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David Garfinkel and Brian McLeod on Fast, Effective Copy

  • Danny InyDanny Iny

Do you want copywriting advice from a guy who charges his mentoring clients $25,000?

(Without paying $25,000?)

Well, today is your lucky day.

David Garfinkel is known as “the world’s greatest copywriting coach”, and is the co-author (with Jay Conrad Levinson) of Guerrilla Copywriting and Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich (and lots of other books).

And yes, he charges his mentoring clients $25,000.

Well, he’s launching a new program called Fast, Effective Copy. I’ve seen it, and it’s very good.

But that’s not the point. The point is that I got him and his partner Brian McLeod on the phone to tell you all about what he teaches in there. 😀

(And hey, they’re also going to put on a special webinar for Mirasee readers next week – more on that later!)

So without further ado, here’s the interview, 32 minutes for you to enjoy:

Interview with David Garfinkel and Brian McLeod

Here’s the full transcript:

Danny: Hi David, Hi Brian. It’s a pleasure to speak with you, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

David: Hey Danny.

Brian: Hey There, I just want to say I’m really impressed with what you guys are doing. I really enjoyed the material that you sent to me and everything I’ve seen that you guys are working on. I think it’s great to be able to talk to the smart folks that, I know, are taking advantage of what you do. I think they’re probably going to be pretty interested in what we’re doing, so this is great.

Danny: I think so too, thank you very much. And for the benefit of our listeners, I’ve got David Garfinkel and Brian McLeod on the call. They are the creators of Fast, Effective Copy which is a program that teaches you how to write fast and painlessly to produce amazing copy. It’s jam-packed with useful information and resources so would one of you be able to tell me what inspired you to create this program to begin with?

David: Sure, David here. There’s really two parts to this. There’s the engine of Fast, Effective Copy which I created about seven years ago, and then there’s Fast, Effective Copy itself which I never could have done and wouldn’t have done without Brian. But let me take you back to the beginning, which is almost 20 years ago. I had this audio cassette, and it was about how to get referrals which, you know, I felt a lot of people in small business needed, and I actually got national press for it, and it was like a $30 cassette, which was very high priced, but I thought the information was valuable. However, I didn’t have any way to sell it en masse. I didn’t know how to close sales, how to go through the whole sales cycle without talking to someone, and for a thirty dollar product with shipping cost and everything, that was… Selling them one by one on the phone wasn’t very profitable, so I happened to find. I got this thing in the mail from Gary Halbert, he was a copywriter, a very popular and outrageous copywriter at the time, and I started to learn about copywriting. I realized this would be my salvation. If I knew how to close the sale just with the written words, because I’d already been a writer – great! Things would work out. Well, fast forward to ten years later, where I’d finally learned how to write copy, I started to write letters that had made millions of dollars for clients, and I was, I was angry, Danny, because I felt the way people had been taught to write copy – what I had to go through, and I felt I had found the best teachers out there, was way too difficult. And it was much too important a skill to remain that difficult, and so I went about, first of all, coming up with simpler systems for myself, so I could write copy, because I was a professional copywriter, people were hiring me and I was using this to promote my own products. And then I ended up teaching other people and they just wanted to be able to write stuff faster and easier that would make sales. And so, I came up with Copywriting Templates, which makes writing every piece of copy easier, and that was quite a bit of work, that was in 1985. And it was a CD, DVD, workbook course, three ring binders, bound books, all kinds of stuff… just a big thud when it landed on your doorstep. And from the day it came out people said: “You should put this online.” Because I was charging $1,200 for it and the only way you could get it most of the time, was if you signed up to be a mentoring client of mine, and that was $25,000 dollars, and that’s, I realize, out of the range of a lot of people, and many people wouldn’t really want that level of one-on-one intensity, that level of instruction. But no one was able to put it together as an online course. Several people tried and failed – really good, successful people, by the way, so I don’t think it was their fault – I think it was technology’s fault. And then, about a year ago, Brian got a hold of a copy of Copywriting Templates, and Brian, want to take it from there?

