Traditional versus conversational copywriting. One guy thinks traditional wins.

(What follows is the outline I wrote for myself in advance of recording the video. This is just an outline. Not a regular post or article.)

A while back I was sent a bit of a challenge by a reader who didn’t agree with much of what I have been writing about the thrust of my course, Conversational Copywriting.

Fair enough.

Here’s what he wrote… slightly edited for brevity…

“I disagree with your claim that traditional copywriting is dead. I think traditional copywriting works just fine. I work in direct response and the tried and trusted approaches to selling are timeless… both in print and on the web.”

Well… I’m going to agree and disagree with him on this.

A bit of history. My own background is in offline direct response. In the days before the web I wrote direct mail for over 15 years. I know how it works.

And yes, there are still a few industry verticals in which hard-core direct response sales copy works. That’s absolutely true.

  • Investment newsletters.
  • Alternative healthcare information and membership sites.
  • Income opportunity products and courses.
  • Prepper and survivalist products and services
  • And a few others…

For products and services like these, the old-school direct response works fine. It really does. Even online.

But the vast majority of businesses in the US, North America and the rest of the world do not fall into those narrow industry verticals.

Even within those verticals, there is a demographics squeeze.

Traditional direct response can work well against the Boomer generation. But not nearly as well against Millennials and younger.

It’s a dying approach that targets an aging audience.

Also… some forward-thinking marketers are showing how you can tackle those same verticals in a more conversational way.

In my course I mention Jeff Walker, who has done an amazing job of turning the old-school, long-form sales letter on its side. Go to his site, Sign up for his email list. I’m not telling you to buy his product. But just to experience his sales process is an education in itself.

And yes, the way I see it, Jeff if definitely conversational in his approach. He’s a master at it.

Old-school versus conversational is a debate that will likely go on for a long time.

But as you can tell, I’m pretty clear about where I stand on this.

Do you have a question for me? If so, add it in the comment box below.


NOTE: I have an entire course devoted to the craft of Conversational Copywriting.


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5 thoughts on “Traditional versus conversational copywriting. One guy thinks traditional wins.”

  1. Hi Nick,

    I believe you make a great point about traditional DM copywriting. It’s certainly still prevalent in some industries, and it seems to work. In fact, I would venture a guess that it’s almost expected by customers in some industries.

    But overall, I do see a trend toward conversational writing and storytelling being more accepted. It’s not surprising. Seems like everything ebbs and flows. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that social media was the new kid on the block. Now there are certain user demographics that rule social media circles.

    I remember a time when businesses ignored social media, thinking it would never really catch on (or be useful to them). Now they’re dead in the water if they refuse to participate.

    With social media being all about conversation, it’s not surprising that those same demographics would be more drawn in by conversational copywriting in general. And now that kids are growing up immersed in online social experiences, conversational writing is only going to increase in importance.

    I feel like business owners are starting to recognize this as well. I just did a consultation with a new client a couple of weeks ago. One of the first things he said was that his organization needed to tell their story and engage with the community.

    Well, you don’t get much more conversational than that. Of course, he’s not the only one I’ve heard that from.

    Speaking of conversation, I love the new videos. Great addition to your site!

  2. Stephen,

    Thanks for the feedback. And it’s good to hear that you’re seeing the same kind of evolution from traditional to conversational with your own clients. And you’re right about storytelling… it’s all part of that same conversational framework.


  3. Nick,

    As an experienced copywriter, I linked in all set to debate… with both you and your protagonist.

    But your raising of Jeff Walker as an example made the point I was set to make. Namely, that DM techniques and conversational copy are NOT mutually exclusive.

    In fact, I believe that replicating the door-to-door sales approach, just as DM did with mass media, is the key. Here’s what I mean.

    Door-to-door allows the salesman to engage in a conversation with the potential customer – to find out what challenges the customer has, what fears, hopes and dreams. Much like the “know your customer” part of a traditional DM approach.

    It’s just that technology is allowing that to be a two-way conversation, much as it was/is with door-to-door sales… but as has NOT been possible with traditional mass media.

    That’s why I think the future of copywriting is more of a Back to the Future approach – combining everything that’s been learned through traditional DM with the “across the table” approach that DM was built on.

    Just my $0.02… make it a wonderful rest of your week!


  4. Keith,

    Great feedback. Good to see we are largely in agreement! And I really like how you frame it… the way technology now allows us to replicate the old-school, face-to-face and conversational way of interacting with an audience and making a sale.


  5. Hi Nick,
    I like the Q&A content because I also learn from the exchange of ideas and different points of view. So the added Q&A seem like a bonus section of learning!

    Quick question…

    When you mention in the above copy that the vast majority of US, North America, etc. doesn’t fall into the narrow vertical businesses you listed…what are some of the main categories that do?

    Maybe the top 5 that come to mind? Just curious…I’m a newbie to all of this, but so far find it pretty interesting.

    Thanks as always for your feedback!

    Kelcey Taber ( I bought your courses through my husband’s account as it was already set up and I was in a hurry…but that’s okay, you can call me Lance! Hah!)


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