South of Jewfish Creek
Dear Friend & Subscriber,
Let me recap for you what I said in last
it comes to writing copy, far too much attention is
paid to the actual writing and far
too little is paid to ferreting out facts about
that which the copywriter is trying to sell!
I told you that the first step to world-class
copywriting (salesmanship-in-print) is to create a FACT SHEET
about that which you wish to sell.
I told you to make your FACT SHEET as detailed
as possible and then go over it very carefully and translate
the facts therein to benefits for the buyer and to create a
humongous BENEFIT LIST.
I then told you to think about what you are
trying to sell, think about all the benefits to the buyer and
about how (in what manner) you
would like to buy what you are trying to sell. And then, you
work to come up with the sweetest, most powerful OFFER you can
and to create a DEAL SHEET which contains the strongest
PROPOSITION you can offer which has been reduced to writing.
I told you to copy, in your own handwriting,
the best ads and/or direct mail packages you can find that are
related to what you want to sell.
And finally, I told you that, if you would do
all this, the next step was for you to take a break and wait
for this month's letter wherein I would teach you how to lash
all this together in such a way as to create a compelling
Let's go for it! Here's what you do now: You
get yourself a few boxes of 3x5 index cards and you go back to
your FACT SHEET. You copy each fact on the FACT SHEET onto a separate
Now you go to your BENEFIT LIST and you copy
each benefit listed therein also onto a separate 3x5 card.
Set these cards aside in two neat piles on
your desk. Now, pick up your DEAL SHEET upon which is written
out the sweetest offer you can come up with to entice your
prospective buyers. Let's say, as in last month's
illustration, you are trying to sell a car and the offer you
have written out on your DEAL SHEET reads like this:
sell you my 2-year-old caddy for only $11,500. I'll
let you drive it for a week free before you decide to
buy it. Not only that, I'll throw in a free trip to
Las Vegas and I'll buy every drop of gas you use for
the first 10,000 miles you drive.
Now, armed with all this sales
"ammo," let's go ahead and lash everything together
and actually create a piece of world-class
salesmanship-in-print! In this case, we're going to write a
sales letter that we have
decide to mail to 1,000 people who live near you who might be
interested in buying your 2-year-old Caddy. I think a good
place to start would be to get the names of 1,000 people in
your area who own an Oldsmobile that is at least two or more
Alright now, the first thing we have to do is
we've got to capture these people's attention. And, since we
are going to be mailing printed
letters (as opposed to personally typed or
computer-personalized letters), what we are going to do is
write a headline and later emblazon it boldly across the top
of the first page of our letter.
Now hear this: There are a lot of good ways to
write headlines; there are headlines that ask a provocative
question; headlines that reveal a startling fact; headlines
that announce something like a special deal or a store
opening; headlines that shock; that titillate; etc. So, what
you are about to learn here is not
the only way to do it but rather, one
very good way that will seldom let you down. Namely, we
are going to strive to write a headline that offers both news
and a big benefit to
the readers of our letter!
First, let's take our proposition or offer
(it's the one you wrote on your DEAL SHEET) and state that
offer in such a way that is both newsworthy and
benefit-promising. Now, what is newsworthy about what we have
to say? Hmn? It seems to me that it's newsworthy that there is
a man somewhere (you) who has a car to sell he thinks so
much of he is willing to let someone drive it for an entire
week before they decide whether or not to buy. And what
are the big benefits, the unusual benefits of this deal? It seems to me free gas for a year and
a free trip to Vegas make up some very
Now, who is it that's offering this hot deal?
It's you, right? But who are you? OK, let's say your name is John Stebbins. So the first words
of our announcement (headline) could reveal who is making this offer, and we could start with...
John Stebbins Says...
But wait. You say you're not well-known and
your name won't mean much to the people reading your letters?
OK, let's try again. You're a local resident, right? So let's
start off with...
Can we improve on that? You bet. If we can be
more specific (specificity always enhances response) we can do
if we can be more specific in a way that immediately
implants in our reader's mind that you are someone real,
someone he could pick up the phone and call or go
visit if he needed to!
So, let's say you're a dentist and let's begin
our headline like this...
Local Dentist Says...
So far so good. What's next? Well, what is it
you are saying? Uh, let's see. Oh yea, you're saying you'll
buy a trip to Vegas and a year's worth of gas for anybody who
buys your 2-year-old Caddy. So, let's simply say it. Like
Local Dentist Says He
Will Buy A Free Trip To
Vegas And A Year's Worth
Of Gas For Anybody Who
Decides To Buy His
That headline is a simple, uncomplicated
statement of fact. It offers news. If offers two strong
benefits. And there is a "hidden" lesson here for
those of you perceptive enough to catch it. It's this: One
of the secrets of writing great copy is just...
Saying What You
Have To Say!