Brian: Sure, I’d love to. I remember the day that that thing thudded at my house. You had sent this package to me, and I had no idea what to expect, I mean I was thinking “Okay, it’s a course, it will come.” And this just enormous box landed and it had binders and two dozen disks and it was just an overwhelming amount of information. It was, I mean, it was awesome, I was completely pulled into studying the material, but I had really no… I had no rudder, you know? I didn’t know where to begin, and the physical aspects of it were a little challenging because there was so much material –three ring binders full of transcripts, all these disks. Where to go to get the stuff because a challenge, so I called David up when I got it, and I said, you know: “What would you think about doing something totally different with this? Would you consider it, you know, would you be open to that idea?” And as the story goes, you know David, well, I wouldn’t call it scepticism, I think he just realized that he’d been trying in the past a large order of work involved to make something like that happen. But for me, I mean, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the material as soon as I got it. We could digitize this. We could update the material, and we could deliver it in a variety of different media so that no matter how you like to get your information, no matter where you might be at that moment or during the creative process, you could have access to the information. And by indexing it, by making it more searchable, the real power of the thing comes together because it’s really based around situations. People hear the word templates and they immediately thing like – Mad-Libs, or fill-in-the-blank type stuff, and that’s not really what Fast, Effective Copy, or Copywriting Templates is about. It’s about finding particular situations that you’re in and knowing that you need a certain outcome from your customer, or the visitor to your website, or whatever it is. You know that there’s something you want them to do – copywriting templates was really designed to give you those situations to figure out what you want them to do and then the words to say, to engineer that outcome. But it’s very situational, so there’s no way to get that without thumbing through miles of transcript and, and trying to find that material, until we built it into a membership site, digitized everything, tagged it very carefully, categorized everything and interlocked it and interlinked it in a way that allows you to drill down very quickly to what you’re trying to do.

David: That’s one thing Brian can take a lot of credit for. Sorry to interrupt, but it’s a really important point, one of the things I did is, I took, I think my biggest contribution to this whole field is taking all of the different elements of copy which were so mysterious to people and being the first one to break them down into manageable, understandable tasks and activities. What I didn’t do such a good job of was making my material searchable, accessible, easy to navigate through. You know, we all have our strengths, and I’m really good at doing that particular thing for my other clients, who have books and info-products and organizing businesses, but I, you know, I was a little too close to it. That’s one brilliant thing that Brian did, he has a very simple map structure; very accessible. You know, in terms of templates, I want to say something else, too. I got an email last night from one of the readers of my book, which is really, the book’s called: Advertising Headlines That Make You Rich, and it’s really, first, the first module of copy-writing templates, in book form, and I told him about Fast, Effective Copy, and he said “Well, I’m interested in it, but to tell you the truth, David – templates, I don’t want to sound like everybody else. I’m not sure about that.” And that’s a very reasonable response, because I know there have been a lot of fill-in-the-blank types of products, Danny, and you’ve probably seen them.

Danny: I’ve seen too many of them.

David: Yeah. Yeah, they have their benefits, because at least they, they get you going, in action. But that’s not what this is about, what this is about is, is Brian was talking about – is actually giving people a guidelines and thought starts and getting them through writer’s block, and in some cases there are some fill-in-the-blanks but the fill-in-the-blanks can go in so many directions that you don’t need to look like anyone else. You can, but you don’t have to, you have the chance to use your authentic voice, yet send the train down the rails of proven sales success when you’re writing so you don’t have to learn the hard way, the way Brian and I have learned as copywriters ourselves what works and what doesn’t. And it can be a painful journey to do it the hard way. You do end up learning more, but you have to be in it for the long haul, you know, and for a lot of people who aren’t interested in making copywriting their main activity, their main specialty, it’s not practical. For me, it was. For Brian, it was. It isn’t for everybody, and so this is a shortcut that actually sneaks in the learning one small portion at a time. You know, for each time you use it you learn one more thing, but it doesn’t seem like you’re in class with a teacher and a blackboard and tests and having to sit up straight and raising your hand when you have to go to the bathroom and all of the other things people don’t like about school and classes. It’s an action tool for people in business. It’s very practical, and it works.

Brian: Yep.

