Copywriting Lessons From a Legend: Ed Dale’s 6-Month Copywriting Journey With Gary Halbert

Imagine spending six months with a copywriting legend. Working side by side. Absorbing the knowledge directly from the source.

Imagine the legend is Gary Halbert.

Years ago, Ed Dale did just that.

He hired Gary Halbert for 6 months to learn copywriting. It cost him over $120,000, but the lessons learned are priceless.

Ed shared his learnings in a presentation for SuperFastBusiness Live.

These are the lessons I’ve found more interesting.

A sales letter is the best business plan you can have.

To write a great sales letter, you need to:
- Consider and solve the main sales objections.
- Eliminate or reduce the risks.
- Point out all the benefits and outcomes.

If there are holes in your sales letter, there are holes in your business.

To get attention you need to understand your market.

Having someone's attention is a privilege. Don't waste it.

Speak to your audience directly. The best way to do it is by understanding their pain points, desires, needs, and wants. You need to follow the conversation that is going on in their heads.

Gary Halbert's approach was something like this:
Say you want to offer your services to a florist. You go to her and say something like: “I can get you more sales, more business. Are you interested?”
The florist will ignore you, she has heard this message hundreds of times before.

Try this instead: "Do you do weddings? How many can you take?”
Now you have her full attention. Weddings are a huge business for florists. The same bouquet of flowers doubles in price when a wedding is involved.

The florist now knows you understand her and her business.

Do you understand your market? Try this exercise to find out

You'll need a timer and pen and paper (or its digital version)

Step 1. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Write down every pain your market has until the timer goes off. Think about the problems they face, their challenges, and their anxieties. For clarity, use bullet points.

Take a break.

Step 2. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Write down the gains until the timer goes off. Think about what your prospect wants, the results they can get from using your product, and all the ways your product will make their lives better.

These two lists will lead to pain relievers and gain creators you can incorporate into your copywriting.

Added bonus: use your lists to write articles, newsletters, email sequences, ebooks, lead magnets, or any other content that can help your market.

Did you struggle to do the exercise?
If you have struggled with writing pains and gains for 2 minutes then, you don't understand your market.

What can you do? Research. Listen to your market. Talk to them. Use on-site surveys, email surveys, interviews, and review mining. If possible, have conversations with your clients over coffee.

The product is “the mud”

Gary used to refer to the product as “the mud.” It helped him focus on what is really important when you write copy.
It’s not what the product does and how it does it. It is who you are serving and how you are helping them.

If you struggle with writing, interview your copy

Writing is not your thing? Record your pitch, or get someone to interview you about your product. Then, get the transcription and extract the messages you will use in your copy.

Separate creation and editing

Writing and editing should be separated by a significant amount of time.
Write your copy without editing it. Take a break (of hours or days) and then edit your copy.

5 Easy tips to improve your writing

  • Don't break your writing flow by stopping to do research.
    To avoid doing this, Gary would write something completely outrageous that he would pick up in editing. One time he was writing copy for a golf putter. At some point, he wrote, “the special covering on this putter is the foreskin of an albino seal.” He didn’t know what the head of the putter was made of. Instead of stopping and finding out, he wrote something that would catch his attention when editing.
  • The offer trumps everything.
    Gary would spend most of his time refining the offer. If you have a great offer, the rest of your sales letter can suck.
  • Spend time removing risk.
    Make a list of all the reasons to not buy your product. Then, go over each one and try to mitigate that risk.
  • Speak the language of your niche. If you understand your market, you know the type of vocabulary and expressions you need to use in your copy.
  • Show, don’t tell. Instead of saying how well your product works, show it.

The magic happens when you edit your copy.

Assume your first draft will be crap. Just get it done. The magic will happen later.
The standard Gary Halbert sales letter went through at least 16 to 17 edit cycles. Don't expect to do less.

5 Easy tips to edit your copy

  • Kill adverbs
    If it sounds too sale-y, kill all adverbs. Adverbs are bullshit words.
  • Do a De-That run.
    The word "that" can be deleted 99% of the time, and the sentence sounds better.
  • Read your copy out loud.
    If you skip or stumble while reading, your audience will skip or stumble. Rewrite those fragments.
  • Expose your work at the right time.
    Get feedback from people you respect to help you polish your work. Gary read his sales letter to others and made tweaks along the way.
  • The hook will pop up while editing.
    Gary never started with the hook. It was during the editing process that the hook emerged. Polish your copy and you'll find just the right thing to use to grab people's attention.