Gary Halbert used to teach a very simple method for creating a book, report, or other informational product.
… With a side-benefit that it can turn you into a recognized expert on a topic in as little as 30 days…
Let’s say you’re interested in the golf niche, and want to create a product to sell.
You go to the library, and grab all the how-to books on golf you can find. You pull them all out, and one-by-one, you read them as fast as possible.
You’re not looking to necessarily read every word, but rather identify core concepts. When you get to something that’s obviously a primary teaching, slow down, and make sure you understand it.
Then, distill what you learned onto a 3X5 note card. Put enough down that you’ll remember the concept when you need to write about it later.
Continue through the first book, creating a new card for every core concept.
Then, move to the second. This one should be faster than the first, because you’ll start to recognize a lot of content.
When you get to a concept that’s new, make a new 3X5 card as before, explaining the concept in outline format.
When you come to a familiar idea, find the 3X5 card you already wrote on it. Scan it, then read this new take on the concept. What’s new and different? Add these as notes on the initial card.
Keep doing this, going through each book, ever-faster.
This will take a while, but it’s time well spent.
By about the fifth or sixth book, almost everything in every book will be familiar. At this point, you’re just looking for anything that really jumps out at you as unique or different.
Keep going, through all the books you’ve pulled from the shelf. By the time you get past book 10 or 11, you’ll probably be flipping through pretty fast.
The idea behind this process is that you’re capturing all the primary teachings, best practices, and proven principles on your topic — in this case, golf.
Once you’re done with this, you can put all the books back on the library shelf, and take your 3X5 cards home or to your office.
Spread them all out on the table in front of you. Stare at them for a while. Try to piece together some sort of cohesive organizational structure for the concepts.
Maybe for golf (and I’ve only ever played mini golf, so if I botch this, I apologize in advance) it’s “head game,” “long game,” “short game,” and “equipment.”
Sort each card into the categories you’ve created.
Then, within each category, sort the cards into some sort of order that makes sense.
Now, it’s time to start writing.
You have all this research fresh in your head, and good notes about what to talk about. Sit down and churn out prose from your sorted cards — your outline.
Go back and edit, and you’re done.
At this point, you will have created a great beginner’s guide on the topic, covering all the most important best practices and proven principles (as judged by others who saw fit to include them in their books).
And in fact, if you actually go through this process, you’ll be more of an expert on these best practices than 80-90% of people who approach the topic casually, as they’ll never do this extensive level of research.
In fact, if you do this, you may find the book earns you “authority” status on the topic, with a surprising amount of earned credibility coming from putting together others’ ideas.
Now I generally don’t recommend this process to start teaching on a topic — as I believe teaching from experience is a more powerful and helpful approach.
But I’ve commandeered this approach when I want to learn about something for my own interests.
Because, in short, I like to develop a high level of expertise on specific topics of interest to me.
I’ve done it in economics and finance — reading many of the core texts of the Austrian school and many “must reads” on investing.
I did it on home brewing beer, learning as much as I could in as short of time as possible when I started brewing with my brother-in-laws.
I certainly did it with marketing — I have a ridiculously large library of marketing books and programs, many that teach largely the same thing, that I’ve used to become well-versed on the topics I’ve used to make my living for the last decade or so.
And most recently, I’ve been doing it with music theory for electronic musicians.
Now, I know that most folks in the music world may not consider electronic music very heavy on theory, but the truth is that the good stuff is.
While electronic music is highly repetitive, and usually not very “melodic,” understanding things like harmony and melody, composition, and more all add up to much better music.
And while I’ve made electronic music for around 15 years now, I’d never boned up on this fundamental part of music production. I’d always opted instead for either just going percussion-heavy and doing whatever sounded best… Or borrowing midi note loops from others, and essentially borrowing their compositional skills for my tracks.
And if you’re wondering, I thought Roy was supposed to write about marketing, please stick with me — there is a lesson in this.
Back to the music. I didn’t do it in one day — probably a month or a month and a half. But by and large I went through Halbert’s process for creating a book. But instead of actually writing a book out of it, I used it for personal gain and understanding. And while I was learning music theory, I also picked up a ton of tips on arranging music, mixing and mastering it, the technical details behind electronic music, and a whole lot more.
The personal benefit is that I’ve seen a huge leap in my music creation ability. The potential — yet unrealized — professional benefit is that I could conceivably teach many of these topics, now that I’ve started applying them in my tracks. Not at the same level as a high-level music theory course. But for fans of my music, I could show them how I made it and the thinking that went into it.
And that all came from sitting down to learn these best practices and proven principles.
Now what’s the lesson in all this?
In short, it’s not hard to pick up a base level of competence in any topic, fast.
Halbert showed — through many products he eventually sold and made a lot of money off of — how quickly you can become an expert author on a topic, even if you know little-to-nothing about it.
I’ve used the same process to school myself and get good at a ton of things, from marketing to brewing beer to music theory.
And you should adapt this process to anything and everything you want to learn, too.
AND HERE’S THE REALLY IMPORTANT PART…
If we’re talking marketing and copywriting, you should know that very few people will do this on these topics. Instead, they’ll dabble here and there, mostly flying by the seat of their pants, and never really developing a solid level of competence. And then, they’ll dream about future successes. All the while, never really figuring out how to make a success of themselves right now.
But you don’t have to do it that way. You can follow the process outlined above, and in as little as 30 days, you can become fully educated on the best practices and proven principles of direct response. With this knowledge, you’ll know more about what works in marketing than 80-90% of people in business — even those who’ve been in business for decades.
And maybe you’ve heard the saying, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Well, this process can give you that one eye you need to become king.
That said, I don’t expect most folks who’ve even read this far have the commitment to do this. Maybe 1 in 100. Probably fewer. But those that do will experience a breakthrough in their life and career as a result.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets