Guest Column | June 28, 2019

How To Make An Important Marketing Decision

By Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriter

Risk Decision

There’s a huge difference between the writing styles of advertising agency copywriters and direct response copywriters. “Image” agency writers are long on style and attitude. Direct response copywriters rely on benefits and facts. Which one should be writing for your software company?

It’s a fact. Your copywriter is the crucial interface between your company and your prospect.

When I’m writing a web page for a client, it doesn’t matter who’s sitting in the C-level suite. All that matters when the prospect lands on your web page is that I am communicating benefits, overcoming skepticism, and getting the prospect to act! (Order, request information, download a report, whatever.)

The problem for software companies is that they often make a big mistake and choose a copywriter that’s all about cleverness and wit. These copywriters are hip. They are not salespeople.

A direct response copywriter, on the other hand, cares most about making sales, not jokes.

To make this distinction clearer, I'm going to contrast the way the two kinds of writers use the word "you" when they address the reader. The different approach to the prospect is really quite revealing!

 Let's start with an old ad from Citigroup that ran in Condé Nast Traveler. Here it is in its entirety with the stylish, poetic line-breaks intact. The first line is rendered as a large, bold headline. The rest is tiny body copy:

 There's only one you.

To help keep it that way,

we offer free

Citi(r) Identity Theft Solutions

just for being a customer.

Because when it comes to being you,

you're the only one that can truly

pull it off.

 This ad is stylish and quite cool in tone. There are certainly a lot of "you" mentions in the ad, but the copywriter keeps the reader at a distance. As in many "image" ads, the posture, the pose, the post-modern wink to the reader is everything.

This Citigroup ad, of course, is anathema to direct response copywriters. In my view, the Citigroup ad is self-indulgent and a terrible waste of expensive space.

Nope. I'm an advocate of what the late direct response copywriter John Caples called "you and me" copy.

Which means I don't try to distance myself from the reader. Instead, I try to establish a relationship with the reader.

 Let me give you an example. Here's the start of a letter that I wrote a while ago for Intuit's QuickBooks Point of Sale group. The letter is addressed to small retailers who don't use a point of sale system and invites them to request an information kit.

Dear NAME:

Do you still use an old-fashioned cash register to ring up sales?

Do you tediously keep track of every transaction by hand?

I sure hope not, because there's a much better way to handle all your point of sale activities.

You see, QuickBooks Point of Sale software, working with a receipt printer, cash drawer, bar code scanner, and credit card reader, gives you brand new ways to manage your business better than ever.

This means that, finally, information on inventory, sales, customers, promotions, and more, can all be at your fingertips, instantly!

ETC. . . .

Sure. This is a letter and not an ad, a web page, or an email, but the point is exactly the same . . .

When you’re choosing a copywriter to sell your software, don’t go for the clever fellow or gal with great “creative” ideas. Go for the one who simply wants to make you a pile of money.

Ivan Levison, Direct Response CopywriterAbout The Author

Ivan Levison is a direct response freelance copywriter who specializes in writing motivating emails, landing pages, lead-generation letters, and more for software companies. CLICK HERE for a partial list. Ivan can be reached at