Episode #156 – David Garfinkel On The 11-Step System Which Generates 40 Million Dollar Home Run Sales Copy
He’s the mentor to some of the most prolific
and celebrated copywriters alive.
Devouring every book…
Attending every seminar he could find…
And testing everything he was learning…
Gave him the knowledge and skill he would try to pass on
later as a coach.
From humble Halbert beginnings to writing a letter which pulled
in $40 million for a client, he wanted it more than anything else he
had ever tried in his life.
So he created simple systems he could use to focus…and gave
creativity and big ideas the space to breed.
Now he’s passing along a small chunk of his wisdom.
What he shares here will make you a better copywriter almost overnight.
In this episode, you’ll discover:
- The letter and FREE seminar that completely changed his life.
- Why he’d flush 90% of his masters in education down the drain except for these two radical insights.
- The “Dilbert” way of getting into the flow state. (Forget goal-setting for now and focus on this simple idea).
- Poor copywriters usually screw THIS up – How world-class writers use it to create millions.
- Have you ever wondered what a world-class copy coach sings like? Your wait is over!
- David’s Copy Mentoring
- Scott Adams’ “How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big: Kind Of The Story Of My Life
- Chris Voss’ Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
- David’s “Copywriters Podcast”
- David Allan’s Make Words Pay
Intro and outro backing music: Forever More by CREO
David Allan: Hey, everybody it’s David Allan. I’m back with another edition of the podcast. We have a very special guest on with us today. He’s a copywriter. He’s a mentor. He’s an author. He’s many things but he is someone who’s going to immediately help you fix your copy make it better and make the money and or the conversions just roll right in now. David Garfinkel you are a mentor to a bunch of superstar copywriters. Talk a little bit about how you got into being a mentor.
David Garfinkel: Sure. Well I was originally a hotshot journalist who hated the Hot Shot part. It just wasn’t fun. I kept doing better and better I was San Francisco bureau chief for McGraw-Hill World News. Now that might mean nothing to most people as it should. But inside McGraw-Hill that was like – that was like the brass ring in the corporate world where I really didn’t belong but somehow found my way in there I got this job that someone else had fought off all comers to for 40 years she held this job woman. Wow. Which is a big deal at the time because this was 1984. So she’d been there since 1944 or whatever. And she was good but bursitis and Silicon Valley conspired to make it no longer a viable proposition. She couldn’t understand computers. And I did. I got it. It was lucky. I’m I’m not a coder I’m not a nerd but I’ve always liked new better ways to do things and so computers came out in 1981. I mean I I rushed up to this place in the north end of Chicago where I lived and bought a Kaypro too.
I don’t know anyone on this. If I’d had any idea what that is. I definitely did not get a sewing machine right.
I mean I love the fact that you didn’t have to retype something every time you wrote and you could use a modem and you didn’t have to use Western Union or telex any anywhere. Anyway I was able to write about these things. I was excited about them. I came out here. Long story short I laughed a friggin hated it. When I come to San Francisco than working for this old gray Fortune 500 corporation basically run by old school engineers. Everything’s going to change magically And you know what it didn’t. I mean Jane digs up out the picture in the window out there. I laughed and it was really hard to make a living as a freelance. X
San Francisco bureau chief.
Anyway fast forward about. I left in 85 in about six or eight years.
I ran into the Gary Halbert newsletter. You know Gary had the newsletter and someone sent my business partner a gift subscription and the first time I looked at it I see I didn’t know what kind of copy that’s so commonplace today it wasn’t. And it was really oh. First of all we still are the black sheep of the advertising world right on Madison Avenue or wherever the Big 8 is are located now.
You know they actually have coupons and ask people to order out Koepp gauche now.
How did they do anything about a guy’s style is standing right next to him while he’s buying marshmallows.
So I wasn’t concerned about cool I was more concerned about paying Duret you know.
And I read this Gary Holbert newsletter and you know as a writer. Writers like to read and they like to read good stuff and when they read something that’s good and they don’t know what the hell’s going on. It really messes them up. Please me.
I mean it might not be true for any other writer but I think it’s true for a lot of people when they first come across really compelling direct response copier and Gary wasn’t even selling anything except you know his that month’s version of Doom and kinda of himself.
Yeah it’s scary.
Anyway I started reading this. I read it 20 times I said I don’t know if this guy is doing that. This is interesting and Gary there was a kind side to Gary.
Most people don’t realize a very very caring almost bond and Kevin are going to get mad when I say this where charitable side to him. And so there was a hurricane in Florida called Hurricane Andrew which wiped out thousands of people’s homes in Gary through a seminar with every superstar known in a direct response entrepreneurial copywriting world to attend except possibly to thank God he wasn’t there but just about everyone else was was free is free but you had to write a check at the end to the Red Cross based on the value of God so I said that sounds pretty good to me. I went there
I met on Karlan who’s now a business partner a friend coconspirator a real thorn in my side every time I talked to him. I love the guy. I met David Deutsch chairman Carl Galati. I met Dan Kennedy I met Gary of course. I probably met on than Kevin but I think they were too young for any of us to remember it.