Don't discount the importance of this just
because it is such a simple and obvious thing. People pay me
ungodly amounts of money to simply help them say what they
have to say. And when I do it, they accuse me of being a
genius and I'm always amazed. You see, what I really am is
simple-minded. Here's a typical conversation between me and
someone I'm trying to help:
I'm going nuts trying to write this ad. I've been struggling
with it for weeks and I just can't seem to make any headway."
John, what is it you're trying to get across? What is the big
thing you have to say?"
Gary, I can give people the best deal on washers and dryers
that anybody has ever seen!"
yeah? Why is that?"
because of my wife. She's really p.o.'d at me. She says I'm a
workaholic and she's sick of it. She says we haven't had a
vacation in 14 years and if I want to keep her, I better close
the damn store for a month and take her to Europe. She says
she doesn't care if I almost have to give away my
So I start scribbling on a piece of paper and
a few seconds later I show him this:
She's fed up...
Angry Wife Forces Local
Businessman To Almost Give
Away Everything He's Got
In His Store!
that's it!" he says. "You've
got it! That's just what it is I wanted to say. You truly are
Maybe I am. I know I'd certainly be the last
to deny it. However, all I did here is say what he had to say.
Which brings me to a crucial
point I intend to pound into your head until you are sick of
hearing it. It's in response to something I hear all the time
and it usually goes something like this: "But
Gary, I don't have anything special to say. My offer is really
pretty ordinary. Pretty standard."
Oh yeah? Well, if that's the case, you need to
forget about writing copy
until you "sweeten" your offer enough so you do
have something to say. Contrary to popular opinion...
What You Have To Say
Is Enormously More Important
Than How You Say It!
Listen, if I just found out you had won the
Irish Sweepstakes, there is now way I could tell you that
would be dull and boring. On the other hand, I probably
couldn't entice you to read a book on the history of farm
machinery (there really is such a book) no matter what my
Back to the salt mines. If you were paying
attention, you will have noticed that our headline to sell
your 2-year-old Caddy didn't mention that you would let
someone test drive it for a week free. Let's put that fact in
a lead-in subheadline. And now, what we've got is this:
And he'll let you drive it
a week for free!
Local Dentist Says He
Will Buy A Free Trip To
Las Vegas And A Year's Worth
Of Gas For Anybody Who
Decides To Buy His
And that's what we're going to print in big
bold type on the top third of the first page of our letter.
And next? OK, next, let's tell our reader who this letter is
from. He already knows there is a local dentist involved but
let's make you even more real in his mind by telling him exactly
where you are located. It's simple -- we just write:
123 Oak Street
Massillon, Ohio 44646
And next? Ah, now it's time for our
salutation. It's surprising to me how many people struggle
with this part of a letter unless, of course, it is
personalized. Should it be "Dear Reader"? "Dear
Occupant"? "Dear Resident"? "Dear Lover of
Fine Cars"? "Dear Fellow Massillonian"?
No, no, no, no... NO! The way I always start a
non-personalized letter is...
I don't know, it just seems to me a... a... a friendly
way to begin.
And now, after all this, we are finally ready
to write the first sentence of our letter. And what should
that first sentence communicate? Veddy simple. It should...
Tell Our Reader
What's In It For
Him If He Takes The
Time To Read Our Letter!
Like this: "If you would like to own a
1987 Cadillac and get it real cheap, here is some good
That's the first paragraph and, in the next
paragraph or two, you tell the reader (by elaborating on the
headline) what the good news is. Like this:
name is John Stebbins and I am a dentist here in Massillon.
I've got a 2-year-old Caddy and it is in almost perfect shape
and I have to get rid of it for reasons I'll tell you later.
But anyway, I just want to sell this car fast and I'm willing
to let you test drive it for a week free if you are really
only that, if you do decide to buy it, I'll give you a very
low price and I'll buy you a trip to Vegas and I'll pay for
all the gas you use for the first year you have the car."
Now, can you imagine what our reader is
thinking at this point? It's easy, he wants to know... WHY?!!
Why are you offering such a good deal? And, if you want to
sell him, you've got to tell him.
