In the episode:
01:09 – An overview of the book
03:31 – Why Bond is an expert
05:02 – Gary Halbert’s way
07:50 – Where father and son differ
11:44 – How to keep people reading
15:23 – Never-before-covered topics
16:25 – Helping them decide to read
20:33 – The hunt for “that”
22:10 – Letting the formula seep in
24:42 – A simple beginning trick
26:30 – Some smart editing tips
29:18 – Apply these words with caution
30:15 – Should you use templates?
33:59 – Two kinds of writers
37:10 – Are you doing this with your copy?
41:54 – When picking a copywriter…
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James: James Schramko here, welcome back to SuperFastBusiness.com. Today, we are talking with pretty much a legend. Got my friend Bond Halbert on the call. Welcome.
Bond: Thank you, thank you very much.
James: Bond Halbert, son of Gary Halbert, brother of Kevin Halbert, son of Nancy. I mean, there’s a good positioning in life, really.
Bond: I couldn’t agree more.
James: And you got some nice kids as well, passing on the Halbert generation. Now, what we want to talk about specifically today is The Halbert Copywriting Method Part III, which is The Simple, Fast and Easy Editing Formula that Forces Buyers to Read Every Word of Your Ads. Bond, tell me about the title of this book.
What’s in the book
Bond: OK. First there’s two parts. One, we kind of called the title The Halbert Copywriting Method Part III: The Star Wars Launch, because I always say that the power in your copywriting is research. It’s knowing your prospect so well that you can trigger their impulse to buy that will, because you know what to offer them, you know how they speak, so you know what to say. You know when to say it to them. So you know all of that information.
“The first draft is the shortest part.”
And then eventually, the second part of the copywriting process is where you’ve developed that unique hook, offer or solution, which usually comes out of the research. And then you put down in words, in a first draft. And usually, that is the shortest part of the entire copywriting process.
People think that copywriting is sitting down at a screen and piecing together little elements of copy and stuff like that. It’s not. It’s doing the research, doing whatever it takes for you to get into the creative mindset to come up with that first draft, and then the professionalism comes from editing. And you will hear other great copywriters tell you that, but you will never find anybody telling you how to do the editing, until now. And so I am working right now. I am actually writing Part I, and Part II as well, and Part III was ready first, and it was so needed and it was so new and everything that I went ahead and released that first.
And the second part, where I explain the simple, fast and easy editing formula that forces buyers to read every word of your ads, a lot of copywriters and marketers make the mistake assuming that people will read all of their ads. What they’ll do is they’ll write up some great copy, and they’ll hand it to a friend, say “Read this and check it out, tell me what you think.” Well, that person can’t just say,”Well, you know, I’m kind of bored and I don’t like this, I’m going to put it down.” They feel obligated to you to read your marketing.
And so you have to be really succinct, you have to be to the point. And succinct doesn’t mean that you don’t write long copy. It just means you got to get right to the point and to what matters to them, and you have to keep them reading. And there’s actually a method to doing that, and it’s really a formula, thankfully.
Where Bond gets his credentials
And I’ve taught a lot of people, and my claim to fame for this is I’ve taught Gary Halbert’s best students to be, and I’m not going to say, even better than they are, I won’t take credit for what they do. But if I’ve been able to take students that Gary Halbert himself said, “These are my best copywriting students,” and make their copy a little bit better, with the tricks and the tips and stuff that I share in the book. And if I can do that with them, you know that I can do it with other copywriters as well.
James: Well certainly, word on the street is that you are a pretty good subject matter expert when it comes to Gary Halbert copywriting. You’ve been there from the beginning, from your beginning at least. You were in the room for many deals and lots of discussions that went behind closed doors, so you’ve been exposed to it for so long, and I think one of the things that you bring to the table is that you were able to be that observer, and you were able to detect patterns and things that Gary was doing that even he wasn’t consciously aware of, because you had the benefit of having that different perspective.
Bond: And also, well there’s two benefits. One, I got it younger than he did. My dad started copywriting the day I was born, or the day before. That’s when he got into marketing.
James: So you were the inspiration?
Doing things Gary’s way
Bond: The day before I was born, he was fired from his last job for wearing orange socks. He got into an argument with his boss.
James: Are you kidding me?
Bond: Nope, not kidding at all. And he turned around and he told my mom, he said, “You know what, Nancy? If it doesn’t get any better than this, I don’t want to do it.” And she goes, “Do your own thing. I’ll support us with my nursing salary in the meantime. Just get whatever you want to get going. Go get it going.” And my dad had read the direct mail guides and got all excited about direct mail. And he started working in direct mail.
