The Magic 6 Steps in Writing a Winning Direct Response Promo – A Rough Sketch

The following is a rough draft of a process I am developing to maximize my effectiveness in direct response copywriting. It’s based on a presentation I recently heard by Michael Masterson and John Forde.

I am posting it here for your comments. Again, this is just a rough sketch based on my notes from the presentation. My intention in posting it here is to aid me in further refinement of the concept.

1. Research Phase. Interview the client. Interview the prospect. Learn everything possible about the market and product. Fully grok the offer being made to the prospect.

2. Creative Phase. Use the creative techniques of Gary Halbert, David Ogilvy and James Webb Young to produce the “Big Idea” in your mind.

3. Sharpening Phase. Refine the “Big Idea” by writing 100 variations of headlines. Choose top headline from this phase and put on paper as your draft headline.

4. Awareness Definition Phase. Define the awareness of typical prospect about the product and offer, as per the teachings of Eugene Schwartz. If prospect is least aware of what’s being offered, choose a least direct lead. If most aware, choose most direct lead.

5. Lead Selection Phase. Choose the most appropriate of the six primary leads. If least aware, consider the least direct “Predictions” or “Stories” lead. Followed by the “Secrets” and “Problem-Solution” leads on the awareness scale. If more aware, choose a more direct lead, such as the “Invitation” lead, or the most direct possible, the “Promise & Offer” lead.

6. Peer Review Phase. Write the first 200-300 words of your headline and lead. Submit to peers using the AWAI Peer Review process. If you score high enough using the Peer Review Process, continue to write the rest of the package.

What do you think of this process? What’s missing? What’s flawed? What’s on target? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.


  1. I think it’s awesome. I think about the prospect’s awareness a little earlier as it helps me form the right “big idea.”

    But I love to see the formula written out with links to resources, perfect. Thanks for the post.

  2. Roy says:


    Great post. I’m with Copywriting Dean though in that I seek to define awareness ASAP. It has such an impact on your promotion’s big idea that the earlier you think about it, the more likely you are to be spot-on.

    But really, I’ve internalized just about all of these steps so they’re happening concurrently. For someone starting today, I’d say this order works just about as well as any other — the important part is going through the entire process.

    Now here’s what you’re missing. What to do next. You have your big idea, presented in a hot headline and lead. How do you structure the rest of your copy? This is not talked about nearly as much as the oh-so-exciting headline and lead but I’d argue it’s just as important. Because once you have their attention, you need to escort them gently through to the sale.

    And if you know what to say next, and next after that, and so on… You’ll be much more likely to turn this great start into a winning promotion.

    Makepeace had a couple good outlines I still use on every promotion I write. There are others out there. But it’s important. Plus I’ve found knowing how to structure your letter leads to much quicker, more focused writing, with less editing on the back end.

    So… Where do you go from here?

    Great process though overall for getting your headline and lead in place, much more so than just using a headline swipe file to write the first thing that comes to mind.