Michel: Well, this is an important question because as we do, Gary, and as many of the people who do write good copy do, is that they have swipe files and I have a cabinet that's just absolutely –
Gary: Oh, man, stop. I got to stop you. I got to tell you a story.
Michel: Go ahead.
Gary: I swear to God this is true and it's fresh — fresh off the press. Eric Weinstein — I don't know how many of you people know him — but he works in marketing and he used to be my list broker back in Los Angeles and for a while, here in Florida.
And he called me up and he said, “Gary, I just got back from Switzerland. You know, I'm not in the list broker business any more and I've got all these ads, you know, in folders that — and letters that are controls.” He said, “Do you want them? Because I'm going to throw them out.” I said, “Do I want them?”
I sent a guy up to get them. He just brought them back. There's 200 folders of winning, tested advertising ****. Two hundred folders. They're sitting in my other room right now. Is that — that story's three days old. It was that — do I want them? Oh, no, you know?
Michel: But, Gary, you sell some swipe file resources yourself?
Gary: Yeah, I do. I — you know, I don't want to turn this into a pitch because I really don't, but I will tell you this, I've given a lot of seminars but the best one I ever gave in my life — I don't know why it is — I was just at concert pitch and it — you know, nobody tells everything they know and — but this time, I said the hell with it and I gave it in Miami Beach.
It was called How to Write a Sales Letter That Will Make You Rich and it was the best on copywriting that either me or anybody's ever given. That's the first time the two mother letters I brought out, you know.
And I'll tell you something. I was scared when I dictated those letters — made them write it because I thought people were going to throw stones at me. But I said, you know, you're nothing but a wrinkled up old bitch, eat shit and die. But it got the point across and, by the way, I want to make a point about getting the point across.
If you're a scuba diver, you don't have to learn very much but the thing that you need to learn — the half dozen things you need to learn — you better learn them. Because if you don't you're going to die. And one of those things is that you learn that you don't hold your breath under water. Now, I'm going to explain to you exactly why.
Let's suppose that, um, you're — you dive off a little cliff into the ocean that's really deep and you hold your breath. You have no scuba gear on. You take a big breath and you fill your lungs to satiety, you know, in other words, you fill them as large as they'll go. We're all inclined to do that.
Now, as you go down and the water pressure pushes against your lungs, the area in there will get smaller and smaller and smaller. That's okay. Because as you come up, you're kicking your way to the surface, there's less pressure and your lungs get bigger and bigger as the pressure gets less and less and by the time you return to the surface, your lungs are the same size as they were when you dove in. Everything's fine.
Now, but let's say that you're 60 feet down and you want to get to the surface real quick and you take a great big gulp of air and you fill your lungs to satiety. Well, since the water pressure is compressing the size of your lungs, you have taken in five times as much air as you could take in if you were on the surface.
You hold in your breath instead of breathing and as you go up, the pressure lessens and your lungs expand and expand and expand, the air expands, until your lungs can't expand any more and then the air goes through your lungs into your bloodstream and into your brain and other places and either cripples or kills you.
So, you'll notice that when I make a point, I'm not really shy about it. I try and hammer it home. But here's the point. I look at teaching people copy like I'm trying to save their financial life. Because if you guys don't learn to write copy, you know what you're going to have to do? You're going to have to work for a living and if you have to work for a living, it's going to kill you.
But the same with scuba diving. So if I am teaching someone to scuba dive, I make damn sure — I don't just say, “By the way, don't ever hold your breath when you're under water. Got that? Fine. Okay.” And go on to the next thing. No, no, no, no, no. I make sure they understand that. Because in marketing, there's only a dozen or so things you got to get right but you really, really have to get them right. You can't paddle up or down the Mississippi River and get to Marietta, Ohio.
Michel: That's an important point because one of the things that Peter Stone, the guy that actually is the foundation of this call, the guy that actually put this together –
Gary: Yeah, he did.
Michel: He — he said something that was phenomenal and a lot of people have heard this before. You've probably heard the saying that good copy is the temporary suspension of disbelief. Well, Peter Stone says good copy is the temporary suspension of critical thinking and the reason why he said that is because a lot of people were asking questions like — on the board that he's the moderator of.