Danny: Cool. So, who are your clients generally, with Fast, Effective Copy. Is it more small businesses and freelancers, or is it larger organizations?

David: I guess a short answer to that question is, we started out working with copywriters and people who wanted to become copywriters but we are transitioning much more to the small business market. And the whole thing is designed to help small business people more than to help copywriters.

Danny: Cool. So, let me ask you something specific, because one thing I noticed is that you call your lesson training sessions: “Recipes.” Why is that?

David: Okay, that’s a great question. It was because of something, actually, that happened. I was having dinner with a friend, who is a very skilled entrepreneur and business person, but her strength is not as a writer. She’s good at other things. And she was asking me advice on something, and I was telling her she could use Fast, Effective Copy to build on the advice I was giving her, and she looked at me, with all seriousness and said: “Okay. But which template should I use?”  And I thought: “Oh my God, she’s serious!” Because I know which template to use and writers know because that’s what they do all the time, but there’s a whole level of people who don’t. So I realized that was the next step for Copywriting Templates and Fast, Effective Copy. Then I started to look at what we were doing, and not only what we were doing, but what everybody is doing in the copywriting training field and what the next step was. What we were doing was a lot like having a cooking show where you have a chef or a Rachel Ray, or a Julia Child or a James Beard on the show. And we would come on the show and say: “Good morning everybody! Today, you’re going to learn how to cook: food!” Uhhh. What kind of food? And that has been the mindset of a lot of copywriters. They assume they have what the Heath Brothers who wrote Made to Stick called the curse of knowledge. We understand so much about the structure of writing copy that we forget there are a lot of people who don’t. So, the recipes are, well, suppose you want to make baked squash, or suppose you want to make ribs. Or suppose you want to make a casserole, or you want to bake a pie, or you want to make a salad. How do you do that? And so this takes it down to a new level of granularity. And if you actually look at the recipes on the site you’ll see, like for example, a product review blog post, which is very helpful for people who want to be affiliates. If you’re going to review someone else’s product on the blog and then say this is what I think is good, this is what I don’t think is good, here’s what I recommend, here’s my affiliate link – how do you actually do that so it works? So it seems authentic, so you’re playing by the rules and so people buy. Well that requires more than a template, more than a general vague formula like: get their attention, get their interest, get their desire, and ask for action.

Danny: I hate that one.

David: It’s sort of good looking backwards. “Oh, here’s where they got the attention! Oh Here’s…” but it doesn’t give me any…

Danny: Well, it doesn’t help you actually do it if you don’t already know how.

David: That’s right. That’s right. And the recipes are… they’re the step by step. They are the baby steps for people. Even experienced people sometimes would like to know, you know – I guess we could tell them about Kevin Rogers, right? He’s an incredible copywriter, one of the hottest ones on the internet. We did a whole month putting together recipes – reverse engineering his videos, and showing people – okay, you want to do a video to get people to opt-into a webinar – to actually show up on the webinar, those, those were what he did. He did a webinar launching a new product made over ten thousand dollars the first night. What did he do with his videos? They were a key part of his enrolment strategy, and he was very surprised. And he showed it to his wife because she had no idea what he did all day, sitting there in his little, you know, writer’s hutch. He said she would politely come when it was feeding time, but, but she didn’t know what he was doing in there.

Brian: Totally true.

David: Anyway, and Kevin’s also a good friend of Brian’s, and a friend of mine, so, yeah, that’s why the recipes. Exact instructions that any reasonably intelligent person, or, any normal person can understand, even if you’re not a writer, not a copywriter.

Danny: Cool. And that makes so much more sense than just the, like you said, the Mad-Libs, fill-in-the-blanks kind of templates that you see a lot of – you see them used frequently online and you know that they’re being used because they’re consistently, like really bad.

Brian: Right. There’s an element of that kind of ease inside Copywriting Templates, inside Fast, Effective Copy too, because that’s one dimension of it – giving people the structure and the doughnuts where the individual parts connect together and make it yours. So there is, a, you know, a part of it where you’re connecting the dots in that way, but that’s only one part of it. The more important part is, you know, who are you talking to? Why are you talking to them, what do you want them to do, and what are the right words to use to illicit that response from people. That’s a whole other dimension from just “who else wants to” and then blank, and leave it at that and say, figure it out guys, go forth and prosper – it doesn’t work well, for people that way because they’re still left wondering, “well, what’s the right thing to put in the blank? What am I supposed to put in the blank?”

