South of Jewfish Creek
Dear Friend and Subscriber,
Last month I promised this month I would teach you the real art of writing copy.
I am now about to keep that promise.
Pay careful attention. The ability to write ads and/or letters that sell is by far the most wonderful money-making skill you could ever hope to acquire. If you master this skill you should never again have to worry about money. The ability to write copy that brings in orders on a profitable basis is as rare as hen's teeth. And, if you can do it, I mean really do it, you can virtually write your own ticket.
Take me, for example. I turn down at least 9 out of 10 people who want to work with me, and my office currently has standing orders for enough work to keep me and my staff busy non-stop for the next two years. I can earn my living virtually anywhere as long as I can get my hands on a piece of paper and a ball point pen or a pencil or a crayon. I can do my thing on a boat, in a prison cell, in a submarine and probably, even on the moon. If I chose to work a regular 40-hour week, I'd probably earn at least 10 to 15 million dollars a year. I do not choose to work that hard. I spend far more hours on my boat than I do at my desk (I don't even have one anymore -- I usually work at my kitchen table) and yet, it would be upsetting to me if I had a month where I earned less than $100,000.00.
I have zero competition. It's not that there aren't any other good copywriters. No, it's just there are so incredibly few of us that, mostly, we are friendly and exchange ideas and info freely.
Which brings me to a crucial point: If you are in need of truly world-class copywriting...
You Are Probably Going To Have To
Learn To Do It Yourself!
You see, the few of us who really can do it (write copy that sells) are so much in demand, you can't even think about hiring us unless you are willing to spend an arm and a leg. And, even then... you'll still have to wait in line.
Besides that, we're an arrogant, surly lot most often more interested in dwelling on our divine wonderfulness than we are slaving away on your lowly project.
That's the bad news. The good news is... you really can learn to do it yourself if you've got (and you do) a good-hearted soul like me who is willing to debunk the subject and take the mystery out of it for you.
Gentlemen... start your engines. You are, as promised, about to learn the real art of writing copy!
Step One is to create a "FACT SHEET" about that which you want to sell. So, let's write some world-class copy (in this case, a sales letter) about a product with which you are very familiar. Let's write an ad about your car. Or maybe about your house. Or your spouse. Or about you. I don't care what it is, I just care that, for now, you pick something you know a lot about. Now, let me tell you something important...
When 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!
If you do your research properly, if you do enough "prep," your ads and sales letters will almost write themselves. It's like painting a boat. The actual painting is easy; the hard part is the faring (preparation) or getting the boat ready to be painted.
OK, let's say you've chosen to write a sales message about your car. Let's get going on that Fact Sheet. Make it long. Make it detailed. Make it complete. What make is your car? What model? What color? How much does it weigh? How many miles on it? What kind of tires? What's their condition? What's the interior like? How many miles per gallon? How much horsepower? How much did you pay for it? Who's been driving it? What kind of treatment has it received? Did it sleep in a garage or on the street? Where has it been driven? In the salt-free South or the metal eating highways of Ohio?
And so on.
Here's something else: Make sure you've got it straight in your mind what you are creating is a confidential fact sheet. That way, you'll be less likely to hold back what you consider to be the "bad stuff" which, as we shall see later, can be very useful.
Please take a lot of time with this. Most amateur "would be" copywriters don't do this step at all and, even most "pros" don't take nearly enough time with it. Be redundant. Put in too much. You should literally saturate that CONFIDENTIAL FACT SHEET with every scrap of info about your car you can obtain.
Now, let's say you're finished with this step and your Fact Sheet is as humongous as you can make it... say maybe 15-pages long. We are now ready for Step Two which is the creation of...
A Benefit List
What we do here is we go over our Fact Sheet very carefully and we translate the facts therein to benefits whenever we can. By the way, are you clear in your mind about the difference between a fact and a benefit? A fact is simply that... a fact about your product. Like the fact your car has 350 horsepower, or the fact it is painted a bright red. A benefit is what your product will do for the buyer. Let's say your car is heavy, it weighs maybe 4,000 pounds. That's a fact. Well, it seems to me that fact could translate to at least two benefits: (1) safety, a heavy car offering more protection in a wreck than a lighter one; and (2) comfort, as a heavy car generally yields a smoother ride.
What's that? You say your car is not heavy at all? In fact, it's quite light? OK, it seems to me that probably translates to a believable reason why your car gets great gas mileage.
It's a snazzy red convertible? Perhaps that translates to the "benefit" of the owner getting a lot of attention from young ladies or other folks he'd like to impress.