But from that moment, he decided to do his own thing and do things differently. I mean, that’s how Kevin got the name “Kevin”, and I got the name “Bond”. You know, all of a sudden, he’s like, “To heck with any of the rules. I’m going to parent the way that I think I would want to be parented, I’m going to name my children the way… I’m not going to follow all the rules about giving them a Christian name, I’m not going to follow any of the rules, I’m going to think for myself.” And he changed his attitude. It was like a switch was flipped.
That’s also how I ended up in the room with everybody else. My dad, he wrote about it, one time he explained that, “You turned around and said to me…” (this was him talking about me) he said, (he was going through ups and downs, and I was in a down period) and I said, “I’m lucky I get to see how you make the money, how this works. I don’t just get to grow up with toys and stuff, I get to see how you do this.” And he’s like, man, that was so sharp and so smart, and he was so proud that he could like, I was adaptable, he could take me anywhere, so he started taking me into the rooms with everybody.
And in reality, I was his first copywriting student. And that happened at like 10 or 11. So I hear all the Gary Halbert lessons first, I’m the first one to hear it. I heard them the most often, and I saw them refined over the years, and I started to, when I hear them, I hear different messages. So when he talked about, let’s say, 976 numbers, which everybody thinks the lessons are passe now, I’ll say, “No. The psychology behind that is a short bit of information being delivered to you and being charged through somebody that you trust not to overbill you, namely your phone company, and in exchange for a small bit of information, you give them a small bit of money. That’s the same as a text code.” You know, the short text codes you hear, cost you $3 and they’ll give you your horoscope.
So I was able to really psychologically understand all of the lessons he did. The second part of it is, my testing, personality testings or whatever they are, say that I’m good with pattern recognition. So I’m seeing my dad’s patterns all the time.
The difference between father and son
And my dad’s method of writing was slightly different than mine, because he came from the era of actual typewriters. Even before electrics, right? And so if he wrote out a copy and wanted to change something, it took a long time to change. It was expensive. He took it back to the typist, and you had it reworked. So what my dad did was he would do the research, part 1, and part 2 he would get that “Aha” moment, and he would walk around perfecting that imaginary conversation with a prospect in his head for up to 30 days. And then when he was ready, he would sit down and write it all out.
Now that process, over time as he got more experienced, got shorter and shorter. But he would sit down and then write out the copy, and then he would read that copy to people over and over again, making small changes. And that was his editing process. The way that I write that’s a little different is I get that “Aha” moment, I get right to the laptop or the computer, and I start pounding out, and I don’t worry about how ugly that first draft is, because I get to massage it. And I can take the formula that’s in The Halbert Copywriting Method Part III, and I can then make that grease slide everybody talks about where the reader falls through the copy. And by falling through the copy, I mean you’re handling every objection before they come up, you are making everything super fast, smooth and so easy and simple that they are finished reading before they’ve had their own thoughts, other than, “Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.” Those are the only thought you want them to have as they’re reading through your copy.
And so I didn’t have to worry about that, because I grew up in the world of word processors, so for me that’s the difference, and I think a lot of people will benefit from, what I was doing was massaging my rough copy to come out flowing smooth and slick like my father’s. And I ended up teaching a lot of people that, and that’s how it became more or less like a formula. Because I quickly learned, you know, I didn’t want to spend an hour teaching, and I couldn’t spend an hour teaching a single lesson. So one of the things that I’m proud about is in the book, you know, almost every lesson is like a page or two.
When I speak and I show somebody something, I teach them in a way which makes you go, “Oh, yeah. I get it, that makes complete sense.” And you can immediately go apply it and do it. It’s not theory, it’s not just what to do, it’s exactly how to do it. Here’s an example. As soon as you’re done reading that two, maybe three pages at the most, you can go right back to your copy, read it and make it better. And I dare you to just go through the steps or look at the formula, and go and apply it to any copy that you’ve written, even a year ago or six months ago, and not be able to make your copy better.
Gary’s first critic
It’s that easy, but these, again, I don’t get to take credit for all of this, this is my dad’s wisdom garnered over the years. And back to his process where he would call up and read people his copy before publishing it, I was the first person he read it to. And I would hear it several times.
So not only was I in the room with all the deals and all the lessons and knowing part of the research programs. When he was doing research and studying, I was with him when he was going into the bookstores for doing all that. I mean, I was experiencing the whole process along the way with him. But I was the first one to hear those ads, and I would hear them multiple times by the time that he actually printed them as well. Even if he wasn’t reading it to me, like he would read it to me first, and then he’d pick up the phone and call someone like John Carlton and read it to John, and I’m hearing it for the second or third time.