He's one of my moderators — the question people ask is why do you have to explain so much in great detail and I think the best thing that I can say whenever I try to explain that, I use Peter's quote but at the same time I say if you have to write copy and you leave out stuff where people have to think by themselves, they're going to naturally be inclined to think about all the negative stuff as well and all the things that could easily get them to confuse what you're going to say.
Gary: Well, that's true — that's true. But that's part of the story. Now, you've got one part of it exactly right. Confused prospects never buy.
Gary: But you must convince people. And let's talk about credibility. That was one of the –
Gary: Questions on the site, the credibility and believability. If you have a retail location, you tell them we're located at 123 Main Street right across from the police station next to the public library and you tell them — you tell them you're telephone number with the area code. It's 216-834-9067. We're open from, you know, 9:00 in the morning to 5:30 p.m. Pacific Coast Time, but we're never open on Saturdays and Sundays.
You tell them. Specifics build believability and you're got to understand something.
All of us, you know, like, I know a great deal about marketing. I can hardly function otherwise. You know, God, most of the time, he apportioned skills, you get so much skill to balance your checkbook, so much skill to get your laundry done, so much skill — he gave 99 percent of it all to me for marketing and I — I just stumble through life, you know? I mean, I'm as dysfunctional as any human being on earth except Jay Abraham who's totally dysfunctional. Okay?
But, you know, I bought a really neat little thing from Sharper Image. It was the size of a stick of gum. It's — it's a tape recorder and as soon as I opened the instruction book, I went into a rage. You know what it said? How to set the clock and calendar. I don't want a tape recorder that you — you know, I want a catalog of stuff that I want — I would like to see catalog — the title of “stuff that only does one thing,” you know, because that's all I can handle.
I can't play my VCR. I have a 72″ direct view screen, not projection, and it's got a VCR and a CD or DVD player and I don't know how to play it. So you know what I did? You know what my solution was? I went out and bought another like 19″ screen that has these two little slots you stick the DVD in one and the VHS in the other.
Now I work with a guy who is literally a rocket scientist. He's worked 20 years at Nassau and he laughs at me and makes these things work. But I can't make nothing work, you know, and now they want — by the way, I have a challenge.
If there's anybody out there, anybody on this call, that wants to endear themselves to me, I want somebody to find me something and here's what it is. I never answer my messages that I get on my cell phone. I never answer messages that I get on my home phone. I do not know how to answer messages on those phones. I don't want to come home and know them and I don't even want to know that people called. I want a cell phone that has no features whatsoever. It won't take a picture. It won't do caller I.D. It won't store numbers. It won't let me put my to do list in there. It won't function as a PDA. It won't let me put a calendar. Nothing.
If you call me on my cell phone and I'm there and I can answer it, we'll talk. But if I don't answer it, I want to never know you called. Do you understand? And I want to be able to call out and take calls in. That's all I want. A featureless cell phone.
I got on a plane to Los Angeles where my children are from Miami. It's five hours. I decided to read the — this is really off the subject, but I decided to read all of the features. I said I'm going to read this book. I'm going to read it.
Well, I learned there's certain laws about electronic things when you explain them. First of all, they have to be written in 17 different languages. Secondly, they have to be written in half point type. Thirdly, they have to — all these obscure government regulations have to be explained before you can get to the meat of it.
And with my phone, you could do all these amazing things. You could find out the humidity in Paris, you know. How deep you are under water. How high you are if you're climbing a mountain, etc. etc. etc., but, and some of you already know about this, it has three video games on it and one of them is Snake and the way it works is you feed the snake and his tail gets bigger or something like that.
And I was bitching about this at a coffee shop the next day in L.A. and a pretty young girl said to me, “Oh, you've got Snake? Oh, me and all my friends have it, too.” I was a member of an “in club” because I had a cell phone that you could play Snake on.
That is not the way I want the world to work. I want the world to be a Zippo lighter. Not a Zippo lighter that's a compass that you can access your email with and I'm done with that. Forget it.
Michel: But you drove the point home very well, Gary, because I think that the idea is is that whenever you write copy, some people tend to — whenever they try to get all those details, the point is, you want to be, not only as specific as possible, but you literally want to take a person by the hand and take them through the copy. In fact, one of the questions was, “How do you keep going from one paragraph to the other?” What happens for example if you have writer's block?