It's a sedate grey sedan? Perhaps that translates to the "benefit" of giving the buyer a dignified, no-nonsense impression. Very useful when trying to impress out-of-town clients with your trustworthiness and respectability.
Here are more examples of how facts can translate to benefits:
l car gets 40 miles
l buy saves money, gets
very cheap transportation
l car has been coated
with an effective
l car will last longer;
be worth more money at
l car is painted a bright,
l safety; easiest color to
see; very unlikely anyone
will crash into owner
because they didn't see
l car has 6,000 horsepower
l safety; will accelerate
like crazy and let you
get out of tight,
* and so on
* etc., etc.
Now, I'd like to emphasize something here: The Fact Sheet about your car should contain dozens and, preferably, even hundreds of facts about your car. Of course, since this is a confidential fact Sheet, not all of these facts will be positive and therefore, not every fact will translate to a benefit. However, if you do your homework... I mean really do it... you should, at this point, have a Benefit List that contains, at least, several dozen benefits.
Onward to Step Three: What you need to do next is to start thinking about your offer. Your offer (think of it as a business proposition) is by far the most important element in the entire sales message we are constructing here. The most common offer (proposition) of all goes something like this...
If You Will Give Me X Amount Of
Dollars, I Will Give You X Product
Or X Service In Return.
Give me $18,000 and I'll give you a new Caddy. Give me $.25 and I'll give you a copy of the "Miami Herald." Give me $35,000 and 10% of your gross sales and I'll write an ad for you. Give me $7.50 and I'll mow your lawn. Give me $30.00 per hour and I'll work on your boat. Etc., etc.
Let's back up to "If you give me $18,000, I'll give you a new Caddy" and see if we can't "sweeten" that offer. How about this:
I'll Sell You This New Caddy For
$18,000 And I'll Let You Drive It
For A Week Free Before You Decide
Whether Or Not To Buy It!
I'll Sell You This New Caddy For
$18,000 And I'll Let You Drive It
For A Week Free Before You Decide To
Buy It... Plus, You Don't Have To Pay
Me For It All At Once; You Can Pay Me
Over A Period Of Five Years!
And so on. You should think more about how to "sweeten" your offer than any other aspect of writing copy. Think about what you are selling. How would you like to buy it? Would you want a free trial? A huge and legitimate discount? Easy payments? A money-back guarantee? Would you like a free gift with your purchase like a color TV or a toaster oven? A night on the town with Kim Bassinger or Paul Newman? A free Florida vacation?
Know this: Strong copy will not overcome a weak offer but..
In Many Cases, A Strong Offer Will
Succeed In Spite Of Weak Copy Written
By Marketing Morons!
In any case, I want you to come up with the most powerful offer you can and reduce it to writing. It should be no more than a few lines (you should be able to get it all on the back of an envelope) and don't worry about getting it right (writing-wise), just get it down on paper. It'll probably read something like this...
"Gary, I'll sell you my 2-year-old Dodge pick-up for only $6,500.00 and I'll let you drive it for a week free before you decide to buy it. I'll also give you 5-years to pay me. Not only that, I'll throw in a free diving trip to the Bahamas for you and Paulette and I'll personally pay for ever drop of gas you use for the first 10,000 miles you drive!"
Whew! Now that sounds like a deal, doesn't it? Hark unto me, Buckwheat: Writing "copy" is less than 1/10 as important as learning to think about new offers and getting them down on paper as I just did. I can't say it often enough or strongly enough...
It Is The Deal... The Offer... The Proposition
You Are Making That Is The Heart And Soul
Of Great Copywriting!
Anywho, by now you should have three different "tools" you have created with your very own handwriting:
A very detailed CONFIDENTIAL FACT SHEET.
A very detailed LIST OF BENEFITS.
A DEAL SHEET which contains the strongest proposition you can offer which has been reduced to writing.
Now, armed with these three important tools, is it time for us to finally start writing some copy? No. No. No-ooo. No! Look here, friend, we've only just begun our "prep"! What we're going to do next is, we are going to program our neural, cerebral infra-network (our mental writing) with what it feels like to write world-class copy. OK, remember how, in several of my past issues, I've kept at you to create a "swipe file" of good ads, sales letters and so on? Not to mention all those headline cards? You do remember? Good! Here's where it starts to pay off. What I want you to do now is go to your swipe file and pull out the best ads and sales letters in your collection that are selling automobiles. And what you do next is...
WAIT A MINUTE! What in the world am I hearing? You say you don't have a box of headline cards? You say you don't have a swipe file with car ads or any other type of ads or sales letters? Are you trying to tell me you thought all you had to do was turn on your word processor and, in the middle of the night, the tooth fairy would come and write your copy for you?