James: Right. So you’ve just been there osmosing this whole thing. And I love one of the highlights in the book. I’ll quote you something, you said here, “Most ad readers are looking for a place to stop reading without missing anything critical.”
James: Why is that so important when it comes to editing?
Bond: Well, everybody’s attention span has gotten shorter and shorter. And I’ll gladly give you parts of the book. One of my dad’s parts of his formula in there about breaking up paragraphs and breaking up sentences, if you look at his copy, by today’s standards they’re epically long paragraphs, because they’re like, five sentences long. And his sentences are long compared to what we do nowadays.
But here’s the deal. When you’re, like I said, when somebody receives something in the mail, or somebody is watching a video with your video script on it, because this works with scripts as well, they can turn that off without hurting your feelings. They can stop reading your Facebook post, they can turn it off and all of this other stuff. Everybody’s inundated with so many messages these days. We have all the messages we had before in the form of TV commercials, except now we got more stations. Billboards, media messages… but you’re being bombarded with them.
And so everybody out of necessity is looking… imagine you’re reading through a newspaper or magazine or going through your email. You’re just trying to say to yourself, OK, I know what this is all about, I can move on now. Once they get that, I can feel safe, I can close this email, I can ignore this message without missing anything that’s important to my life, they do so. So what the Copywriting Method teaches you to do is not give them that spot. And it goes way beyond just leaving a few cliffhangers. It’s the whole process of smoothing over your formula so they’re getting what they want, they’re loving it, but they never feel at any point in the copy, they don’t feel like they can feel complete. They will feel incomplete if they stop reading this right now. They’ll feel like there’s something else that they may not be getting that would be important to them.
But the important part about this is why I say “it forces buyers to read every word of your ads”. The whole goal is not to get everybody to read everything. If I’m selling you cribs, I want everybody who’s got a child, forces everybody with a child to finish reading that ad. If you don’t have a child, I don’t mind if you’re going somewhere else, or unless you’re interested in buying a crib for a nephew, or a niece, or something. But the whole point is, if the subject is of interest to you, you don’t want to give them that spot where they feel safe and complete when they stop reading. And that’s one of the keys to keeping them reading.
And I notice that with my dad’s copy. It’s all explained in the book about how you phrase things, and how you put things, and restructure things, and do stuff, in a way. And it’s also very rhythmic. I want to make that clear, because you can’t just say, “But wait, there’s more,” at the end of every paragraph.
James: Right, it’s a little bit antagonistic.
Bond: Oh, it gets so annoying, you just want to kill the author. You want to not buy out of spite.
Never covered before
James: When I’m reading the hardcore copywriters’ stuff, I’m quite often saying, “Get to the point, for goodness’ sake.” But if we look at a grab bag of some of the topic covered in Section 2 of the book, they’ve really good hints at how you do this. Like eye relief, breaking up long paragraphs, punctuating tips, fonts, backgrounds, line spacing, formatting, inserting subheads. You’re right, these are things that people haven’t really covered before. Why do you think no one’s attacked this editing topic with such a concise solution, to this date?
Bond: To tell you the truth, it dawned on me that nobody had ever covered this. It was like, you know, I’m going to create The Halbert Copywriting Method Part III, and the editing portion, I started doing it, and I was like, you know, I’ve never heard this before. And I’ve seen, I get sent all the courses. I get given the courses. I’ve been through conferences my entire life, and I’ve heard people talk about the editing. Edit, edit, edit, and nobody doing it.
Helping people decide to read
Now my father gave five steps to his editing formula. And they’re all in the book, and a lot of them are the ones that you were mentioning. And they’re very, very important because the most important part about creating eye relief and doing this in the right way, the first thing I teach you to do in the book is help people decide to read your copy. Now the best way to teach you and show you about people making the decision to read or not to read your copy is to talk about the exact opposite. There’s one piece of copy out there that is designed not to be read. And they are legal disclaimers.
James: Big words, long paragraphs…
Bond: All caps.
James: Hard to understand.
Bond: Not broken up. You know, there’s long sentences… They are the exact opposite of what I teach you to do.
Bond: Absolutely. Here’s another example I like to use when you’re teaching the theory behind this. You ever get an email, and you start reading it, you’re like, OK, this is really good and everything, and then you hit the scroll button and you realize that this is about 20 pages? And you go, I don’t have time to read all of this.