Which is what comes next and you should
address the issue like this:
am I offering such a good deal? The reasons are simple. First,
I hate car dealers. I tried to sell my Caddy back to
the dealer I bought it from and he said stuff to me that was
an insult to my intelligence. That's why I'd rather sell it
cheaper to a regular person than hassle and bargain with some
guy who cheats people for a living.
the reason I'm willing to buy all your gas for a year is
because, unless you had a Caddy before, you probably don't
know but... Caddys, at least the ones in excellent condition
like mine, get very good
Now, listen to me: At this point you've
captured your guy's attention and you've give him enough to
decide whether he's interested or not. If he is
interested, what he wants now are some facts. And a simple way
to give him these facts is to simply enumerate them like David
Ogilvy did in the classic Rolls Royce ad I reprinted for you
last month. How's an easy way to introduce these facts? Like
here are 10 important facts about my car:"
And then, you pick up those two piles of 3x5
index cards on your desk (the ones that enumerate the facts
and benefits pertaining to your car) and you arrange those
cards in rank sequence with the card that contains the hottest
fact and/or benefit at the top of the pile. Then, what you do
is you start at the top of the pile and you transfer those
facts/ benefits on the 3x5 cards to your letter. You simply
enumerate them. The first three might look like this:
car has the strongest, most rigid construction of any car
built in America and it is the safest car you can use to
transport your loved ones.
has automatic everything and it is the easiest car on the road
car only has 7,413 miles on it and it should give you many
more years of luxurious trouble-free driving.
And so on.
And now we come to one of the most important
elements of all. Remember how I told you the single most
important thing to concentrate on was your offer? OK, the
second most important thing is to make your offer believable.
We've already put a lot of believability into this letter by
revealing your exact name, occupation, and address and giving
our reader specific info. But we must do more. You see,
if you've got this prospect wanting the car, wanting the deal,
what he wants most right now is...
More And More Reasons
Or At Least One More Powerful
Why He Can Believe
Again, why are you offering such a good deal
to him? It's not enough that you hate car dealers... if the
car is so good, why the heck are you even willing to sell it?
Here are some possible reasons:
need the money and you need it now.
wife hates the color.
decided to go to Africa and become a missionary.
want to take flying lessons and buy a sea plane but you can't
afford both the plane and the Caddy.
eyesight is going bad and soon you won't be able to drive
But whatever the reason is, it must be
reasonable. It must be believable. It must be real... and
true. It should take the question mark out of the mind of your
prospect. It should give him an "aha" experience
sort of like this:
"Oh gee, no wonder the guy wants
to sell the car so fast. I would too if I had a chance to go
live in Paris for 3-years!"
There's just one thing left: We've got to ask
for action which in this case means simply telling him if he's
interested to call you on the telephone.
Oh yeah, and you'd better give him a
reasonable reason why he should call right
now, like maybe simply the truth that you've mailed nearly
1,000 of these letters and you don't expect the car to remain
unsold for much more than 48-hours.
And then you sign off by writing...
forget to always add a P.S. because some people read
that part of the letter first. And what the P.S. should say is
some little thing additional about one of the items of hot
enticing info you've already given him like...
|| That free trip to Vegas has got
to be confirmed in the next 11-days or else the coupons I won
at the Dentist's Charity Ball last month will revert to the
Let's sum it all up:
create a FACT SHEET.
create a BENEFIT LIST.
reduce your OFFER to writing on a DEAL SHEET.
write a headline that contains news and the promise of one or
you have more than two hot benefits, you can put another in
the lead-in sub-headline.
reveal exactly who the
letter is from.
begin the salutation, "Dear Friend,".
||You write a first sentence that tells what's in it for your
prospect if he reads this letter.
use the next few paragraphs to elaborate specifically
on your promises.
||You next tell him why you are offering such a good
enumerate facts that translate to benefits and you simply list
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc., etc., as many as you've got.
||You next write a true and believable "reason
why" explanation of why you are willing to part with this
ask him to respond and urge him to hurry.
||You sign off with "Sincerely,".
write a P.S. that gives him a little new wrinkle on one of the
hot reasons you've already given him as to why he should buy
this car now.
And you typeset, type, print, fold, address,
stamp and mail your thousand letters.
And live happily ever after.
Now hear this: I was going to, after I got
this far, write that Caddy letter myself so you could see it
all strung together. But I've changed my mind. Some of you are
more serious than others about learning to write copy and, if
you are, I want you to write a sales letter about your
car and send it to me. Make sure I get the letter by the end
of this month and on the first of the month, I'll read all the
letters and I'll reprint the best one and send a really
valuable (honest) free gift to whomever I think has written
the best letter.
But don't write about anything except your car
because that will make my judging job easier and likelier to
be more fair.
Do this! You can't lose! My little contest is
really secondary. The main thing is you will have gotten off
your lethargic keister and stretched your mind a bit and the
doing of this will prove to you that...
You Don't Have To Get
It Perfect, You've Just
Got To Get It Going!
Gary C. Halbert
The Wizard of Words
this isn't the last thing I have to say about writing copy.
Not by a long shot. It is not everything you need to
know about this important subject. But... it is enough.
Enough to get you going. Enough to give you a workable formula
to get started while we are waiting for absolute perfection.
even think about missing next month's issue! Why? Simply
because I'm going to give you a piece of hot info that is so
totally important it could enhance your chances of success by
Copyright © 2003 Gary C. Halbert. All Rights