions us as the preeminent choice for our clients.

Learning From Examples

When companies get big, become very successful or go public, different shareholders with different (personal) agendas enter the picture.

That’s why we need to look specifically at what these corporations did to become successful, not necessarily how their current marketing and sales activities look like.

As a small business owner, we don’t have access to (almost unlimited) resources - because we are not venture-capital backed and instead invest our own time and hard-earned money.

That’s why we strive to get an immediate ROI on any marketing dollars spent, while at the same time we understand the required patience for an efficient, powerful back-end.

The Only 3 Ways To Grow A Business

  • More / new clients
  • Higher transaction value per transaction
  • More often / more frequent transactions

Whoever can spend the most to acquire a new customer, wins.
- Dan S. Kennedy

We have to know our client’s LTV (customer lifetime value) to determine how much we can spend to acquire a new customer. (CPA - Cost Per Acquisition)

Applying The Scientific Method To Advertising

There is no guesswork.

We don’t “shoot from the hip” or see what sticks.

We always test and measure.

We perform effective marketing only.

We come up with a theses/message, then we test it in the real market.

We track and measure the result and optimize from there.

Here’s how the process looks like in a more structured way:

The Basic Process Of Direct Response Marketing And Advertising

  1. Put out a message / “Rack the shotgun” / stimulus
  2. To a specific group/audience
  3. Ask for an action
  4. Measure the results / response
  5. Adapt and optimize (test new, different messages etc.)

The Most Important Factors In Direct Response Marketing

  • Target Client / Avatar / Audience / The “WHO” / LIST
    • very important factor (selling dog food to sb who hates animals / selling refrigerators in the antarctica)
    • demographics
    • goals and values
    • challenges and pain points
    • sources of information
    • interests/hobbies
    • psychological profile / attitudes
    • behavioural factors
    • potential objections
  • OFFER / The “WHAT”
    • very important factor
    • try to make it irresistible for our ideal prospects (requires us to get into their head)
    • price
    • deliverable (product or service)
    • high perceived value (judged by our audience)
    • deadlines / urgency / scarcity
    • USP (why should I do business with YOU instead of every other option available to me, including working with a competitor, figuring the issue out myself or doing othing?)
    • risk-reversal (we don’t ask the client to take on the risk, but take on the risk of the transaction ourself, ideally with a “better than no risk” guarantee)
  • Messaging and Ad Creative / COPY
    • from problem to solution (before and after states)
    • problem
    • agitate (emotional, pain, gap…)
    • invalidate (all other solutions)
    • solution (present, and why is our solution the best? USP!)
    • ask / Call To Action
    • speak to both the emotional and the logical parts of the brain

The Primary Focus: Lead Generation Advertising

Here we find the highest ROI for our marketing/advertising dollar spent, and our time and energy.

We make sure that no interested prospect gets lost, and we have the option to communicate, follow-up with our prospects and educate them.

Plus, we can pre-frame our solution to the interested prospects, we position ourself and our product as the solution.

A subscriber is a much better prospect than somebody (cold) who has never heard from us.

It’s all about the relationship with our subscribers and buyers.

We always lead with value, we don’t engage in scammy methods, no gimmicks.

Relationship first.

We always think and provide value for our prospects and clients.

We get them results!

How Do We Get People To Give Us Their Valuable Email Addresses?


We give them a reason why.

We provide valuable lead magnets (high value content offers) and fulfill instant gratification needs.

We create simple opt-in pages without any fluff or distractions but with only one goal in mind:

To capture the lead’s contact information.

Traffic + Conversion (+ Economics)

What does it really take to be profitable online?

We need traffic. (getting the attention)

And we need to convert that traffic. (making the sale)

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We can exponentially scale if we pay less for traffic than what we make in return.

$1 out, $1 in (return) + new customer = infinite scalability (with a working back-end)

Email marketing gives us a much better chance to convert our visitors/traffic than just trying to make a sale on the website itself.

Without collecting contact information, we only have one “try” to sell our visitors directly - otherwise they are gone and won’t come back.

97%+ are not ready to buy on the first contact/attempt.

Conversion rates are usually extremely low because we can’t follow-up, we can’t answer questions (upfront) and we only have one chance to make a good impression.

We don’t even know who they are!

That’s why we need to focus on lead-generation first and then nurture our leads by providing value.

There’s Always A CTA (Call To Action)

We provide great content and always lead with value.


What specific action do we want people to take?

There’s a CTA in every step along the customer journey.

There’s always an offer or offers.

Low-Threshold Offer

If we want people to take (certain) action, we have to make sure that what we offer has a high perceived value and represents no risk to the customer.

We take on the risk of the transaction. (with honest, no-risk involved guarantees like fair, 100%, no-questions-asked money back guarantees or even better than money-back guarantees)

This also forces us to create and deliver an excellent, results-delivering product and/or service.

Something that’s truly rare and remarkable.

That Which Is Measured, Improves

We always track and measure what we do and the results we get.

Then we adapt and optimize based on the results achieved.

Test, Test And Test

We try different things and see the response we get.

We test against “the control”. (the currently best-working version of our message, or opt-in page, or lead magnet, or sales page, or offer)

This is called split-testing (sometimes “A/B testing”).

When testing, we don’t want to change too many variables at once.

We want to track and measure changes and their corresponding results.

The Roots Of Direct Response Marketing

In the beginning of the 19th century the “mail order business” was born. (think catalogues and classified ads in newspapers)

The marketing/business problem back then was:

How do we get people to read an ad, get up from the couch to pick up the phone and make an order?

The mail order business is at the roots of what we today call direct response marketing.

The Fathers Of Direct Response

  • Claude C. Hopkins (“advertising exists only to sell something and should be measured and justified by the results it produces”)
  • Albert Lasker
  • John E. Kennedy (“advertising is salesmanship in print”)

More Direct Marketing Legends And Direct Response Copywriters

  • David Ogilvy (“[…] Only the direct response people know what they’re doing!”)
  • Gary C. Halbert
  • Jay Abraham
  • Dan S. Kennedy

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading and stay awesome,

Tim for Online Business Dude

PS: Start Your Own, Profitable Online Business From Scratch, Step-by-Step, Today!

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