James: That’s the same as when you attend a webinar, and the presenter says, “We’re going to cram a lot of information into this presentation, so get ready to take notes. We got a lot of stuff to cover.” You get that shoulder sag, it’s like, oh, good lord, really?
Bond: There was a Jay Abraham webinar, and they had everybody dropping off at exactly this one same part, the exact same part. And they said, “Why is everybody dropping off there?” So they go over to that part in the webinar, and it’s right where he says, “Now over the next three hours…”[laughs] They just edited out that part, and people were all of a sudden, a lot of people were finishing it.
James: I’m reading some transcripts that he generously shared with me, and they’re dense material. He loads a lot of content into his presentations. You have to chew on it, you know?
James: He’s super knowledgeable and he jams it in, and he’s so precise, he’ll use 17 words to describe one point so that you have no mistake about exactly what it is.
Bond: Yeah. Well, you know, that’s one of the great compliments I’ve gotten from the book. They said, you know, “You’re very specific. You’re very short on it, and so every word counts.” And I was surprised by this myself. Several people were like, “I’ve read it two or three times now.” And it’s because I’m being quick and to the point, too. The book is actually written using the formula that’s described in the book.
James: You can tell. Even the intro is extremely clever. The intro is why this information is so valuable, why listen to me, things to know first, what this book is not, and what to expect. Now you get that out of the way right up the front of the table of contents, which really is helping people decide to read the book in the first place.
I enjoyed it. I think I read one of the very first versions of this book ever to hit electrons, and what struck me is that I picked up some fantastic tips, of course, because it hasn’t really been covered. And the only other place that I’ve ever heard these concepts discussed was from Ed Dale, and he was teaching stuff that he’d learned from Gary Halbert. So I got the information closer to the source, but I was very privileged to have been able to get at least a secondhand version of it.
Hunting for “that”
The one big thing that I have been really conscious of is removing “that”. And I find myself taking “that” out of copy all the time, especially when I’m fixing someone else’s. I’ve even got a thread in my highest level community called SilverCircle that is a rephrasing thread, and people can paste things into there. It could be an email, it could be a sales letter, it could be just a shopping cart upsell bump, anything, and I’ll reword it for them. And even though I’m not a copywriter, just little simple things like taking “that” out and making it flow better completely transform the outcome. And I’m also known for being pithy, so I will usually halve, or one-third, or one quarter whatever was pasted there to get to the point simply and effectively and with more clarity.
Bond: Oh, you know, the “that” hunt, recently somebody was submitting a piece of example, and I was looking at it, and I was actually astonished how many “that”s were actually in their copy. In fact, I was wondering, even somebody who didn’t know the trick of hunting down superfluous “that”s, that’s what my father called them. Now he would never use the word “superfluous” in copy.
“If the sentence can survive without the ‘that’, it shouldn’t be there.”
James: What you mean by that is if the sentence can survive without the “that”, it shouldn’t be there.
Bond: Exactly. So “that” is actually in the title of the book, which proves that I’m not saying that I’m trying to get out of all of them.
Absorbing the formula
But here’s something which you’re highlighting, which is you’re actually proof of. You know, the editing formula, my dad’s editing formula, had five things to look out for. Mine’s got a lot more, but I do not want you to think for a moment that this means you’ve got to look out for 32 things. You know, that you’re going to be reading your copy 32 times to do a proper editing job. That is not the way it works. What happens after a while is the editing formula seeps into your writing. Consciously and subconsciously, but it’s not the point where it stops you from, you just start noticing it, instead of in the editing phase you start noticing, hey, that particular instance of using the word “that” did not belong there and you just like backspace it out, and pretty soon you’re not writing it at all.
James: This is true. If you’re aware of it, and becomes part of your operating system, there’s nothing to fix, because it was removed, and that’s really a W. Edwards Deming process optimization. It’s like, hey, let’s not wait till the car gets to the end of the production line until we notice that the door’s attached incorrectly. Let’s pick that right up at the door attaching section before we go and paint the thing and everything else. Let’s pull it out of the production line early, and then from now on, let’s avoid this thing altogether by fixing the machine that welds the door onto the car, and now, all production lines in the future don’t ever have the issue to start with.
Bond: You know, this just makes the editing process faster and smoother every time you apply it. Every time you apply it, it gets burned into your brain a little bit more, and you start rearranging your sentences to have the exciting point and to end on a high point. You start understanding where to stop this sentence right now in a way that makes them read the next sentence.
