How To Master The Art Of Writing Advertising Or Direct Response Copy


Thursday, 8.50pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If you are in need of truly world-class copywriting… You Are Probably Going To Have To Learn To Do It Yourself! – Gary Halbert

I’ve had a few conversations recently that reminded me of the work of Gary Halbert.

You’ll find his stuff all over the Internet and it’s well known amongst a tribe of direct response marketers.

I’ve found the work of Halbert and his friend John Carlton always readable, direct, in your face and really what’s needed when you need to come back to earth every once in a while.

As you probably know, if you read this blog, I like theory – ideas and approaches and models and possibilities.

I like theory because a good theory has the ability to explain what has happened – it helps you make sense of the past.

A theory is not the same as a method – it doesn’t tell you what to do but why things are the way they are.

So, if you talk theory with people they will often look at you with polite puzzlement – wondering why they should care.

After all, when you need to get something done you need some rather more hardboiled advice.

And that’s what you get from the likes of Halbert.

Take, for example, his approach to writing copy.

It’s all laid out here, almost – but here is the nutshell version.

Start with the quote above – if you really want to explain what you do, then you’re going to have to spend some time working on it yourself.

Start by creating a fact sheet that lists every thing about you, your business and your product or service.

Write down as many points as you can – the idea is to go on and go on and then go on some more.

Create pages and pages if you can.

Then, when you’re wiped out start restating the facts as benefits.

Go through each point and explain it in a way that make it clear why it’s a good thing.

For example, some time back I was looking for a way to capture what I spent a lot of time doing – something that is described by a particular approach called Soft Systems Methodology.

Using this term is stating a fact – it’s a tested methodology with a modelling language and useful characteristics.

Do the last two paragraphs, however, really explain anything to you?

The benefit of using this approach is that you can “make good choices”.

That’s the benefit.

One benefit, anyway.

Moving on, once you’ve got your list of benefits the next thing to do is craft an offer.

An offer has two components – price and value.

Price is what you pay and value is what you get.

For example, pay be $1,000 and I’ll give you half a day’s consulting.

That’s a starting point.

Now, you need to make the offer a strong one – something that pulls together the benefits you’ve identified with a commercial deal that gives the prospect a huge amount of value at no risk whatsoever.

This takes some thinking – because you have to deliver REAL value, not just some made up stuff, and really get rid of any RISK – because without doing that your prospect will stay scared and refuse to buy.

The next thing to do is go through your swipe file – your collection of headlines and advertisements and editorials that you’ve saved – the examples that remind you how things are done and where others put their money.

If you haven’t got a swipe file then create one.

Once you’ve filled your head with all this information it’s time to take a break.


Step away for a day or so.

Have a long nap, go for a walk, do anything else.

Give your subconscious time to work.

At this point, frustratingly, Halbert’s letter ends and he talks about writing copy the next time.

So, let’s borrow from the end of this letter about editorial style ads.

Find and read some rave reviews of products and services.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a reporter wrote up one of those for you?

But that’s unlikely so you’re going to have to do it yourself.

Write it like you’ve just discovered this fabulous product or service and just can’t wait to share what you’ve found with the world.

Talk about the benefits starting with the most powerful and work your way down.

And, at the end tell the reader where they can find and buy this amazing thing.

And write it in a way that an editor would be happy to see in their paper – something that is fact checked and robust and strong and verifiable and authentic and truthful.

If your business isn’t any of those things, you’ve got some more work to do first.

You know that saying about polish and it’s effect on a turd.

But if you do have something that a customer needs – then this is the way to tell them about you.


Karthik Suresh

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