Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Rare Copywriting Secrets from a Legend: Eugene Schwartz

If you're in business, you must sell to survive.

Much of that selling may be face-to-face with customers. But that puts a ceiling on your potential -- if your only way to sell is in person or by phone, you can only make so many sales a day.

To really expand your business, you must capture your best sales pitch and tell the world -- in print, on TV or radio, or online.

And how do you capture your best sales pitch in words? Copywriting.

If you've studied copywriting -- the art and science of selling with words -- you should know about Claude Hopkins, Victor Schwab, John Caples, David Ogilvy, Gary Halbert, and John Carlton, to name but six copywriting legends.

All but the last two wrote excellent books that you should buy from Amazon, then READ multiple times.

But there's a seventh "lost" master who many think was one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived.

His ideas are still "swiped" today by in-the-know marketers. His specialty was direct-mail advertising -- the most difficult and competitive form of copywriting.

His name was Eugene Schwartz.

Before dying in 1995, Eugene Schwartz wrote several books on copywriting, including the masterly "Breakthrough Advertising."

But today, I've got a special treat for you ...

You see, in addition to writing about it, Gene spoke and taught about copywriting to audiences of lucky marketers.

Such seminars were rare, however. Only one, from October 1993, was transcribed that I know of. Another, from May 1994, was recorded on video. You can buy neither the transcript nor the video any more.

But I've got both of them in my library.

And I'm going to share two copywriting secrets from Eugene Schwartz with you now, taken from those "lost" lectures. They will deliver insights about business and marketing that you won't find anywhere else ...

1) Talk Little, Listen Much

Idea: According to Gene Schwartz, "Speak to everyone you can. Be the best listener you ever met. That is your market talking. You don't have to have great ideas if you can hear great ideas."

Application: Just today, a copywriting client of mine wrote to tell me about a sale one of my sales letters had made for him, selling a very expensive service.

Because it's the early stage of the service rollout, we put his phone number prominently on the web page, to encourage phone calls. This lets his prospects ask their most-pressing questions. The more questions you answer in a sales letter, the more you can sell.

His customer asked these two questions by phone:

1. What is an XYZ service?
2. How can you guarantee it?

I wrote back to my client: "Guess what I'm writing for you tomorrow? A P.P.S. in the sales letter to answer those two questions." And we're going to sell a lot more of his expensive service. Because we're listening to his market.

Are you listening to your customers? Your market? What are they trying to tell you?

2) The Creativity is Not in You. Never Mistake That

Idea: According to Gene Schwartz, "... the absolutely most talented copywriter in the world, who doesn't work very much, will be beaten by the copy cub who puts in four times as much work, because the creativity is not in you. Never mistake that. The creativity is in your market and in your product, and all you are doing is joining the two together. And the only way you can get the creativity out of your product and your market is to dig it out."

Application: Before you can sell it to anyone, you've got to know your product or service better than anyone. That requires many hours of painstaking research, to "dig out" every last benefit.

You can still see bullet points in sales letters today that are direct descendants of such Schwartz gems as these, unearthed after many hours of patient digging:

  • Eat this one delicious food, and it will probably kill your "uncontrollable" craving for sweets, right on the spot! See page 122.
  • Do you want to develop total concentration? Then turn to page 31 ... read the four simple questions taught to you there ... and see how those questions automatically rivet your attention to the other person's words ... keep your mind from wandering ... lets you store up his thoughts as though they were engraved on your memory
  • The one fatal TIMING mistake that makes most people fat (90% of all overweight people do it). Not in this case, what you eat, but how you eat it. See page 19.

I've spent entire weekends combing through hundreds of pages of research, reports, books, and customer emails to dig out features and then turn them into benefits for a sales letter.

How many hours do you spend digging for gems in your products and services? If you're not willing to put in the effort, don't complain if the sales don't follow.

(For more ideas like these, download Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)


  1. Are there any other books you would recommend about copywriting or are those the main ones?

  2. Josh,

    The best 5 books on copywriting are, in order of importance:

    1. Tested Advertising Methods, by John Caples (NOT the latest version -- anything before the 5th ed. in 1998)

    2. Ogilvy on Advertising, by David Ogilvy

    3. The Copywriter's Handbook, by Bob Bly

    4. How to Make Your Advertising Make Money, by John Caples

    5. My Life in Advertising/Scientific Advertising (one book), by Claude Hopkins