Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!

  • The very first thing you must come to realize is that you must become a “student of markets.” Not products. Not techniques. Not copywriting. Not how to buy space or whatever. Now, of course, all of these things are important and you must learn about them, but, the first and the most important thing you must learn is what people want to buy. And it’s easy. You see, the way to deduce what people want to buy is to simply observe what they DO buy! It’s as simple as that. But be careful. You want to know what people actually DO buy, not what they SAY they buy.

  • If you want to be a top notch marketing man, you have to know how it is. How it really is. Not how people (or you) wish it was or how they think it is. No. You must become a “student of reality.”

  • Any list of proven mail order buyers will out perform any list of non-buyers. Now, as another general rule, there are three main guidelines you can rely on when you are picking lists to test. These three guidelines are recency, frequency and unit of sale. A brief explanation follows: Recency - The more recently a person has purchased (by mail) something similar to what you are selling, the more receptive he will be to your offer. Get ‘em while they’re hot! In fact, always check to see if the list you are interested in has “hotline buyers” and see if you can rent them before anybody else. Hotline buyers are the most recent buyers of all. Sometimes they will be 90-day hotline buyers or even 30-day hotline buyers. These names are extremely good prospects! Frequency - The more often a person buys a particular item, the higher his desire for that type of production service. It just makes sense. If you are selling a book on skin diving and you can find a list of people who have purchased several other books on skin diving, then you know he is interested in the subject and will be a likely prospect to buy your book. Unit of sale - Once again, we have a guideline that just plain makes sense. After all, a person who recently paid $100.00 for a bottle of diet pills is probably a hotter prospect for diet type products than a person who has only paid $10.00 for a bottle of diet pills. You know, Bondo-Dog, people don’t always put their money where their mouths are; but they do nearly always put out their money where their true desires are. Recency, frequency and unit of sale: all good guidelines for evaluation of a mail order list. And, in my opinion, of the three guidelines, RECENCY is, by far, the most important of all.

  • Sell People What TheyWant To Buy! So obvious, so overlooked and so important. Now one thing I haven’t mentioned so far is that you want to be on the lookout for ads and direct mail pieces that you see over and over. What this means is that whomever is running the ad has hit a nerve. And, a good way for you to make money is for you to hit that same nerve, only do it better. But, and I know I’m being redundant, the most important thing to do first is to locate those hot buttons. You don’t have to guess. You don’t have to wonder. You don’t have to ask people or take surveys. All You Have To Do Is Observe! Observe the ads that keep repeating. Observe the size of the mailing lists available for rental on different product areas. Observe the direct mail pieces that keep getting mailed out month after month, and sometimes year after year.

  • It has long been my belief that a lot of money can be made by making offers to people who are at an emotional turning point in their lives. For example, when they have just had a baby, just gotten married, just lost a loved one, just gotten a raise, just filed bankruptcy, just purchased a new car, and so on.

  • Make yourself a collection (a “swipe file”) of good ads and good DM pieces and read them and take notes.

  • When you tell the day of the week plus the exact time you are writing the letter, it makes it seem a more important communication too, doesn’t it? Sort of like a telegram. There’s no doubt about it: A time-dated communication carries considerable more weight than one which is not.

  • The first thing you need to do is to assemble a file that contains everything you can get your hands on that is relevant to your promotion. Here are some of the things that might be included in your file: 1) List cards describing the lists you are going to test 2) A copy of the report you intend to sell 3) Copies of DM pieces that other people have used to sell products or services related to what you want to sell. 4) Copies of space ads that other people have used to sell products or services related to what you want to sell. 5) Copies of books and reports on real estate investing. 6) Copies of exceptionally good ads and DM pieces, even if they are not related to real estate. 7) A copy of that book I’m going to give you that contains hundreds of headlines. 8) Anything else you can think of that might be an “idea generator.” OK now, after you have assembled all this stuff, what you need to do is start reading and taking notes. Now, here is a little quirk of mine: I have a special way of taking these notes which, incidentally, I call “nugget notes.” You see, what I do is take my notes in the form of little nuggets of information.

