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Sales + Inbound Marketing + HubSpot

Bond Halbert: Prison Can Make You Write, Market & Sell Better

Posted by Wes Schaeffer | July 14

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About Today's Guest on The Sales Podcast

Copywriting Expert, Bond Halbert, grew up literally on the knee of one of the best copywriters the world has ever known, Gary Halbert. While he describes himself as "born lucky," he has sold millions of dollars of information products on his own and has since become the shepherd of his dad's legacy.

One such example of his shepherding is the publishing of The Boron Letters. If you'd like to learn how Bond Halbert has gotten 50% open rates on large, old lists, do yourself a favor and order that book now and watch your conversion rates improve before you're halfway through with the book.

Rubber-Meets-The-Road Sales Tip

  • Direct mail is hot again today. Little competition there today. You have their attention with mail instead of them sitting at the computer.
  • Take Gary Halbert’s info and use it on your own to grow.
    • Bond did that to help companies sell $23 million in products but he makes more money selling his own stuff than helping others do it. Bond doesn’t want to write for others. He wants to write for himself and selling his own things. He’s very empathetic and wants to help and feels bad when a client’s back is against the wall and he feels the pressure.
    • Bond is more motivated by quality of life and solving problems vs. money.
    • He never felt he was living in his dad’s shadow.
    • "Having the Halbert name gets me in the door but I have to prove myself."
  • There is an evolution of a copywriter, they come in two forms...
    • get good at marketing
    • get good at writing
  • Then start helping others and building a business around it.
  • It’s not just sitting down and writing. The thought process is where the talent and effort is.

Quick trip to making good headlines. He and Lawton Chiles:

  • Simple Subject Line Secrets
  • Go to the dark side when writing headlines. “The 7 Horrible Things That Just Happened To Me In Prison”
  • Pique Curiosity
  • Have a sequence - more curiosity in the first, more benefit in the second email,
  • Combine curiosity and benefit when you can.
    • Example, Boron was a federal prison camp. “Thank God my dad went to prison.”
    • “13 email lessons from prison” - benefit and curiosity
  • Model after sources of news. Follow salacious news stories. Don’t go to just regular news who wants to give the who, what, when, where and why as soon as possible. You want to pique their interest and bring them into your world.
  • Add numbers. They promise specificity. “My Hot Email Tips For 2015” vs. “My Hot Email Tips”
  • Subject lines of emails are the same as Headlines on a landing page or article.
  • The subject / headline is negative but the content is positive.
  • The best copywriters in the world issue surveys to their clients. Ask who, what, when, where and why in every question.
  • Business owners get too busy to learn and practice and test.
Gary Halbert’s hobbies were buying cameras and boats and we talked about business on the boat."
  • Think about other people when you create your marketing. Don’t talk about yourself. It’s all about relationships and knowing what the other person is thinking.
  • Pay attention to everything in your marketing. If you’re at the end of a page, how do you create intrigue at the end to make them turn the page?

Gary Halbert always wrote on yellow legal pads. One sheet equaled one sheet of typing so he knew to amp up the curiosity at the bottom of the page.

  • “A Pile, B Pile” speech. People sort their mail into A and B piles.

Bond Halbert's editing tips.

  • John Carlton - “go ahead and kill trees. Print. Print. Print. Do your editing from print vs. on screen.”
  • Then read the copy aloud. It feels embarrassing and stupid but rookies won’t do it and pros do. You’ll see where
  • Hunt down the big words that are too fancy. Nobody will fault you for using simple words.
  • It’s okay to use technical words to demonstrate your professionalism but quickly explain it to make the prospect comfortable.
  • A friend of his gives his kids a quarter for every big word they find.
  • Gary Halbert would hunt down words like “that” and replaces it with “which” when he can.
  • Break up your sentences. Hunt down the “ands” and break the sentence into two sentences.

All of your real power in copywriting is in your research.

  • Dominoes pizza knew their market who was sick and tired of not being able to predictably know when their pizza would arrive.
  • The “copy dump” is the quickest phase. It’s where the creativity comes in. The hook, the angle, the offer. The Big Idea. This takes some talent or at least some modeling.
  • The professionalism comes in the editing. Edit in a complete pass from top to bottom.
  • Provide eye relief. Break up the paragraphs.
  • It’s a checklist.
  • Look at the end of sentences. How strongly does the reader feel to continue reading?
  • It’s a process. The “greased slide.” Like “The Godfather” movie. No matter where you jump in you are sucked in.

The most important thing is understanding your customer, what they want and giving them what they want.

  • Record yourself selling and do it so long you forget you are selling. Then get it transcribed.
  • Be leery of a copywriter that wants to get it out to you in a week. They are going to use a template and it won’t come across as fresh.

(Gary Halbert hated image advertising. (He had a lot of absolutes that Bond doesn’t agree with.))

If you are delivering your content in a sales letter, consider who is receiving it and how you want them to reply and buy. Maybe you put a phone number or a URL or an address to mail your payment.

  • Have a free recorded message for people that don’t want to speak to somebody and get pressured or delayed.
  • Toll free vs local numbers—offer and positioning determines this. Be congruent.

Gary Halbert wrote the most-mailed sales letter ever—over 600 million copies—The Coat of Arms letter. He spent 18 months on this one page letter and tested every step of it back when it was expensive.

  • It starts with the address.
  • He used curiosity.
  • A live stamp.
  • Normal envelope.
  • No window.
  • The numbers and address for the return address was scientifically determined.
  • No teaser copy.
  • They got an office with a low digit number in their address and a simple name like “Elm” and they spelled out “Street” to come across as a simple housewife.
  • His dad used this much detail early on when he was hungry. He got sloppier as he got older and more successful.

“Motion over meditation.”
“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”
“The Thomas Hall Letters” inspired Gary Halbert.
The Robert Collier Letter Book

Gary Halbert and Bond Albert never got into NLP. Sometimes people say Bond writes like his dad but the best compliment he gets is when people talk about the offer he made. Gary’s gift of persuasion was a natural gift and Bond inherited it and learned it. It’s their personality vs purposefully putting content into an email or letter.

For example, Gary Halbert and Bond’s mom spent an entire week in Ian Fleming’s house right after Ian passed away because he met someone in a bar that could introduce them.

Finally, work on your product or service until it’s so damned good…You brag on your kids because you’re proud of them. Become a proud parent of your product.

Links Mentioned

If you liked this episode, please let Bond Halbert and me know on Twitter. 

Topics: Copywriting, Bond Halbert, The Sales Podcast, Sales and Marketing Training, Podcast, Copywriter

Written by Wes Schaeffer

The Reassuringly Expensive, Ruthlessly Pragmatic pig-headed entrepreneur dedicated to discovering proven, transferable, effective tools for creating inbound sales so he can help you automate, integrate, and dominate your niche.

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