Gary: I never have writer's block and I can teach all of you how to never have writer's block. Never. I can do it in 30 seconds. Do you believe that? Here's what you do. You write something that you know to write. I want to tell you about a new blender that… And you're stuck right there.
What you do is you write “blah.” “Blah, blah, blah.” And you never stop writing “blah” until it occurs to you that I — I want to tell you about a blender that, uh, blends not only vegetables and fruits but also walnuts and casserole and blah, blah, blah. And you keep writing — the thing is what stops writer's block is movement. You just keep writing “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” and that writer's block will go away every single time. The movement of your hand across that piece of paper or the typewriter keyboard will “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
Michel: Well, that's interesting, because I think that's a good point to make because a lot of people tend to use, to confuse between copywriter and copy editor. You know, they put on their editing hat rather than the copywriting hat.
Gary: They put it on too soon. You need both but you don't — when you're writing . let me tell you something that John Carlton and I don't have that everybody else has. I don't think Bencivenga has it. But there is nothing, no impediment between our brain and our hand. There are no clots whatsoever and you shouldn't be thinking about whether this is true, whether this will offend the regulatory agency, you should just write your first draft as blazingly fast as you can write it.
The faster you write it, the better it will be. And write it as though God gave you permission to write anything.
Then, of course, just because you write it, remember this, all of you, get this in your head. Just because you've written something doesn't mean you're going to mail it or publish it. It's a draft. And don't take the enthusiasm out of the draft. Don't kill the baby aborning. And I'll give you another rule for your relationships with your friends, your creative friends.
When you first start talking about an idea and another guy says, “Well, let me be the devil's advocate for a minute.” Hit him in the teeth as hard as you can. Right there. Just hit him as hard as you can and kick him out of the room because he doesn't deserve to live and certainly not be in a room with real creative people. There is a place for devil's advocate but not while the baby is aborning. The ideas are hard enough to come up with anyway.
Michel: Good point. That's an excellent answer, Gary. Thank you so much for sharing that. I think also another question that's sort of part of that was what kind of exercises should they do, should people do, to get into the flow and to get into the mind of a good, great copywriter that writes –
Gary: They should write his letters out in longhand. Every one of you should write a letter out in longhand every day. Hey, but before I forget, I want to make an offer to everybody on this call. It's a free offer. Is that okay for me to do that?
Michel: Oh, yeah. Go ahead, Gary.
Gary: I can teach each one of you how to make — how to at least triple your Internet profits and you can do it with a metal object. I cannot send you this metal object through the net. I have to mail it to you. So here's what you do. Write to Roxanne at the garyhalbertletter.com. Roxanne at the garyhalbertletter.com. And put your snail mail address there and I will send you this metal object which — and explain to you how to use it and I guarantee it will triple your profits.
Now, this is not necessary but if you trust me, I would also like you to put your telephone number and fax number there and I don't abuse anybody's information. You know me, I don't even abuse — I don't send emails everyday or anything but if we have to check, if the package got to you, or fax you, you don't have to do that but I do have to have your snail mail address and I will mail this metal object out to you right away and teach you how to use it and I guarantee you will triple the profits of your website. How's that for a guarantee?
Michel: That's — that's awesome. Actually, it's leading into the next question is — and I know you've talked a little bit about this in the past, Gary, about how to structure a really good guarantee and I think there was a double your money back guarantee process that you've talked about a while back. I can't remember the seminars I was at that you spoke about.
Gary: I do a lot of double your money back guarantees.
Michel: And what is your technique for writing a good guarantee?
Gary: Well, but don't –
Michel: What's your best guarantee?
Gary: I did that, I first did that when I was working as an outside consultant for Entrepreneur Magazine for Chase Revell and they were publishing these reports that sold for about $60.00 or $70.00 on how, you know, how to make money in the florist business or how to start a balloon vending business and the first half of the report was generic talking about getting your business card, getting your business license, etc., etc., and then the second half of the report told you how to do things that were specific to that particular business and their — they were getting clobbered by their refund rate.
And I said, “Well, I'll fix it for you.” And they said, “How are you going to do it?” And I said, “I'm going to make it a double your money back refund. But I'm going to make it conditional.” And here was the conditions.