  • Sometimes, my nugget notes consist of just one word. Sometimes they consist of meaningless phrases. Many times my notes make sense but many times they don’t. No matter. I never worry about it. I just keep writing. I write what occurs to me as I read the list cards, the jackets of books, the ads, the DM pieces, and all the rest of the material I have assembled. Now here are a few things you should always include. A complete description of your product including how many pages, how many words, how many photos, who wrote it, facts about the author (his age, background, success stories, etc.). You should also take notes on what this product will do for you. Will it make you wealthy? How will more money help your customer? Will he be able to buy a better car? Take more vacations? Afford a better home? If so, put it down. OK now, after you have taken all these notes what I want you to do is re-read the notes and the really good ones, put a star * beside them. And the ones that are even better put two stars ** next to them. And then, the red hot ones you put three *** or more stars beside them. Now, at this point, what you need to do is stop working on this project. That’s right. Just let it go. Put it right out of your mind. Just go on about your other business for a day or two. Now then, often what happens during this time, is that an outstanding sales idea will occur to you. Sometimes this idea will be how to get attention, like with my baggie idea.

  • Sometimes your breakthrough idea or “aha experience” will be a way to get attention like my baggie idea, or a new way to help the prospect visualize the benefits of owning what you have to sell, or a new order generating sales point or whatever. Anyway, at this point you now need to begin writing your letter according to formula. By formula, I mean you should work within a proven sequential outline like AIDA. What does AIDA stand for? It stands for ATTENTION, INTEREST, DESIRE, ACTION. So, to make it clearer your letter should:
    1. First, get his attention
    2. Second, get him interested
    3. Third, make him desire what you are selling
    4. Compel him to take whatever action is needed to get whatever it is you are selling.
  • Attention comes first. Naturally, we must get our readers attention before he can become interested in and desirous of our offer. Getting attention is CRUCIAL. If you don’t get it, your letter or advertisement will never be read. That’s why I like to attach things to the top of my DM letters. I have attached coins, dollar bills, 2-dollar bills, Japanese “pennies”, Mexican pesos etc. and there gimmicks has always gotten a lot of attention. However, as I told you before, you must get the right kind of attention. If not, your reader will be insulted and angry and probably won’t become a customer. So, always remember that your attention grabber needs to be relevant. It needs to tie in naturally with your letter. We have decided to attach a plastic baggie filled with sand to the letter we are going to use to sell our report on real estate investing. There’s no doubt that this technique will get our reader’s attention. It will really make him sit up and take notice. It will be the right kind of attention too. Because it is relevant. It has a natural tie in with the story our letter has to tell. OK now, we have got attention, and our first few paragraphs have made a natural tie in with our “attention grabber.” So, what’s next? Well, referring right back to our AIDA formula we see that the next thing we need to do (after getting his attention) is catch his interest.

  • How do we do this? Well, let’s start by feeding him interesting facts. Like how much money there is to be made by investing in Maui real estate. By telling how much sand (cubic tons) is on the beach where we got the sand in that baggie. By telling how this is one of the best beach front investment opportunities in Maui. By telling how many pretty girls there are around. By telling the specific kinds of fish you can catch right off the beach. Etc. OK, now after we have told him a lot of interesting facts our AIDA formula now tells us we should now arouse his desire.

  • What we do to create desire is we describe the benefits our prospect gets if he buys our product or service. Now, in the case of an investment-orientated offer, what we have to offer is the prospect of making money. At least this is our main attraction. So, what’s let’s do is let’s help him to picture in his mind the benefits of having more money. Don’t think it’s not necessary. Remember, you must always do even the obvious. Here then, are some benefits of having more money: New car- impress your friends and family, ride in comfort and luxury Nice house- comfort, luxury, and status Peace of mind- no worries about bills or financial emergencies Vacations- money lets you travel the world, go where you want when you want Attract the opposite sex - money, as any fool knows, makes you much more attractive to the opposite sex - it gives you more opportunities to meet them in nice places also Leisure time - money buys time: perhaps the best reason of all for having fun goes Alright kiddo, we’ve got his attention, we’ve got him interested, created desire and now what’s left? Go back to our AIDA formula and you will see that that last “A” stands for action. And that’s just what we’ve got to get, action! Action in the form of him sending us an order. You should pay very close attention to how I get action in my MD and DM pitches. I do this better than anybody. I am very thorough when it comes to closing a sale. Here’s a little of example of how I do it. “Would you like to get in on this great investment opportunity? Would you like to be one of the privileged few who actually own a piece of the finest beach in Maui? If so, it’s easy to order. All you have to do is fill out the order coupon and send it to me with your payment, etc., etc.” One thing I want to stress is that you must be very clear, very specific about what you want him to do. Lead him by the hand and take him exactly where you want him to go. Tell him where the order coupon is. Tell him to fill it out. Tell him to enclose the payment. Tell him how much to send. Tell him who the checks and money orders should be made out to. Tell him to use the envelope. Tell him the envelope doesn’t need a stamp. (If it doesn’t.) Tell him to put the envelope in the mail. And, above all, tell him to do all this RIGHT NOW! TODAY! Tell him what he will get if he hurries and tell him what he will lose if he delays.

