How useful have you found the 'copy' technique to be?

by CraigF
17 replies
Hi there!

Having been a lurker for quite some time on the forum, I decided to go ahead and get involved with this, MY FIRST POST.

While my fingers may be shaking, the sweat gathering on my furrowed brow, I thought I would start with a question to get over the awkward introduction.

That question is...

As praised by numerous copywriters (most notably Gary Halbert), how useful have you personally found it to copy the classic sales letters/advertisements in terms of improving your own copy?

I am reasonably new to the game, having a few satisfied customers under my belt. That said I feel like there is still much to learn, while there is a fountain of knowledge springing from these very pages to be getting on with.


Thanks!

Craig.

(...obligatory 'what do you think of my terrible sales page?' will be my next tentative/awkward relationship establisher. Contain your excitement, please).
#copy #found #technique
  • Profile picture of the author Chriswrighto
    Originally Posted by Craig Frame View Post

    Hi there!

    Having been a lurker for quite some time on the forum, I decided to go ahead and get involved with this, MY FIRST POST.

    While my fingers may be shaking, the sweat gathering on my furrowed brow, I thought I would start with a question to get over the awkward introduction.

    That question is...

    As praised by numerous copywriters (most notably Gary Halbert), how useful have you personally found it to copy the classic sales letters/advertisements in terms of improving your own copy?

    I am reasonably new to the game, having a few satisfied customers under my belt. That said I feel like there is still much to learn, while there is a fountain of knowledge springing from these very pages to be getting on with.


    Thanks!

    Craig.

    (...obligatory 'what do you think of my terrible sales page?' will be my next tentative/awkward relationship establisher. Contain your excitement, please).
    Hey Craig,

    Welcome to the WF.

    Personally... I've found it to not be as beneficial as others hype it up to be...

    I've copied a few... letters that have really blown me away.

    But when it comes to my progression as a copywriter...

    I prefer to fail and be told what's wrong.

    But this has been the same throughout my entire life... I have to mess something up to be able to grow.

    It depends on the person you are...

    I mean, if I'm trying to copy someones "voice," then I'll write out the whole piece... let it sink in, then move on to writing the copy.

    -Chris
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    Wealthcopywriter.com :)

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  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    This may help you: CopyHour.com — CopyHour.com
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  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    Welcome, man. Prepare to defend the gonads - this place can be a bit rough. But it's also fairly invaluable.

    Personally, I prefer to read over and over again to writing out by hand. Typing up a letter does more good for me than giving my hand cramps. Just thinking about writing some of the longer letters makes my hand hurt.

    It all comes down to how you learn. Some people internalize by writing. Some do so by studying. Some do so by trying, being ripped apart, and trying again. Give all of 'em a shot and figure out what works best for you.

    There's no one right way to be a successful copywriter.

    Good luck!
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    Aspiring copywriters: if you need 1:1 advice from an experienced copy chief, head over to my Phone a Friend page.

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  • I'll second the value of copying by hand to mimic someone's voice.

    It helped me early on, because I always wanted to slip into academic-sounding speech. I missed writing college essays, I guess.

    But once you've got a handle on writing how people talk, I'd quit copying letters by hand.

    Better to spend your time analyzing what killer sales letters do better than weak sales letter.
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  • 2 decades and 8 years ago when I first discovered the wonderful world of copywriting.

    I started writing my favourite letters by hand. It was agonising.

    Beneficial to some, but not me.

    What I did do is deconstruct them and wrote notes on all the "techniques" (sometimes with a sentence or two as examples).

    I found it much more useful. A lot less painful. And learned about the noble art of copywriting 100 times faster.


    Steve
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    • Profile picture of the author Chriswrighto
      Originally Posted by Steve The Copywriter View Post

      What I did do is deconstruct them and wrote notes on all the "techniques" (sometimes with a sentence or two as examples).
      This is definitely something worth doing.

      Find the top sales letters and deconstruct them.

      But also...

      Find your average sales letters...

      And write down what could be improved.

      It's much easier to critique someone else's work, than your own... but eventually you'll be able to turn it on yourself.
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      • Originally Posted by Chriswrighto View Post

        This is definitely something worth doing.

        Find the top sales letters and deconstruct them.

        But also...

        Find your average sales letters...

        And write down what could be improved.

        It's much easier to critique someone else's work, than your own... but eventually you'll be able to turn it on yourself.
        I'd take this one step further.

        Find a successful letter in a niche, then find an unsuccessful letter. Won't be hard to find on Clickbank.

        Break them down into their parts and see what they do differently.

        Why is that headline better?

        Why isn't that lead pulling people in?

        Why are people eating up that story, but not the other?

        You'll have a list of "must have's" and "absolutely don'ts" for your own copy.
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  • Profile picture of the author colmodwyer
    I hand write a lot of copy, but rarely a whole letter, word for word. Mostly stuff that pops out, stuff that seems awesome to me...

    Copied a ton of stuff from the GHL when I was starting out, which really helped me develop a conversational tone. Halbert's a master at conversational copy. So is John Carlton.

    So you really got to do what makes most sense for you. At minimum you want to give it a try. test it out... that link Rick shared is certainly making me feel inadequate for not doing it more.

    Colm
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  • Profile picture of the author colmodwyer
    Just had a cool idea... a neato way to get almost the same benefit as copying a whole letter by hand, without destroying your wrist.

    Only hand write the headline & lead and close of blockbuster sales letters...

    AND write out the sub-heads so you can see the structure.


    If you can do those bits awesomely, and order your sales argument sensibly, you're well on your way...

    In fact, you could do that ten times over in the time it takes the other guy to write a single sales letter, word for word by hand.