Oh, you poor misguided soul! Are you beginning to see that's not the way it works? That the essence of writing good copy is careful preparation and hard work?
OK, OK, if you've at least learned that much, then ol' good-hearted Guru Gary is willing to bail you out again. But please, let's not make this a habit. I'm very serious when I exhort you to assemble your own personal "copywriting tool kit" which should consist of a collection of headline cards, good ads, good sales letters, good TV commercials, good ideas, good offers, etc.
Do This! It Is The Raw Material From
Which Mucho Fungolas Can Be Made!*
Let us press on. I am about to reprint here, three of the best sales pitches ever written to sell automobiles. The first is a letter written by a truly legendary marketing man whom I miss very dearly. I'm talking about the late Joe Karbo and what I'm reproducing here is a sample letter that appears in his little masterpiece of a book (it sold 3,000,000 copies) called "The Lazy Man's Way To Riches." By the way, your personal library should definitely contain a copy of this incredible $10.00 classic and you can get one by calling Jay Flanagan at (714) 897-7772. (Say "hello" to him for me when you call.)
The second "sales-pitch-in-print" I'm reproducing here was written by another legend who is one of the very few advertising men alive today who commands my total respect. I'm talking about David Ogilvy and the ad I'm reproducing sold out the entire U.S. inventory of Rolls Royce automobiles when it ran.
The third little gem of an automobile sales-pitch-in-print was written by another guy who is also a legend. (A legend in his own mind, that is.) I'm talking about me and the letter I'm reproducing here had a very short lifespan because...
After Mailing It One Time, The Client
Couldn't Get Enough Cars To Sell!
Let's mush on. What you must do now is not just read these classics. No, you need to copy them word-for-word in your own handwriting. If you are really serious about becoming a master copywriter, you will do this over and over. The idea here is not for you to steal these promotions but rather, to be influenced by them. You want good writing to become one of your automatic skills and rewriting superb ads and sales letters in your very own hand is the best way in the world to do this.
OK, here they are. Now, go for it!
Joe Karbo's "Cadillac" Letter
I have a new Cadillac that I got to sell because I'm leaving for the
Service next week. It cost me $14,000 and has only 732 miles on it.
Rather than sell it to some thief of a car dealer or going to the trouble of
advertising, I'll let you have it for $7,000.
If you don't have the cash, don't worry about it because I only owe
the $7,000 and you can take over my payments which are about $275 a
You know I drive careful, but I'd feel better if you'd have your
mechanic check it out before you buy. In fact if you'd like to drive it for a
couple of days, I'll be glad to deliver it to you with a full tank of gas. And if
you don't like the car, I'll take it back and you've had a free ride. No
One thing -- it's an awful green color (but you could have it
If you're interested, call me at (714) 826-1313 between 7 and 9
David Ogilvy's "Rolls Royce" Ad
had a picture
of a luxurious
"At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this
new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock"
What makes Rolls-Royce the best car in the world? "There is really no magic about it --
it is merely patient attention to detail," says an eminent Rolls-Royce engineer.
|1. "At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise comes from the electric clock," reports the Technical Editor of the motor. Three mufflers tune out sound frequencies--acoustically.
2. Every Rolls-Royce engine is run for seven hours at full throttle before installation, and each car is test-driven for hundreds of miles over varying road surfaces.
3. The Rolls-Royce is designed as an owner-driven car. It is eighteen inches shorter than the largest domestic cars.
4. The car has power steering, power brakes, and automatic gear-shift. It is very easy to drive and to park. No chauffeur required.
5. The finished car spends a week in the final test-shop being fine-tuned. Here it is subjected to 98 separate ordeals. For example, the engineers use a stethoscope to listen for axle-whine.
6. The Rolls-Royce is guaranteed for
|three years. With a new network of dealers and parts-depots from Coast to Coast, service is no problem.
7. The Rolls-Royce radiator has never changed, except that when Sir Henry Royce died in 1933 the monogram RR was changed from red to black.
8. The coachwork is given five coats of primer paint, and hand rubbed between each coat, before nine coats of finishing paint go on.
9. By moving a switch on the steering column, you can adjust the shock-absorbers to suit road conditions.
10. A picnic table, veneered in French walnut, slides out from under the dash. Two more swing out behind the front seats.
11. You can get such optional extras as an Espresso coffee-making machine, a dictating machine, a bed, hot and cold water for washing, an electric razor or a telephone.