  • I want you to take the Tova “facelift ad” and copy it in your handwriting. I also said you should do this just as you would if you were going to take it to a secretarial service and have it typed. Here’s more: from now on, for the next 4 or 5 months I want you to do this same thing with other ads and DM pieces. But I don’t want you to just copy any old ad or DM piece. I want you to copy only the best. Now, here’s why I want you to do all this: you see, what happens when you actually write out a good ad in your own handwriting is that the words, the flow, the sentence structure, the sequence of information, and everything else about the writing of that ad becomes a part of you. This isn’t just an empty experience. This is a way of internally imprinting on your mind and body, the process of good writing. If you do this often enough, you will soon have a deep “inside out” understanding of what it takes and what it feels like to write a good piece of copy. Now, in the beginning I want you to allow me and B. to pick which ads and DM pieces for you to copy. And, of course, the ones we will select for you to write out in your own handwriting will be those that we already know to be the cream of the crop. Ads and DM pieces that are proven winners. Ones that have brought in millions and even tons of dollars. It is important to do this. It is one of the many disciplines that other lazy “would be” marketing geniuses will not suffer. That’s too bad for them and good for us. I love that my so called “competition” is so lazy. I love it that so many people in advertising and marketing are too sophisticated, too “above” this sort of thing.

  • Now, here are a few other tips on how to write good copy or, as a matter of fact, “good anything.” Use simple common everyday words. Use “get” instead of “procure.” Write short sentences and short paragraphs. Use “transition” words and phrases to make your writing flow smoothly. Do you notice how I use transition words and phrases such as the following? Well, as a matter of fact, I first blah… Now, naturally, we don’t want to blah, blah… And, of course, here is what she said blah, blah, blah… Now, here’s a few more great ideas: Ask questions once in a while and then answer them yourself. Like this: Bond, do you understand what I am saying? You do. Good, then let’s go on. Etc. How do we get the benefits? The answer is simple. All we have to do is etc., etc. Can you imagine that? I know it seems unbelievable but facts are facts! Etc., etc., etc. And so on. God I love to write “And so on.” Kurt Vonnegut uses it quite often and he is one of the best writers I’ve read. What is a good writer? Well, in my opinion a good writer is one who makes things perfectly clear. He makes it easy for the reader. Easy-to-understand what he is saying, easy to keep reading. And, if you want a treat, if you want to read an entertaining book written with great clarity, then read Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. Now, don’t get me wrong. I said the book was written clearly, I did not say it was written by a sane person. Onward. By the way, do you notice how little one word transition sentences like “onward.” keep the flow going? You say you do notice? O.k., smarty, see if you can answer this question: Question: What is the best way of becoming a good writer? Aha! You’re not absolutely certain about this one, are you? Here is the answer: The Best Way To Become A Good Writer… Is By… Writing Good Writing! And, of course, that’s what the subject of this entire letter is all about. Don’t worry about developing a “style.” Your own peculiarities will emerge soon enough. But remember this. (Ran out of ink) The very best writing goes unnoticed. That’s right. You don’t want someone to read one of your ads and say, “Gosh, that advertisement was sure well written!” No. What you really want is for the reader to order from your ad. Listen up dummy. “If you are writing for applause… you will go home with empty pockets!” Write for money!

  • Here is something else to keep in mind: it is a good idea to know “word pictures” that will help your reader vicariously experience the wonderful benefits of owning your product or service. Like this: “And, just wait until you step into that warm, inviting Jacuzzi that comes with every apartment. Man oh man! The feel of that soothing bubbling water against your bare skin is just plain heaven.” “You’ve heard of the expression about how you won’t believe your eyes? Well, this is one time you won’t believe your eyes. No kidding. The delightful aroma of these charcoal broiled steaks will remind you how good it feels to be genuinely hungry” “Wow! When I first felt her tongue going around and around on my skin I thought I was going to scream!”