You send this — you say as long as you do it exactly as we tell you to do, we guarantee you will make a profit at this business and when you send the book out that says okay, the first thing you have to do is you have to get a business license.
The second thing you have to do is get stationary and envelopes and business cards printed up and blah, blah, blah. And said okay, if you give this a fair trial for 60 days and it doesn't make any money, send us back a short written note telling us you followed all the instructions and write that note on your stationary, include a photocopy of your business license and your business card and that stopped refunds.
It increased sales by 50 percent and almost eliminated refunds because you know when people want a refund? They — I'll tell you when they decide to get a refund. The moment they're ordering. There are some cases when you send the garbage, they want their money back. But for the most part, the person who wants a refund knows that when he is ordering.
Now, here's the way I do it on diets. A lot of times I'll say we can't make a lot of claims for this diet because it has not been inspected by the FDC. All the information is what's called anecdotal. But we believe in this product very strongly. So we're going to send you this diet pill.
You use it twice a day and follow the simple instructions. Use it for 60 days and if it doesn't take off weight more than anything before, send it back. Send the empty container back and with a note telling us you followed the instruction and with a note, we send this with the product, telling us that you took the pills twice a day and walking for half a day as instructed and give us the name and the address of your doctor and the approximate date you went to him to get his approval to start this diet program.
Now that might seem tricky but what's the alphabet agency going to say to you? Well, you told her to go to a doctor before she starts the diet program. Well, it's kind of irresponsible not to, isn't it? But nobody does it.
And I'll tell you another thing about refunds. The longer the refund period is, the fewer the refunds you will have. You know, the worst thing you could do is you see ads with a ten-day money back guarantee? That puts a deadline right in their head. “I've only got four more days to return this.”
Put a six-month or a year guarantee in there. Do you think anybody gets a six-month guarantee and looks at their calendar and flips six months ahead and says last month — last day to return widget ABC? To Michel Fortin for refund? No, they don't. The longer the guarantee period, the fewer the refunds. The double your money back guarantee should always be a conditional thing but I've seen guys try to copy what I'm teaching you now and they would make ridiculous demands.
Show me the insertion orders that you used to send the ad in, blah, blah, blah. I don't ask them to do anything outrageous. It's not outrageous to ask somebody to tell them before you start this diet program, visit your doctor and make sure there are no underlying health conditions why you shouldn't be on this or any other diet program. That's pretty reasonable. Isn't it?
And if, you know, and it's pretty reasonable to tell somebody don't go into business without getting a business license and stationary. But they don't do it. So the refunds go way down.
Now, let me tell you what to do, though, from a practical nature. Somebody wants a double your money back refund. First, you refund them every cent they paid. You do that without question. And then you tell them but if they want the double your money back refund, you are going to stand behind the guarantee but to furnish you with that information.
Michel: Awesome. That was great. Thanks, Gary. A question, also, that a lot of people have asked was I have, for example, a high ticket product, $2,000.00, $3,000.00, $4,000.00 product, and some people said well, I have also a free e-book that I'm giving away. How — how much copy or what kind of copy should I use for selling a high ticket product versus a free product or a free giveaway?
Gary: Well, first of all, um, that — that's really a good question. That's a very, very good question and I'm going to give you a really great answer to it and this is right out of recent experience.
I was selling something recently that costs $5,000.00 and we — I wrote a full page newspaper ad, full page newspaper ad, like 2,000 words of copy, all I wanted them to do is to call an 800 number, give their name and address to receive a free book. And the free book was filled with really valuable information and the last half of the book told you — or the last probably 25 percent of the book, 10 percent of the book probably, last 10 percent, told you how you could order if you were interested, you could order the multi-thousand dollar product.
Now, I'm going to tell you the exact figures on that when we did it direct mail. When we did it direct mail, it costs us about a buck a piece to mail the letters. So a thousand letters costs us a thousand dollars, right? We would get an average of a 7 percent response.
We mailed a thousand letters, we'd get 70 replies. For each one of those replies, to send them, we spent $10.00 working them, and we sent it Federal Express with a dollar bill letter attached, you know, a dollar attached to it because it costs us $10.00. In other words, the 70 replies cost us $10.00 a piece. So we've got $1,700.00 in the promotion. Am I making that clear enough?