One of the goals that my father had was, he had realized at this point, someone might be thinking of not reading any further. So he would rearrange the sentence in a way that made you want to read the next sentence. And there’s a formula and there are tricks for doing that, and you can see that in The Halbert Copywriting Method Part III. And all of that stuff starts to seep into your writing, and it makes your first drafts come out better.
Now you still want to go through and use the checklist and make sure that you are applying and looking for things. Because there are reminders. I’ll give you one simple trick, I like to give people a beginner and an intermediate and an advanced trick, just to show them the power of what’s in the book.
Read it out loud
The beginning trick that I always tell people is read your copy out loud. And it sounds silly, it sounds stupid, but you will automatically catch errors and catch spots where your copy doesn’t flow naturally when you read your copy out loud. And we all fall into the habit of not reading the copy out loud. After a while, you need to be reminded to do that, because you’re writing an email or you’ve written a lot in the last week and you think, OK, well I’ll just reread this and I don’t really… You know, you just get into the habit, or you fall out of the habit.
“We sometimes forget to keep doing what works.”
James: You said this to me six and a half years ago on our first SuperFastBusiness podcast, which was a video. You said, keep doing what works. And you’re right. We sometimes forget to keep doing what works. It’s astounding how many times I’ll be speaking with someone when I’m coaching them, and I’ll say, tell me about what happened here, what caused that, and they tell me some amazing thing they did, and I say, “So when are you doing that again?” And they’re like, “It never occurred to me!” So I think you just highlighted a very important point, the technique of reading out your copy out loud is the no-brainer way to detect where it’s weird.
And the funny thing is, someone said this to me the other day about my emails, she said, “Your emails read as if you’re talking them.” And I said, “Well that’s how I write them in my head.” I actually, I talk out loud in my head and type as I’m talking, and they are literally a conversation.
Some editing tips
And the second big step, and this was, I’ll also credit Ed Dale for bringing this to my consciousness, was this whole step of actually editing. I don’t think most people edit anything. I think they splurt stuff out into a tweet, or onto their blog post, directly from the typewriter and then hit Publish, where you could get such a more effective result if you first put it on a scratch pad, or I use iA Writer, which Andre Chaperon put me onto, and it just turns my whole screen into just a white canvas, and blocks everything else. I put my first draft, and then I’ll go for a surf (and if Tim Castleman’s listening, you have to have a shot now, because I just mentioned surfing) and then I will come back later, and I actually often have a more succinct, or more direct approach.
I find the editing process easier when there’s a little gap in between. But that whole first step of actually editing, and then refining on the words that were a conversation, and then having it read out loud, and my sort of super step is I actually get someone else to read my copy before it gets published, and they read it out loud. If it goes through those filters, it’s going to be very natural.
Bond: Oh, yeah. Well, that’s the final stages. Now in the book, I teach you first how to get people to help decide to read your copy. Then it’s about editing for clarity. Then it’s punching up your copy, or how to keep them reading, how to punch up your copy, how to inject hidden psychology. But when it comes to the order in which I do it, the very last step is running it by a second set of eyes. And they will capture things that you do not. My dad also taught me this.
I’ll run it by somebody, and in this case, I ran it by like 12 copywriters. Every single copywriter read the book and caught things that none of the other 12 caught. Everybody caught something unique and different that the other 11 did not mention. And what I did, which was typical Halbert fashion, is I didn’t argue and you know, this isn’t a rookie or newbie mistake, instead of saying, “Oh, you should have gotten this, or you just didn’t get this…” If somebody didn’t get it, that means 10 other people aren’t going to get it either. Go fix it. Go make it more clear.
You hit on this. Resting between it. Letting your eyes rest, you come back to it, and you go, oh, here’s a much more simple and clear, succinct way of saying the exact same thing without losing any power of it whatsoever.
Caution with power words
And you also come back and you know, when you’re going through it, I teach you in the book about inserting power words, and copywriters will often, with a good copy course, it will come with a list of power words. And I think that’s funny, because all you’re doing is you’re almost mimicking and trying to sound like someone else. And if you’re going to try and use Gary Halbert’s power words, you’re going to come up with “amazing”, “a miracle”. And you’re going to sound like a 1980’s salesman.
And if you’re going to get John Carlton’s power words, you’re going to be going for the jugular of your competition, slitting their throat, leaving them to bleed to death in the back alley. And you’re going to sound like Stephen King.
James: You add “one-legged” in there somewhere.
Bond: Yeah. [laughs] And the worst part is, you wrote your first draft in this kind of, you know, helpful, inspiring, light kind of way.
