And my answer is NOT “Copy Sales Letters by Hand”
Sure — mindlessly copying Gary Halbert’s sales letters CAN be beneficial, but everyone claiming to be a copywriter tells you to do that.
I’m here to give you the method I used to learn when I was first getting started.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- A great ad or sales letter (or any ad that got you to buy something — it doesn’t have to be a sales letter)
- A pen
“BUT WAIT — YOU SAID…”
I know what it looks like, but stick with me for a minute.
I’m going to use a sales letter as an EXAMPLE because it’s easier, but you can do this with a Video Sales Letter (VSL) as well.
Here are the steps:
- Print the sales letter (If it’s a video — try and find a way to save it or get a transcription of it)
- Get your pen
- As you read the sales letter — pick out what each section is actually DOING.
You’re NOT just passively reading or hand-copying…
You’re using your brain to peel back the layers in a sales letter!
Here’s an example (a really long example) of me breaking down a sales letter.
That’s how I would recommend you go through a sales letter.
What is each part doing?
And don’t try to “get it right.”
Just ask yourself how a section makes you feel. How is it shifting YOUR belief about the issue/product?
For example — in the “End of America” promo from Agora…
I discovered my own “tactics” by breaking that sales letter down.
One example was: “Near to far belief”
What is that?
It’s when you prepare someone to believe something by starting AWAY from home.
The End of America promo did it by talking about how foreign countries have had their currencies crash.
It’s easy to believe because if that country is far away — you probably don’t care about it. And even if you do, you probably hear LESS about it.
If I say something happened where you’re living, it’s easier to accept or refute it.
If I say something happened a million miles away — it’s easier to believe. Especially if I can cite some proof or imply I have proof.
Then if I can make you believe something happened far away…
If I start bringing it closer and closer…
And if you keep believing it…
I’m preparing you believe something.
So if I say that Zimbabwe’s currency crashed…
Well, they’re a poor third world country. I believe it could have happened, but that couldn’t happen in a first world country, right?
Then I talk about how Germany’s currency crashed.
Well, they’re a first world country, but that’s so far away.
Well — what if I told you Great Britain had it’s currency crash?
Oh no. That’s getting closer to home.
And then if I tell you that say…
Ohio or another state had issues with currency not being accepted?
Well — we’ve gone all the way from a third world country to your backyard.
And if you work in proof and make someone believe each step of the way…
You’re setting them up to believe something that if stated outright would be unbelievable.
But that’s just an example of one tactic I discovered by analyzing what a sales letter was doing to me and making me think.
Now — this is hard to teach because it requires introspection, analysis and critical reading…
But the way I do it is I read through a sales letter and while I’m reading through it — I take notes. I mark up the sales letter with little circles, lines, annotations, etc.
I start off high level and go sentence by sentence.
Is this sentence meant to make me curious?
Is it proof?
Is it persuading me?
Is it a transition?
Why did the copywriter put it here?
Then after I do that, I’ll go through and look for higher level links.
Is this section here to set up belief?
Is it a proof section?
Is this section related to another section?
If I took this out — would it hurt the sales letter?
Then you can look even higher level.
How does the entire sales letter fit together?
What sections are there?
Where is the close?
When is the product introduced?
What’s the “road map” the copywriter used?
By studying and picking apart the copy — I started to learn different things I could start adding to my own copy.
And that was partly how I practiced and learned.
You CAN copy sales letters out by hand (I admit, I’ve done it), but there’s no point if you’re not keeping your eyes open for the underlying strategies that went into the copy you’re hand copying.
There’s more exercises you can do — but this was something that really helped me.
And remember — there’s no “wrong” analysis.
Just by doing analysis you’ll start to spot things and make connections.