David: Yeah, one of the things that I did with the templates, that I’m not sure anyone else did, is, I’ll put up a template, first of all, I have pretty stringent tests for whether we  could even use a template or not, and the test was: could someone without a lot of experience use it, number 1, and number2, would it apply to more than one industry? I have a friend who says that another guru, way outside of the copywriting field has a brilliant idea that has taken over small business, but the only problem is his idea works only in two industries: fast food and coin-operated laundries. I want it to… I wanted this to apply, you know, to lots of industries, so, I would actually take a headline with the templates, and I would write out ten or fifteen examples that would really work in different industries as well as explain the situation where you would use it and the situation where you wouldn’t, and where you would go next. So I wouldn’t want to leave the person with just some words and a few blanks to fill in and then say: “Okay buddy, you’re on your own. Good luck!” To me that was not providing enough value. I really wanted to empower people to start to, to start to feel like they could do this, and to, to start to take ownership of their own ideas and their own thoughts – but to give them a structure and give them, not only training wheels, but, you know, actual plans for building real solid structures and structural concepts so that they could start to take off on their own and really become good copywriters and, by the way, Danny, as I’m sure you know, if you’re not in a hyper-competitive industry, you don’t have to be a great copywriter to make money for a business. All you need to do is be halfway decent and understand the basic ideas and you’ll smoke the competition most of the time.

Brian:  Yeah, if you have a running start where someone’s given you, sort of the structure and the flow and the general bones of the sales argument, a lot of people are actually quite talented, they just don’t recognize it. They have the ability to communicate with their customer where they feel stymied or stuck or stalled in the process of beginning. Where to start, what to say, how do I do this and if you give them that running start, a lot of people will carry the ball all the way down the field with no trouble. It’s just getting up and going that is sometimes the biggest risk.

Danny: So tell me, what is the Copywriting Mastery Club and how does that tie in to Fast, Effective Copy?

David: Sure. Copywriting Mastery Club was a separate program that I developed after copywriting templates when some people said: “David, we’d like to go deeper. We’d like to focus on specific aspects of copy and get not only templates but examples, context, rules, you know, what to do, what not to do, tips and so forth.” And so, this was a very comprehensive membership club, people paid about $1,800 for it, and we had 18 different sessions. I picked the six that were most hands-on and most pragmatic, that you could just listen to or read a transcript of and instantly start to know how to do certain things better. And there’s a little bit of overlap from Copywriting Templates, but really only in the first session. The first session is called: The Secrets of Irresistible Offers, and an offer is actually twice as valuable as the copy in terms of improving response. If you, if you can tweak your offer that will have twice the impact as just tweaking the copy without touching the offer. So that’s one, the Secrets of Irresistible Offers. The Testimonials that Dissolve Resistance is number 2. Number 3 is Feeding Frenzy the Secret Formula for how to Get a Hungry Crowd Nipping at your Heels, insisting on buying your offer. Number 4 is Repeat Customer Profit Bonanza. You know, one thing I want to point out about testimonials is you can get other people to say things about your business that you can’t really say very believably yourself, and the way you do that is with testimonials.

Danny: Yeah, there’s a quote that I like from Jeffrey Gitomer, he says that: “When you talk about yourself or your product it’s bragging. When other people say it, it’s proof.”

David: That’s brilliant. Ok, so let’s see. Month four is about Repeat Customer Profit Bonanza, and this is about the most profitable form of sales which is repeat customers. Why is it more profitable? Because after they know you they will probably buy more, very often. In terms of customer profitability, there is no acquisition cost like there is with a new customer. Month five is Proven Master Sales Hooks. You know, very often one of the biggest problems people have is getting someone to read their copy and to stay glued to it, and a good hook will do that for you. And month six is called Become Rich and Famous or Just A Lot Richer. We use copywriting and other strategic techniques to increase the wealth. So each one of these is a sixty or seventy minute recording, and you can download, you can play it online. We threw this in as a bonus, because we thought it really added value. It’s actually not part of Copywriting Templates, but again, same structure, there’s the formulas, examples, and we break it down into steps. The steps won’t write your copy for you, but they’ll make it a whole lot easier.

