11 April 2007

Copywriting the Halbert way

Having noted the death of Gary Halbert in a previous post, I thought that it might be worthwhile to reflect on why his style of copywriting worked. Halbert himself didn't think it was much to do with the quality of his writing. He said that it was the quality of the ideas that was important and he used to spend at least 90% of his time on thinking about what he was supposed to be selling and less than 10% on the writing itself. On that basis, Halbert should probably be revered as a marketeer or a super salesman rather than a copywriter.

The thing that he looked for was a hungry audience. He didn't mean people who were literally hungry of course, he meant a group of buyers who were desperate for the product or service he was promoting. If he could identify that audience then he knew that he could sell. His gift was very often to identify an aspect of a product which had been overlooked by other people which could confer real benefits to that hungry audience. He was, in his own words "an ideas man" who could generate value for a business both on the top line and the gross margin. Read some of his newsletters to get a flavour of how he helped to redefine business models for some of his clients.

He appeared to be a robust character who enjoyed telling the unvarnished truth, but that was probably a persona for public rather than private consumption. He was obviously a complex man who straddled the old and the new and tied them together by understanding that, at root, the buyer was untouched by the technology. His ability to tie in an advertisement to that buyer was what made him famous. His influence is significant and I have no doubt that many of his ideas will be stolen and used again and again.

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