  • You can make your copy easier to read by the judicious use of parentheses. For example, if you want to tell people that your offer is good anywhere in the U.S. (except Alaska) the proper use of parentheses, as I just did, makes the copy easier-to-read, easier to understand and provides a little “eye relief” for your reader.

  • When a person first looks at something you have written it should be something that looks inviting to read. Easy-to-read. When he looks at your page of copy he should be drawn to your copy like a convict is to a Penthouse Magazine. Your page of copy (be it letter or space ad) should be laid out in such a manner as to be an attractive “eye treat” for the reader. This means wide margins, a certain amount of white space, double spacing between paragraphs, short words, short sentences, short paragraphs and an attractive, inviting layout. And now, my dear son, you are about to learn one of my very most important secrets. What I am about to tell you is so important that you can get as much as 500% more readership. Yet, at the same time, this important consideration remains almost virtually unknown by almost every agency and advertising person I have ever encountered. Listen up. Listen good and never forget what you are about to learn. Here it is: The Layout Of Your Advertisement Should Catch The Attention Of Your Reader… But… Not In A Way That Causes Him To “Notice” The Layout! Actually, that’s not as clear as it could be, is it? Perhaps I can do better. O.K., know this: In most publications, the editorial content gets 5 times as much readership as the advertising content. Now, what does this mean on a practical basis? Simply this: It means that your ads should, as much as possible, have an “editorial look” about them.

  • Let’s talk a bit more about the “look” of your ads and DM pieces. As I said, they should look (the ads) “editorial.” However, they should not look like just any old editorial piece of writing. No. Your ads should look like an exciting piece of editorial material. Here is a way to think about it: Imagine that you have written a book that you want to become a best seller. What’s the best thing that could happen? Well, how about this? Suppose a guy who works as a reporter for the L.A. Times gets a copy of your book, reads it, and falls in love with it. Now, let us further imagine that this reporter likes your book so much that he writes a full page article about our book and tells all his readers how wonderful this book is and why they should buy a copy. Wouldn’t that be great? You bet! And, just to sweeten things up even more, let us suppose that at the end of this “Rave Review” he tells his readers how to get a copy by mail. He tells them how much it costs, where to send the check or money order and who the payment should made out to! Wow! How about that! A full page rave review that makes the reader desire the book and then tells him where and how to get it! Now my son, listen and listen closely. Whenever you write an ad it should look, in so far as possible, exactly like a rave review written by a reporter. It should have the look of an exciting news flash.

  • Here’s something else. You know, whenever I want to study ad layouts, I often study editorial layouts instead. How do we apply all this to direct mail? O.K., what would that reporter do if he wanted one of his friends in Hawaii to buy your book? The answer? Well, perhaps he would write his friend a letter and tell him the same things he told his newspaper readers. And, perhaps he would even include a snapshot of the book so his friend would know what to look for in case he wanted to go to a bookstore to get the book. This would be one hell of a sales pitch, wouldn’t it? You bet it would, and that’s how your DM letters should look.

  • YOU CAN DO A BETTER SELLING JOB WHEN AT FIRST IT DOES NOT APPEAR YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO DO A SALES JOB. And, when I come back, the subject of my next teaching will be the importance of the fact that “YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION!”

  • “You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A First Impression.” Listen to this: When a person goes for a job interview, the interviewer decides whether or not to hire that person in the first 40-seconds. And this: In a jury trial, the members of the jury make up their minds as to whether the accused is guilty or innocent during the first half hour or so (during the opening argument), and they spend all the rest of the time the trial takes in finding ways to justify the decision they have already made. And this: When a person falls in love, it happens almost instantaneously. After that, minor things like the truth about the newly beloved are cast aside unless those “truths” happen to reinforce the wonderfulness of said love subject. And this: You either hook a reader or lose him when he very first looks at your ad or DM piece. Not when he reads it, but when he first looks at it.