Gary: Okay. And you know what we got from that? Exactly a 7 percent response. Seven percent of the 70 percent — in other words, we got five orders from the initial thousand at $5,000.00 a piece. $25,000.00 for spending $1,700.00.
Gary: So, and here's something that people forget and you never want to forget this. When you're going for leads, write long copy just — just as hard and as long as . as strong as if you were going for a $10,000.00 sale. No lead, no sale. Right?
Gary: Sell the hell out of getting them to give you that name and — their name and address that you can mail them something to.
Michel: Well, I think it comes back to what you were saying at the beginning, Gary, that people –
Gary: Oh, by the way, and it is better to be redundant than it is to be remiss.
Michel: Good point.
Gary: And in light of that factor, I'm going to say it once again. You want to triple your website profits? I will send you something free and tell you how to use it to triple, triple, your website profits and I don't make empty claims.
All you have to do is send your snail mail address to Roxanne at the garyhalbertletter, I guess at aol.com. Roxanne at the garyhalbertletter.com and just write John Jones, 123 Elm Street, Madison, Ohio 44646 and we'll put it in the mail to you right away.
It's a piece of — it's a metal object and — and I would appreciate it if you would send your fax and telephone number but if you're skeptical, you don't have to.
Michel: If you're ever stuck or if the email comes back for whatever reason, they can send it to [email protected] and I'll forward it to the proper people. Um, is that okay, Gary?
Michel: Okay. One question I also had asked a lot is the fact that telling a good compelling story — and this is something that I've been preaching for gosh knows how long — because a lot of people ask me, you know, how — how to write good copy and I usually say it's because you have to be a good salesperson. Writing copy is just the writing extension of being a good salesperson. But every good salesperson and every good copywriter is a good storyteller and I want –
Gary: You know what happened to me recently? About six months ago?
Gary: I was really sick and I was in the hospital and, uh, there was a woman there that was, you know, helping me and I was only in the hospital for a short period of time and she was a Haitian woman. She said she wanted to talk to me because she knew I was being discharged and would I talk to her for a few minutes and I got out and she said, “I want to give you something.”
And she gave me five of these little pills and she says, “I guarantee you they're perfectly safe. They won't do anything but good for you.” And she said, “They come from my country and we have an evil saint over there.” And they do, it's called Baron Simidi and “I know this sounds like superstitious stuff to you but if you'll take one of these pills every day for the next five days, you're going to feel immensely better.”
And so I figured, what the hell, this woman isn't going to poison me and I took one of those pills every one for the next five days. Now, you know these machines in the gyms, that's a tri-step fold down and there's a bunch of plates, then there's a pulley that goes up and comes around a metal, you know, what do you call it?
I can't think of the name but it goes around, comes down, the cable comes up around the pulley and there's a couple of bars on it and how much weight you want to lift, if you want to lift just one plate, there's a pin. You put it right underneath the first pin and you push this weight down to your — to you waist, you know, with both hands, your arms are straight out from your waist?
Gary: And then to work your triceps you push it down to your waist, bring it — or down to your thigh. Then you bring it back up to your waist and you push it back down. Then you bring it right up and you push it back down. And my goal for a long time was to be able to do half of the weight on that rack — half of all the weight on there. And I used those pills and I felt so much better after the five days, I went back and asked her if I could get some more. And she wasn't trying to screw me out of money and I had to pay a little bit to get the pills and you know what I did three days ago?
Gary: I went to the gym. I put the pin under the last weight so it was all the weight on there and I brought it down, all the weight on there, and I repped it 30 times.
Michel Fortin is a senior marketing specialist, renowned copywriter, and digital marketing expert. For the better part of 30 years, he's produced countless successful marketing communications and profitable campaigns that generated in excess of $300 million in sales. He's broken many industry sales records, including being instrumental behind the first ever “million-dollar day” online marketing campaign in 2004. He's worked with thousands of businesses and entrepreneurs around the world in a wide variety of industries on building their businesses, improving their marketing, and increasing their profits. He's a published author and often speaks at industry events. To connect with him, visit his LinkedIn profile where he is most active.