Insights from copywriting legend Gary Halbert

What are The Boron Letters?

The Boron Letters is a collection of letters written by Gary Halbert, addressed to his son, to share his insights on life, business and copywriting. Halbert was a well known direct response marketer who wrote these letters while serving a sentence in prison. Many well known Internet entrepreneurs have referenced The Boron Letters having influenced them, so I have provided a summary of the letters for you in this post.

The Importance of Mindset

I don’t know much about Gary Halbert as a person, but you get a sense from the tone of the Boron Letters that he tried hard to have a positive perspective while in prison.

In the Boron Letters he pointed out that money flows where there is enthusiasm and that your attitude plays a big role in your ability to make money. Halbert also stressed the importance of looking for enthusiasm when hiring people.

Choose a Market First

It may seem counter-intuitive to select a market first, as most people start by choosing a product or service to sell first. To succeed in business, Halbert advised his son to be a student of markets and observe what people buy.

He further added that he should constantly be on the look out for markets which have demonstrated they are starving for a product or service, as this is where success will flow more easily.

Sell Effectively and with Less Effort

Halbert stressed that you should sell people what they want to buy. This sounds obvious, but how often do businesses do this? When they create a product first, and take it to market, they’re not necessarily selling people what they want to buy.

He also pointed out that the more customized your promotion is, the more successful you will be. This goes back to choosing a market, and knowing everything you can about that market (their pain, desires, ways of buying, etc.) to most effectively service those customers.

Copy is more effective in selling when it doesn’t appear to be selling.

Writing Good Sales Copy

Before writing any sales copy, first write down all the relevant information in point form (customer pain points, concerns, desires, opportunities, etc.). Then, rate each point to see which would be best to include. Once you’ve done these two steps, leave your ideas for a few days to see if any other ideas emerge.

Remember the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action) principle in mind when writing your sales copy.

  • not all attention is good – you want attention from people who are your target buyer
  • interest the reader with relevant facts or information
  • to create desire, describe the benefits they will get if they buy your product
  • list all of your product’s benefits, even if they seem obvious
  • when it comes to action, you need to be very specific with what you want them to do (how to do it, when to do it, etc.)

Additional writing sales copywriting tips include:

  • Use smaller, simpler words and shorter sentences for good copy
  • Ask questions from time to time in your copy and then provide the answer
  • Create pictures with your words to help your reader vicariously experience the product benefits
  • Focus on believability in your writing. Including facts and numbers increase the believability

Create a compelling call to action

Make sure you have a good proposition to make to your reader. Add more value to the deal (for example with bonuses), and get your prospect excited to buy.

When walking the reader through the call to action, explain what they need to do, and exactly what they will get.

Halbert also suggested giving the reader a reason why you’re motivated as well to give them this deal. You may have seen recent examples of Internet Marketers doing this, where they give away a copy of their recent book and ask you to pay the shipping and handling. The reason for the deal that they indicate is that they are hoping people will positively review their book on review sites.

How to improve your copywriting skills

Gary Halbert suggested handwriting good sales copy to learn it well, and to only the copy the best ads.

I put myself through this process for the 21 Day Copywriting experiment, which you can read about before, at the end of week 1, at the end of week 2 and at the end of week 3. I also endorse this method of learning – it takes time, but it’s worth doing.

Final Thoughts

While I’ve only summarized the key points about copywriting, if you decide to read The Boron Letters you will see Gary Halbert provided a lot of general advice about life as well. It certainly makes for a different, but more personal experience when reading about sales copywriting.

You can read the Boron Letters online at The Gary Halbert Letter or you can purchase a copy on Amazon. The content is very quick to read, and you will find both practical and interesting.

I hope you’ve found this summary helpful.

Now over to you – have you read the Boron Letters? If you have, what did you think of them?

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About The Author

Eric Moeller

Eric Moeller is the Managing Director of Copy Dojo, an agency which helps startups improve their sales copywriting to rapidly grow their business. He has two decades of experience in high tech marketing and product management. Eric has an MBA in marketing, and completed Seth Godin's altMBA in the summer of 2015.

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