James: One of the things you said is the formula will help you remove some of the wonky factors that come from using templates.
The good and the bad of templates
Bond: Yes. What I found, and I hate to do this, when it comes to templates, there’s a good part and a bad part to them. The bad part about templates is you’re not as fresh as a completely unique, fresh approach type of thing. So if I said to you, “Hey, I’m going to deliver your copy in 30 days or it’s free”, that doesn’t sound as unique and fresh. I mean, it’s applied to a new industry, it is a new deal, right? It’s templated off of, deliver your pizza in 30 minutes or free. And the reader, the people get the knowledge of that. But the beauty of that is if you want your copy in 30 days or it’s free or you’re having a problem getting your copywriter to deliver on time, you’re being promised a solution.
So swiping copy or using templates, it is a fast way to get something that’s working of control, something that’s effective. So that’s the good part of it. The bad part of it is it often, you know, you’re taking a screw that’s from a slightly different-sized bolt and trying to force that in there. It comes out wonky, because you’re applying the copywriting template to a different industry that it wasn’t written for. There’s now even software that actually writes copy for you in these ways, and it all comes out wonky and disjointed and it doesn’t sound, as you say, conversational. And so this editing formula will smooth that over, and all of a sudden will make it flow a lot better.
James: Well, I think the editing formula, the way I see it, is that it’s a little bit more work. You have to read something, you have to think about stuff, and then you have to apply the process. Probably much like learning the piano, you’ll learn what the different keys are, but it will take a bit of effort to create a song from it.
However, once you’ve got that imprinted, it will become habit, and it’s a skill that is highly valuable, under-utilized, it’s rarely even known, let’s face it, it’s not talked about, but the people who get it, the copywriters in particular, have particularly given you accolades for this book. And that’s why I’ve honed in on this. I’ve already covered your other books in my members’ webinars for our book review section, but I wanted to take this book review to the public, because it’s a great, great book on a topic that can give… Basically, it delivers (there you go, I’ve replaced “give” with “deliver”, because it’s got more punch) it delivers you an enhanced result for not a lot of effort on top of what you’ve already done anyway.
Bond: Yeah. I know my dad would be super proud of this. In fact, one thing I know my dad would do is he’d take credit for it. [laughs] Because anything I ever did right, my dad would take credit for it and say, “Well, that’s because I taught him well.”
James: Well he’s produced you from the DNA up in a way.
Bond: Yeah. But if I did something stupid, “That’s your mother’s DNA.” That was his thing. I think he would be slapping himself on the head going, why didn’t anybody do this before? I was wondering myself, in fact, I had to go and ask some people. I’m like, have you ever heard of this topic actually being covered in detail? Some people came up with some writing, some editing tips for writing, but they were editing tips made for novels, which you brought up, which is a good point earlier.
Types of writers
My daughter came to me and she said, “I’ve got a writing class.” And I said, “Well, you have two different types of writers.” Because I’ve got a degree from a university. I said, “There is writing for school, and there’s writing for people. And they’re not the same. One of them wants you to say, ‘Hey, here’s what I’m going to talk about in three main topics, and I’m going to cover three to five main points, and then I’m going to sum it all up in the end.’ You break out a dictionary and a thesaurus to find fancy words to make your simple words more scholarly and at a higher level education. And you do these longer, run-on sentences, you use semicolons, and you do all of the stuff to show you have a great command of the English language.”
I said when you’re writing for people who don’t have to read that stuff, you do the exact opposite. You’re trying to break out of thesaurus and find a simple word. You want to run that copy. One of the second sets of eyes you want is a fifth grader. In the book, again there’s so much in the book, I don’t mind giving out a whole bunch of it; I talk about running your copy through the Hemingway app, right? And then finding out exactly whether it’s at seventh grade level, or higher of something like that.
Now I never use the app because I’ve been trained in doing this and speaking this way forever. My dad had one of the highest vocabularies. When he was in Boron, they tested, they gave him an SAT test, and his vocabulary was off the charts. But you would never, ever know that, reading his work or speaking to him in person. Now you would never stump him with a single word. If I was reading a book (we actually took trips where we just spent the whole trip reading) and I’d say, “Hey dad, what’s this word?” he knew every word. But you would never know that because he spoke plainly. He wanted his message to get through.
So you want to just speak in this conversational tone. So I have people go through the Hemingway app. I remember one time when I was patting myself on the back because I was writing an email that was to sell a course, but I was writing the email on behalf of a friend of mine, Scott Haines, who’s a world class copywriter. He said, “Man, I read that email, and I thought it was fantastic.” And he goes, “You know what I did? I ran it through the Hemingway app, and you came in at the three and a half grade level.”