Brian: You didn’t mention David, that some of the people that are in the Copywriting Mastery Club recordings are…

David: Oh yeah, that’s kind of a treat. If you’re a copywriting nerd or follow the career path or a career arch of some of the hotter copywriters of today, it’s kind of a fun trip down memory lane to hear buys like Vin Montello who’s one of the highest paid, most in demand online copywriters working today as he has his first hit, his big first hit letter just happened, as the session was happening, so you get to hear that happening and

Brian: And Mike Morgan’s  on there, David, who all’s on there? Our friend Ben’s on there, I know, our friend Ben is in the group, Harlan, a bunch of different people.

David: Yep. Mike Morgan’s on there too. Absolutely.

Brian: Mike Morgan, Right. Chris Haddad.

David: Right. Chris Haddad.

Brian: Another brilliant copywriter, who was probably just getting going in his career at that point right?

David: Yeah there was a lot of them. I don’t even remember all of them at the spur of the moment, but, it’s not just me holding forth, it’s people talking about what they’re doing that’s working, and it’s researched. I mean, again, my stuff’s real pragmatic. I’m not a particularly good preacher or philosopher, you know, I try to keep it interesting, but I’m basically giving people practical tools that they can use because of where I came from on all of this.

Danny: That’s really cool. Listen, we’re running up on kind of the end of our time, but there’s a couple more questions I want to ask. Let me first ask you this: you both have, obviously, a huge amount of experience writing copy. What would you consider to be the single most important element of copywriting from the perspective of a small business owner.

Brian: From my prospective, I would say, knowing your customer as well or better as they actually know themselves is probably the single most important thing that you can get good at is knowing your customer. And that really comes from doing the work of walking in their shoes, waking a mile in the shoes of your customer, really figuring out what it’s like to be them and doing really solid research. That’s not what people often think of then they think research. They think research and they start thinking charts and graphs and statistics and evidence, and there’s a whole other level of research which I submit to everybody listening is far more profitable use of your research time, which is getting to know the individual that you’re asking to do something. And if you notice, guys like John Carlton or Gary Halbert, the other legendary and luminary copywriters of, of all time have all preached the gospel of doing the hard work of figuring out who this person is, Gary Halbert famously, would take his letters around to the bar and ask people to read them and really try to figure out what works on the regular guy. John Carlton would call up and talk to people, their sales people and the staff to get to know what these customers were all about. That’s the kind of research that you can do that will really, just pay huge dividends compared to just figuring out what the best statistic is to use from last quarter as proof.

Danny: One of my favorite copywriting maxims is that if you can describe and explain your clients or customers problem better then they can then they’re going to trust that you have the solution.

Brian: That’s very true.

David: I would say, what Brian said is extremely important. To me, the most important thing is to learn what works and use it as your model.  And modify it, don’t copy it, don’t plagiarize, don’t infringe on copyrights, but find the structure of what works, find the steps. Don’t try to be creative and come up with something brand new that you think is cool. People have spent years and millions of dollars testing stuff, and there are certain things that work. Human nature is not likely to change. It hasn’t really changed much in the last several thousand years, it’s not going to change in the next five or ten years. The words you use could change, the medium you market through, could change, but the basic ideas are going to stay the same. So lean what those are, learn how to do it. Learn what to do. To me, that’s the most important thing.

Danny: Great. So let me ask you one last question. This is a question that we wrap up all of our interviews here at Mirasee with. We’ve got, you know, a lot of people listening to this, a lot of people reading the transcripts, and it’s been an interesting interview, you’ve said a lot of things that are really important, and I’m going to assume that some of the people who are listening and reading – they’re taking it to heart. They’re saying: “You know what? I’m feeling a little bit blown away. I’ve got to revise my copywriting, and I’ve got to revise my copywriting practices because I’m going to have to start doing things differently.” And they’re impressed enough that they say: “I’m going to clear my afternoon to start making things happen. I’m clearing three hours this afternoon.” What should they do with those three hours?