    Though I'd argue you might be twice as sharp as the other guy. Then you can hone the body copy over time, as you write for high-paying clients.

    Like I said before though, everyone is different. But the above might be a sneaky way to short-cut your development.

    I didn't do exactly that, but I did similar, hand writing only the stuff I thought was important and I had a pretty speedy development curve.

    No escaping hard work over the long-run though. You're going to have to put in some hours.

    Colm
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  • Profile picture of the author CraigF
    Thanks for all the responses guys!

    I've copied a few... letters that have really blown me away.

    But when it comes to my progression as a copywriter...

    I prefer to fail and be told what's wrong.
    Thanks Chris. I think I am somewhat similar. Although surely employing this technique with paying clients is a risky tactic?

    Welcome, man. Prepare to defend the gonads
    Thanks Angie. Don't worry I have gonads like rocks. Should probably seek medical advice, in retrospect...

    This may help you: CopyHour.com — CopyHour.com
    Interesting stuff, thanks Rick.

    Copied a ton of stuff from the GHL when I was starting out, which really helped me develop a conversational tone. Halbert's a master at conversational copy. So is John Carlton.
    Thanks Colm. The conversational tone of the writers you listed is my favourite style to write in, and certainly something to aspire to!

    Thanks again guys, lots to think about here!
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    • Profile picture of the author Chriswrighto
      Originally Posted by Craig Frame View Post

      Thanks Chris. I think I am somewhat similar. Although surely employing this technique with paying clients is a risky tactic?
      Absolutely.

      It's not the client who will tell you what's wrong (they're hiring a copywriter because the can't write copy,) it's a mentor.

      Until you're a top copywriter, your clients are always going to be paying for part of your education. You'll get them sales, but not as much as the guys at the top... but they know that.

      That's why they're paying you $500, instead of $20,000.

      Chris

      P.S. I'm not saying send client's awful copy... you do have to have an understanding of copywriting and human psychology.
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  • Profile picture of the author DougHughes
    Yes, I found it personally beneficial early in my career.
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    I write copy. Learn More.>>

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  • Profile picture of the author Ross Bowring
    Dude... you're better off STUDYING letters sentence by sentence and asking yourself why each individual element is there. What's the underlying persuasion at work?

    That will boost your learning and the frequency of light-bulb moments.

    Buy Robert Cialdini's book... read it... then study each letter and try to spot what devices they are using out of that bag of tricks.

    This is what worked for me. I did copy out a lot of stuff. But this "self-discovery" learning process was most fun and what I'd recommend.
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  • Lets say you've tried to write using the 10 by 20 super system (10 letters x 20 times) but you ended up at the doctors trying to explain how and why you've badly sprained your wrist (usually happens on the 3rd attempt).

    You had a shot at deconstructing but it was a bit too disconcerting.

    You've read the wretched things 27.79 times and now they're just a blur.

    Try this...

    Record them. Aim to get your voice inflections to resonate with the copy.

    If it helps get someone else to do it (just make sure they don't go all monotone).

    And just listen to them.

    Time and time again.

    What happens?

    You'll find out when you write your sales pieces.


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author joshearl
    Great question, Craig. I'm a beginner myself, but I'm finding this exercise immensely helpful. After only copying a dozen or so letters, I'm starting to see the underlying techniques. Yesterday I copied the Mercades-Benz 190D Diesel letter, and it was my favorite so far. It is brilliant, and it was gratifying be able to see that and to understand (in part) why.

    I'm a fan of copying word-for-word because it really forces you to slow down and gives your brain time to think about each word. I caught a lot of things in the Mercades letter that I didn't just by reading it. For example, the writer consistently uses the qualifier "American" car owners to personalize the letter a bit and help overcome the "but it's a foreign car" objection.

    The outlining exercise that others have suggested also sounds very useful--it would help me get the 30,000-foot view of the ad's structure. I might give this a shot as well.

    Also, copying letters isn't the only exercise that GH recommended. He also had a pretty extensive reading list that was meant to help teach you the basics of sales and persuasion. I'm reading Claude Hopkins right now, and I'm learning to see the principles he discusses in the ads I'm writing out.

    And thanks to Rick for posting the CopyHour link--I'm pretty sure I'm going to take the plunge and buy that.
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  • Profile picture of the author gjabiz
    Originally Posted by Craig Frame View Post


    That question is...

    As praised by numerous copywriters (most notably Gary Halbert), how useful have you personally found it to copy the classic sales letters/advertisements in terms of improving your own copy?

    I feel like there is still much to learn, while there is a fountain of knowledge springing from these very pages to be getting on with.

    Thanks!

    Craig.
    Craig,

    What do YOU want? Why?

    You have, in my opinion, asked a question which probably will not be of help to you. Why?

    Because, as you see already, one guys says do it, the other says don't waste your time...and it goes back and forth.

    My answer is...I don't know. I don't know how you learn, what the best methods might be for your learning ability. The worst advice you will find on the WF Copywriting forum is: Do this, don't do that BECAUSE this is what I did.

    And this from a guy who has been at it, all of 4 or 5 years now?

    Here is what I KNOW. I know that I can name at least 10 million dollar a year copywriters, some have been at that level for decades, and to a person, they ALL have taken the time to write out successful promotions by hand.

    So, you need to do what is best for you. Do the thing which matches your learning style, your TIME frames, your goals and will take you to what you want in the quickest possible time.

    Is that writing copy out by hand? I don't know.

    I do know that writers WRITE. And the deeper the well they go to, the better the refreshment.

    There are no rules or right and wrongs, you could, like others here have done is hang your copywriting shingle out and get paid to learn...you won't have much of a reputation after that, but you could eke out a living.

    gjabiz
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