Now in school, you want to hear that you’re writing at a 12 grade level, right? Or 12 plus. I was so elated and excited that I had written at a three and a half because everybody is shooting for five. Like five is the ultimate. Then another copywriter had actually taken something of my father’s. This was like later in the week. I’m riding high on my ego, right? Then I ran something my father wrote through the Hemingway app, and it came in at three, not three and a half, but three. I was like, “Oh! Beaten again!” [laughs]
James: Isn’t that interesting? It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense.
Do you do this with your copy?
Bond: Yeah. Somebody once sent to me, this is a testament to the power of what’s in the book, I was set up to actually speak to a team of professional copywriters who worked for a huge direct response company. They’re a team that does nothing but write copy, and I would ask them, how many of you read your copy out loud? And only like three or four hands went up out of 12. And I was like, really? I suggested to set up a little room where everybody was expected to take their copy and go into the little, private space and read their copy out loud.
I said, “How many of you go through the Hemingway app?” And I was just stunned at how few people were doing the steps that were the most rudimentary well known. Now, there are steps in here that are not well known because they’re actually inventions of mine about injecting hidden psychology that people don’t understand. And they won’t see it in your writing. It’s not like you’re pulling some magic hat trick or anything. But it’s a way of writing and way of changing and rephrasing things slightly that makes it more powerful and your products and services more desired by people who are reading your copy or absorbing your marketing message even if it’s through a video script. But even the basic stuff.
You should be looking through the stuff as a reminder. The best copywriting books or the best marketing books are books that people, they’re usually short like this one, and that wasn’t my intention, it just came out that way. They’re short, they’re to the point, and marketers reread them a couple of times a year just to be reminded of the points, because you’re going through it, and you’re rereading one of these short, wonderful books by a master like Gary Halbert or Claude Hopkins or something, and you go, “Oh yeah, that’s right. I need to be doing more of this in my marketing, and you’re taking notes, and you’re changing things based on that.
You should be reading some of this stuff as your reminder. The stuff that’s in the book, will also, no matter how good of a copywriter you are, you will find things in there that will make you even better. And that is the hardest thing to people because once they’re season copywriters and they’re paid veterans, it’s like that last thing they want to do is study anything more about copywriting. It’s like trying to get a doctor to go back to a class even if it’s a new technique.
James: Yeah. I mean, it is a hard one, even if you know nothing about it, it’s a tricky subject to tackle. I remember once, John Carlton, who was actually episode number one on SuperFastBusiness, who was horrified when I put up a slide at a live event where I covered copywriting in just one slide I think. It might not even be a presentation. I think I gave it about five minutes saying copy is important, here are the things you do, and then I moved on to the next topic. He was like, what?! Like this is someone’s who’s spent a lifetime mastering this topic. It was quite a lot of fun seeing that reaction. But it is a deep topic if you want to wade into it, and that’s why I think someone could do well to just have one or two foundational courses or to go and read the Gary Halbert letter and then to get up on the editing. The editing really is the edge. It’s the extra bit that’s been missing and that you’ve brought with this book, which is why I wanted to do this book review.
Bond: You know, I think it is so missing. I’ll give you another simple, simple basic task that people just don’t do, and I see it in amateurs, and this is why you can use the book also to recognize good copy. Even if you’re not a copywriter but you’ve got to decide between hiring copywriter A or copywriter B, read the book. You will find things and say, “OK. Yeah no, he doesn’t do that.” You’ll stop hiring copywriters that use an incredible amount of the instances of the word “that”.
But one of them that I find all the time as newbie copywriters, what they’ll do is they’ll edit a little bit. They’ll start reading at the beginning and they’ll look for an error, they’ll find the error, they’ll fix it, and they’ll start reading at the beginning again. And then they’ll read through and then they’ll find another error and then they’ll stop, fix that error, and start reading at the beginning again.
I will read their copy and I’ll say and I’ll explain, “This is how you edited it.” And they’ll say, “Yeah. How did you know? And I’ll say, “Because you read through the top, the top has been edited. The first paragraph has been looked at 20 times. The bottom has been looked at once. You’ve got typos in there, nothing flows.” So edit in complete passes. If you’re not doing that, you’re going to find a lot of errors right in the very first paragraph because your eyes are tired and you’ve read this copy so often. The top has been looked at 20 times, the bottom has been looked at once. And that’s not enough.