12. There are three separate systems of power brakes, two hydraulic and one mechanical. Damage to one will not affect the others. The Rolls-Royce is a very safe car--and also a very lively car. It cruises serenely at eight-five. Top speed is in excess of 100 m.p.h.
13. The Bentley is made by Rolls-Royce. Except for the radiators, they are identical motor cars, manufactured by the same engineers in the same works. People who feel diffident about driving a Rolls-Royce can buy a Bentley.
PRICE. The Rolls-Royce illustrated in this advertisement - f.o.b. principal ports of entry - costs $13,995.
If you would like the rewarding experience of driving a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, write or telephone to one of the dealers listed on opposite page.
Rolls-Royce, Inc., 10 Rockefeller Plaza, New York 20, N.Y. Circle 5-1144.
Guru Gary's "Rolls Royce" Letter
Please take a look at the photograph I am sending you with this letter.
What you are looking at is a picture of a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow I can sell you so cheaply you will find it hard to believe!
Why is this car so inexpensive? Actually, there are three reasons and each of them is equally important: First of all, I am not a "used car dealer" in the usual sense of the word. No. What I do is specialize in absolutely nothing but pre-owned Rolls Royces and I have developed a remarkable way to get these cars into the country at a cost so low it will take your breath away!
And secondly, if you so desire, I have worked out a way to finance cars over a period of four to five years at a very favorable rate of interest.
And thirdly, I am not overwhelmingly greedy. That's important. You see, many people in the car business are only in it for the money, but that's not true with me. And, as a matter of fact, it's not true of anybody that is really in love with the Rolls Royce motor car.
A Rolls Royce is different. It is more than just a car; it is a legend. When you drive one, everybody knows you are special. You are admired by women and envied by men. Quite frankly, there is nothing else in the entire world that will give you the instant status as sitting behind the wheel of your very own "Queen of the Road."
Let's face it. As the owner of a late model automobile, you already know the value of owning and driving a fine motor car, so my question to you is:
Why not go all the way?
With the unbelievably low price I can offer plus the 100% financing I can arrange, it might even be cheaper to drive a Rolls than the car you now have!
Please call me as soon as you read this letter. Right now, I only have five of these wonderful bargains and they won't last long!
My number is 213/555-1234
P. S. A Rolls Royce lives forever. The one you drive today
could be driven by your grandchildren.
P.P.S. There is another "mystery reason" why I can sell these
Rolls Royces so cheaply, but I would prefer not to reveal
it until we talk on the phone. Thank you.
All done? Man oh man, I've been working you to death, haven't I? Hey listen, I never said it was easy, right? But I'll tell you what: Making millions with nothing but a few legal pads and some ball point pens in-between fishing and diving in the Florida Keys sure beats creating drivel for some stupid ad agency or licking boots at IBM!
And, what should you do next? Actually, this next step is one of the most important of all and you're going to love this one because...
What You Need To Do Now Is
Take A Break!
I'm serious. Creating great advertising is not a straight-line process. 99% of it is truly perspiration but the other (and vital) 1% is inspiration and...
Inspiration Comes, Most Often,
When You Are Not Looking For It!
Now, let's be real. So far, you haven't done any of what I've recommended because, after all, you're just now finishing up reading this newsletter.
Fair enough. But you've got something you want to sell. I know you do because you wouldn't be so intently focused on what I'm writing here if that were not so.
Maybe it's not a car. But, whatever it is, I'm going to make you a promise: If you really do everything I've written about in this letter... in other words... if you examine closely what it is you want to sell... and... if you create a comprehensive and detailed CONFIDENTIAL FACT SHEET... and... if from that Fact Sheet you create a detailed list of BENEFITS... and... after that you reduce to writing the strongest (and all-important) OFFER you can possibly make... and... after that, you copy out IN YOUR OWN HANDWRITING the three promotions I've reprinted here...
Then, all you have to do (and remember, this is a crucial part of the process) is take a break and wait for my next month's issue because then I'm going to show you how to take all this "ammo" and lash it together in such a powerful way it will make all your prospective buyers crawl out of the woodwork and almost beg you to take their money!
Don't scoff. I do this stuff every day and I do it better than anyone else alive. So, tune in next month and I'll give you the "finishing touches" to this process so you can do it too!
|| Gary C. Halbert
P.S. My staff keeps telling me I should take off my mask and fins and come out of the water long enough to teach a "Copywriting Workshop" for my subscribers. Do you think this would be a good idea? If so, drop us a note or give us a jingle (213) 273-7053 and let us know. I'm not asking for commitment here, just some feedback.
Copyright © 2003 Gary C. Halbert. All Rights Reserved.