Brian: Well. Wow. That’s an intense question. And an intense activity for those smart enough – that’s really useful  – I really like that exercise a lot, actually, and if folks are doing that, are taking this advice and actually clearing the calendar and spending three focused hours, I imagine that’s creating massive traction for them. What would I recommend for those three hours? Well number 1 would be assessment. The first hour would be to spend that time assessing where you really are. What’s really going on and what you really have to work with. I would suggest that the second hour would be spent on what I like to call industrial espionage, or you know, ethical spying, or, more or less learning everything you can about yourself, your customer and your product or service that you offer through the mirror of the competition. Because, through evaluating the competition and experiencing the process of the competition, it will reveal to you all the strength and holes that you currently have in what you’re offering, you’ll see… it will become self-evident to you where you’re strong, against this offer and where you’re actually weak and where there’s holes. So industrial espionage is definitely a valuable use of hour number 1 and hour number 2 would probably be a convergence of both of those two: having done an effective assessment and taken inventory of exactly what you’re working with and how you measure up – start converging those two – that’s how the big money in USP and Hook and Unique Value Proposition surface and appear. You can sometimes find an entirely new angle and story for everything that you do any how you do it based on assessing, comparing and then converging those two. It becomes radically apparent to most people: “Wow – this is really something outstanding about what we’re doing in this market.” That would be a highly useful three hours, in my estimation. It’s about trying to come up with a roadmap, more or less, or a path of stepping stones between where you actually are and where you want to be. Figuring out what you’re actually, you know, what is actually happening now and what you’d like to see happen – seeing the steps that bridge that gap in between, it becomes again, self evident when you just spend your time doing the work.

Danny: Perfect. So now we’re going to wrap up, but before we do that I just want to give you an opportunity to say a few words about the webinar that we’re going to be doing next week. You know, for the benefit of our listeners, David and Brian have agreed to put on an exclusive webinar for you, to teach you, you know, everything that they’re in a position to teach you, so why don’t you guys talk about that real quick?

David: Sure. I’ll start by saying that we want to give people an actual experience of what we’ve been talking about today. We want to show them how these tools that we’re talking about – what they are and how they work so people can walk away form the seminar feeling a little better about their ability to write copy just from what they learned and what we give them on the webinar, and see if they want to go a little further and see if they want to try out Fast, Effective Copy, because they, they’ll know what it really is.

Danny: Fantastic. And if you’re not subscribed to updates on Mirasee then subscribe to those updates to make sure you don’t miss the link to register for that webinar, and if you are subscribed like you should be, you’re going to receive that link real soon.

Brian: I’m excited about doing that webinar, I can’t wait to your friends and our friends and bring them all together for a fun experience, because you know, the thing about webinars is that a lot of people tend to view them as pitch fests, and I tend to view webinar’s very differently, I view them as an opportunity to prove to someone that you can do something for them. That your solution is actually, is you know it’s having someone come down and sit down and drink a small glass and taste the wine and have a little hors d’oeuvre and go: “You know, I like this place. I think I could hang out here. I think I could eat dinner here tonight. This is nice.” That’s what a webinar should be for someone they walk away going: “Well, I didn’t eat tonight, but I really liked that place, I enjoyed the wine and it was a good time all the way around it was a good use of my time.” And that’s what a webinar should be, that’s what we deliver.

Danny: I’m very excited about it, and I mean, I’m a writer and I’m excited about it, so I can only imagine how excited my audience must be. That’s going to be happening in a week, and we’ve got a lot of prep to do, so in the meantime, I’m going to say thank you to both of you. I really appreciate your being on the call. This is going to be very valuable for our audience, and I wish you a wonderful remainder of the day.

David: Thank you Danny, it was great talking to you. and I appreciate your taking the time as well.

Brian: It was a fun call, Danny, thanks for taking the time. Glad to be here with you.

@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, and expert marketer, and has been dubbed the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, Mitch Joel, and many others, he is writing the definitive book about how to build an engaged audience from scratch.