  • Did I ever tell you that good poker players often watch their opponent’s eyes when they draw new cards? What they are looking for is to see the reaction of their opponent’s eyes to the cards they draw. If their eyes widen, that is if their pupils dilate, that means that they liked the new cards they received. If their pupils constrict it probably means that what happened is that they received cards of which they are not fond. This is a totally involuntary reaction. Apparently, what happens is that when we see something we like our eyes open up so we can let in more light and see more of it. And, conversely, when we see something we don’t like we do just the opposite: we try to cut down the flow of light so we don’t have to see as much of it. Well, I have a theory about all this. What I believe is that most (or many) of our decisions about how we like or dislike something are made not in 40 seconds, or the first 4 or 40 minutes but rather in the first fraction of a second that we see something new. And, I further believe that we unconsciously spend the rest of our so-called decision-making time not really making a decision after all, but instead, searching for justification for the decision we have already made. And, that’s why I’m so careful about the “look” of my DM pieces and MO ads. You see, I believe the “sale” or “no sale” decision is largely made the instant a prospect sees your ad and reads your headline. I think that if your prospect gets an instant “lift” from just looking at your ad, then he will start reading it and looking for reasons to convince himself that the promise of your ad is true! And, if you don’t disappoint him, then you have a really good chance of closing the sale.

  • So anyway, today I’m going to start by telling you about a little trick that will improve your copywriting. And that little trick is to read your copy out loud. What happens when you read your copy out loud is that you will verbally stumble over all the places that are not smooth. Then, of course, what you do, is rewrite the rough spots and read the copy out loud again. And, what you do, is you keep repeating this process until your copy is completely smooth and you can read it without stumbling at all. You see, advertising writing needs to be the best writing of all. It needs to flow from start to finish without a bump or a bubble.

  • Now, do you remember how I told you to write out in your own handwriting, good ads and DM pieces written by other people? You do remember? Good. Well, what I want to tell you here is that you should also read those same ads and DM pieces out loud. You see, by doing this writing and reading aloud of good material, you will find that the process of writing good ads will be internally imprinted on your nerves, muscle fibers, brain cells and every fiber of your being.

  • So, the message is clear: Get yourself a collection of good ads and DM pieces, read them aloud, and copy them in your own handwriting.

  • Right now, it seems to me that I feel like outlining the steps to direct mail success so that’s what I’m going to do. Step 1 - Find a hot market (mailing list) Step 2 - Find or create a product (preferably paper and ink) to sell to that market. Step 3 - Create a direct mail promotion that describes the product (or service) and the benefits of owning the same. Step 4 - Make a test mailing (1,000 to 5,000 pieces) Step 5 - Analyze results Step 6 - If results are good, mail 20,000 to 100,000 more letters Step 7 - If results are still good, start rolling out and taking care of business You know, it’s really a simple procedure.

  • A friend of mine told me he wanted to chat with me in private. (Chat! Isn’t that nifty word to describe a prison conversation?) Anyway, what he wanted to talk about was that a friend of his had invented a gizmo that lets you make stuff out of wood the same way a key-making machine lets you make keys out of blank metal. (Actually, I don’t fully understand what this thing does, but no matter.) In any case, he wants me to take a look at the papers on this thing and see if I think it is worth promoting because the guy who invented this thing isn’t following through with it because he can make so much more money smuggling dope. Of all things! Oh my! Well, what I told him is I would be glad to help. However, I also told him that he was making the single most common mistake made by people who want to break into the MO business. What is that mistake? The mistake is finding or developing a product FIRST and then looking for a market to sell it to. This is backasswards. You Must Always Find A Market First… And Then Concentrate On A Product! Products are a dime a dozen. They are important, but much less crucial to success than finding a hot market. I’ll tell you this: A guy with a new product cannot always find a hot market for that product but a guy who has uncovered a HOT MARKET can always find a product to fill the needs of that market.

  • I want to talk about right now is my favorite way in all the world to achieve impact with my DM promotions. What I’m talking about is attaching things to the top of my letters. I’ve mentioned this before, but now I want to go into it in considerably more detail. The best letter ever to use this technique was the classic “dollar bill” letter featured in “The Robert Collier Letter Book.” (must reread) This was a first class letter that was designed to raise funds for a children’s hospital. When the recipient opened the envelope, he discovered a personal, typed letter with a real, honest-to-goodness dollar bill attached to it. The copy explained that the writer wanted to donate a thousand dollars to a certain children’s hospital, but that he realized that a thousand dollars wouldn’t go very far. So, what he (the writer) had decided to do was divide his $1,000.00 contribution into 1,000 - one dollar bills and then mail these bills to 1,000 different people. Now, he went on to say, what he hoped is that everybody who received one of these dollar bills would decide not to keep it and, instead, send it straight to the hospital with one or more dollars of their own. Did it work? Oh my! It was probably the most effective direct mail promotion ever mailed. It got better than a 90% response, and the people to whom it was mailed eventually contributed tens of millions of dollars! That’s Impact!