Have you ever noticed how many copywriters like to use “hidden secrets” in headlines, bullets, and in copy in general?
Have you ever wondered why that is?
Well, I’ll tell you this — one reason is… It works!
But why does it work? Curiosity. It might of killed the cat, but it also caused your customer to send you money. By fanning the flames of their curiosity and offering to give them cool relief when they buy, you create an irresistible urge that leads to sales and profits for you.
So I hope you enjoyed my “hidden secrets” headline today — which I can presume you did, if you’re reading this now.
Remember, we’re diving into my mailbox all week long.
Normally I only do this for Mailbox Monday, but my queue grew so long I decided to answer questions all week.
Tomorrow I will take a break from that, because I just had my most productive week in months and I want to share my secret (and it’s not drugs). But then next week, I’m going to do it again — because the questions keep pouring in.
To have your question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday (or Thursday, or whatever), send it in at [email protected].
On to today’s question — about…
How to get inside the head of the world’s best copywriters… Discover why they actually wrote what they wrote… And how to use it to create bigger breakthroughs for you!
Can someone teach me how to analyze winning sales letters?
Such as… What each word, phrase, paragraph, structure is doing, why it’s in that order?
What is the thought used, how it develops its argument and persuasion, etc…
I’d like to be able to understand what’s really going on in sales letters from the greats such as Gary Halbert, John Carlton, David Ogilvy, Eugene Schwartz, etc.
I have good news and bad news…
The good news is that you’re asking the question.
The bad news is that I can’t magically bestow this ability onto you in a single issue of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.
This is an ability you develop through time. When I look at an ad or sales letter today, I’m learning far deeper secrets from it than I was learning from looking at the same ad years or even months ago.
Experience gives you new insights and new perspectives.
It’s why you should study the world’s best resources (books, examples, seminar recordings, “swipe file” ads [though I don’t like that term]) over and over again, throughout your life.
Bad books should be read once, maybe not even finished.
The best will stand up and continue to provide new and unique value every time you go through them.
So, let’s get into a few tactics to use as you do study them…
First off, I think this is one of the big secrets of the “write by hand” technique…
Here’s how most of us analyze other peoples’ ads — even the ones we should study line-by-line…
(And by the way, I know this because I’ve been guilty of it far too often too.)
We hear an ad works. We’re interested. So we go out and find it. We look at it. We read the headline. And we read a little copy.
Even though we’re excited, we’re busy. So we start to scan. We read subheads. A few bullets. Anything that jumps out.
Then we think, “That’s a good ad.” And we go on with our day.
Compare that to the “write by hand” approach taught by Gary Halbert and a bunch of other gurus in his lineage.
They recommend you take that old ad, and you take a notepad and pen. You start at the very top of the ad, and you start to copy it. Word. By word. By bloody word.
Every single sentence. Commas. Periods. Exclamation points. Note where it’s bold, and where it’s italics. Study the layout. What are the pictures? What are their captions? Sketch those if you have to.
Your hand will hurt.
What’s the line from Bryan Adams?
“I got my first real six-string / Bought it at the five-and-dime / Played it ’til my fingers bled / Was the summer of ‘69.”
Played it ‘til my fingers bled.
That’s what makes a great guitarist. Dedication. Repetition. Even in the face of personal pain and suffering.
With guitar, you start slow. Play riffs at a sloth’s pace. Over and over. Until your fingers hurt. Then bleed. Then grow callused.
With copy, writing by hand makes you analyze the letter very slowly. Word for word. Letter for letter.
You can’t help but pay more attention.
And while you’re doing this, you might ask, “Why the heck did they write all this copy?”
Then, “Why did they write this dang sentence that I now have to copy by hand?”
“And what about this sentence?”
And in your pain, agony, and suffering, you start to look for the real answer to that question. And that’s when you start to understand.
Now start to take notes…
Even though your fingers hurt, it’s time to write even more.
Take notes about what you’re finding.
When you ask yourself, “Why this sentence?”, pay attention to your answer.
Write it down with a note.
Go through, line-by-line.
Why do you think they did it? What goal does it accomplish? What reaction does it cause?
For most top copywriters, every sentence matters. Every word matters. There’s a reason we do what we do.
I’ll occasionally get a client challenging a line I put in on the 14th page of a 26-page sales letter. They think I can edit it out. I’ll tell them exactly why it’s there, what emotion it elicits, and what it’s setting up in the close on page 24.
Keep studying the ads.
Every secret won’t be obvious the first time.
But the more you look, the more you’ll find.
Assume they’re doing everything for a reason, you just have to find it.
Eventually, less “finger bleeding” is necessary…
Eventually you can sit down with a great ad, and NOT have to copy it out by hand. Maybe you go from writing it to typing it. Eventually, you mostly just read.
But you still read. Every word. Carefully.
Asking the same questions.
“Why is this here? Why are they saying it? What does it accomplish? What does it build on?”
Studying ads in this minute detail — for yourself — is the absolute best way to do this.
You can’t outsource this. Not if you’re really serious about getting it.
I have old ads where I actually went into the PDF and did this kind of line-by-line breakdown.
I pulled one out of the vault the other day, and was blown away by some of what I learned.
Even in looking back at it, I was reminded of lessons I’d forgotten.
And my interpretation deepened, based on my couple years’ experience since I’d last looked at the ad.
When you do this, keep the notes. You can have the same experience.
Finally, “pay to play” by going straight to the source…
Every single writer you mentioned, as well as countless other superstars, have various published materials where they’ve revealed their secrets to writing winning copy.
You should study those.
You should study as much as possible.
Not just the copy itself, but from any top copywriter who is willing to sell you something that teaches why they write how they write.
It’s not always cheap, but it’s a smart investment.
If you’re looking to build a business or a career by writing effective copy, don’t be stingy. Invest in ongoing professional education to improve at this.
And the best ongoing education comes from the folks who are in the trenches, doing it.
Sometimes I’ll spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars just to walk away with one little tip, like how to word my guarantee.
But considering that my best ads can lead to a million dollars or more in sales (and a hefty royalty for me), that’s a smart investment!
The biggest breakthrough here will come from an ongoing dedication to studying the best, and improving yourself with what you learn.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,