Choosing between copywriters
So when you’re going to decide between one copywriter and another, read their entire copy. Don’t just go, that headline and those bullets and that PS look all pretty good. I think this guy is the person for us. Read through the copy. You’ll find out who’s professional or not. If you’re in the business long enough that you’re covering, if you know the customer well enough or you’ve done enough research, you could’ve taken a shower or in a car ride, came up with an incredibly brilliant hook, offer or solution that is the big idea that your promotion is written about. But the professionalism is all in the details of the editing. You know those details even in general. And you go through, and you read somebody’s copy, you can tell this person has been through it.
Now there are A-list copywriters, the highest-paid copywriters in the world that I know of, and I won’t drop their names, that their first draft is so ugly you would wonder how they got to be so good at copywriting. It’s the editing process that actually made those record-breaking controls that are run by these massive direct marketing mail houses. All the guys who do that, they do not take editing lightly. They edit, they edit, they edit, they edit. And here’s the thing, I guarantee you that of all the steps and all the tips in the Halbert Copywriting Method Part III, any one of them will make at least one or two other people continue reading your ad all the way to the bottom.
For the price of this book and for the price of what it cost you to get it in the short amount of time it actually takes to go through this, if that can happen with just one or two of the tips, imagine what’s happening with all of the tips. You don’t have to get that many people to turn around and finish going through your marketing and read to the end until they’re chomping at the bit to buy for it to be worth the effort and the time.
Now, if you’re just writing a quick post, that’s going to be replaced by another post in 10 minutes, that’s fine. But if you’re writing something, that is going to, if it works, that’s going to be on your website for a long time, your home page for your website, if it’s a mailer that’s going in with your products to sell them a backend product, if you’re writing an upsell offer that’s being attached to somebody else’s offer, anything that’s going to be seen and it’s going to be bring you money in for a while, it’s important. Are you writing a description for an Amazon book?
And that’s the other thing you’ve got to remember about copy. Copy is any time that you’re writing and persuading. My dad was writing copy every time he wrote. My dad actually wrote letters to me, and to, I remember, one of my brothers, and it included subheads. This is a personal letter.
James: I got that once. John Carlton spelt my name incorrectly on his website, and he wrote me a sales letter as to why I should change my name, and he emailed that to me. I’ve got a long-form sales letter just for me about why it’s essential that I change my name rather than him replace the URL. It was going to be much easier and made a lot more sense that I should change my name. I have to dig that one up. It’s a classic.
“Great copywriters don’t stop writing.”
Bond: Great copywriters do that. They don’t stop writing. Back to where you say in conversational, the difference between an A-class copywriter and A-class salesman is actually not that great. The big difference is in just polishing it up after it’s been written because so many pieces of great copy come from great conversations. Somebody said something that was fantastic and got your attention, so you write that because you know it’s fantastic and will get other people’s attention. It’s the following through and the polishing with the editing process is the difference between the professionals.
James: That’s so true. It’s really like when you’re recording a video or an audio, and you do a little bit of research, or you have a little run though, and then you get the hot version maybe the second or the third time. Or even… when I made my coffee this morning, the second shot is always better than the first one because the machine is warmer and the beans are flowing.
Thanks so much for sharing this stuff, Bond. You’ve also got a checklist you’re giving away for people who’d buy the book. So you’ve got to buy the book and get a receipt and then you can go to BondHalbert.com and claim a bonus. That’s a great domain name by the way.
Bond: Thank you. You know who told me to get that, right?
James: [laughs] I’ve got a vague recollection, yes. OK. So the book we’ve been talking about is the Halbert Copywriting Method Part III: The Simple, Fast and Easy Editing Formula that Forces Buyers to Read Every Word of Your Ads by Bond Halbert. We’ve been speaking with Bond Halbert in real life, on Skype, different country. But thanks so much for coming and sharing. I know that this is a super valuable thing for us to do for our listeners. We’ve really appreciated having you back on the show, even though it’s been six and a half years. Maybe we should get together a little more often.
Bond: I’m always willing to. I’m so proud of the fact that you thought the book was even worthy of a review. I mean I knew it was worthy of a review, but from somebody from your caliber, I was extremely honored to be here.
James: Well I was really happy to get on to the very, very, very early version of it and be part of the eyeballs looking for things to suggest and change, but it’s great. I just love the book, and I think it’s a must-have edition. Hopefully, your Amazon sales will skyrocket because you deserve it. Thank you for continuing the Halbert legacy. I think you’re doing a great service to the marketing community.
Bond: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
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