NICHOLAS I just met lots and lots of people and from there I said OK I’m going to do this well I did it.
I think within that same year I think within that same year I wrote a sales letter that ended up making 40 million dollars which by the way I know I’m good.
Do that every day you know.
But but it gave me an idea that there could be something different here. And you gave it every time I would talk to people. Not every time but a lot of times people would come up to me and said Would you teach this to me or I met you know that famous guerrilla marketing guy Jay Conrad Levinson and then about three minutes of meeting me he said would you like to write gorilla direct mail with me and this didn’t. This wasn’t isolated it’s happened over and over. And so I realized yeah not only can I do this but people are asking you to teach or asking me to coach and I had learned since I had left
McGraw-Hill that I like to do that but I’ve never found a profitable way to do that where there would be any demand until until the late 90s. And so I started and you know how it goes when you start doing this.
You’re like a dog searching through garbage. He can get in. Eventually the four star restaurants start inviting you in and serving you. I mean I got some really excellent clients. People like Chris Dodd Mike Morgan and rice in mind Telo and a bunch of people who are entrepreneurs that most most people assume is broadcast. Most people in the world have never heard of.
People were just growing their businesses millions and I found I was uniquely able to teach it because I didn’t say give me 20 copies of the sales letter you know magnet. And when you’re done with the old you know I would customize the approach. And I got better at this over years. I actually went back to school. I don’t know. Ten nine eight years ago and got a master’s degree in education and took a deep level coaching course.
90 percent of that stuff I could I could figure out how to flush it down the toilet. I would but there was about 10 percent of it which is really valuable.
So that was about about like how others learn and so forth. Well yeah it was about how an individual learning styles.
It was about how people learn to develop skills as opposed to people amass knowledge and then become walking encyclopedias and annoy everyone in their presence but never really make a lot of money or get much done. It was a lot of things it was about communication and number of clients who taught at Gnosis I had to go through their courses. So I learned a lot about communicating with the unconscious mind both as a teacher and mentor and as a writer all kinds of you know the main thing was listening to people really under rate listening and listening. It is it’s a very active skill.
It requires both being relaxed and being very focused and you know completely shuddering shutting off shuttering your mind shutting off all the noise and you know lots and lots of stuff like that I heard all kinds of psychology. You know there is one psychologist Carl Rogers. Now maybe I’ll remember this maybe I won’t there’s somebody I never oh yeah I know. I don’t know who who goes from the top former top FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss wrote a wonderful book called Never split the difference and we’ve heard a lot of Carl Rogers in my coaching class and
Carl Rogers has this concept called unconditional positive regard which means no matter what someone’s saying or doing you you look at it admiringly and without judgment.
And you know that really you know you’re in Monterey. I’m in San Francisco that really does sound like something out of Elaan or some kind of northern California or WOO-HOO guy who got hostages held at gunpoint released right like successfully and talked and talked the ransom down from a million dollars to $5000.
And he said this is a key part of it. And I was trained in that for a year and I do see how it works. It doesn’t mean never criticized. It means what someone says unless they’re really trying to be. And most people aren’t there. You who do you know there are some professional sociopaths and psychopaths they can reach all levels of our society but most people are telling you stuff that would sound bat shit crazy if you didn’t understand. That’s how they see it. They’re not lying to you they’re not trying to trick you. And once they feel understood and
accepted that that’s when we can start to make progress.
No I think that that’s a very good point. I mean countering something of that in my own personal life as we speak. So I definitely can relate to what you’re saying right there. It is important to see people’s viewpoints to be able to understand that that is their actual viewpoint not that there may be right or wrong but that that’s how they see the world and it’s very real to them.
It’s funny you mentioned that your personal life and I want to get into yours or mine too much but when I was taking the coaching I was going through a very difficult family crisis. My mother had been a very very cerebral person sort of one of these early pioneers not quite like Maggie the woman I replaced.
Or maybe just like Maggie when they said Sandra Hill. She she had some form of dementia.
We don’t know if it is Alzheimer’s or or what it was.
And so as you can imagine in a family where things work all the time. I didn’t grow up and leave it to Beaver family to begin with you know real happy charming family but we had good communication good relationships such as it was everything went to hell in a handbasket. And so with a second host I was learning in the coaching training and coaching program real handy with family because you know when someone’s dying and when someone is really proud of her mind starts to lose her memory and start repeating something five or six seconds. You really need to listen and not smirk.
You know what you mean. I mean that’s great.
No. So now let’s take a step back for a second. You know read the Gary Hulbert letter he became ensconced in the world of direct response to that when you endeavor to learn copywriting. What process did you use.
Oh man that’s it. That’s a great question. I’m I’m of course the shoemaker’s children. I didn’t have I had one mentor but it was much later on it was sort of do it yourself. And you know keeps jumping from the fire into the frying pan. And I realize those are hot.
I am I simply studied everything I could did everything I could and took every seminary could read everything I could and tried everything I worked with clients and over 100 industries. And you know after a while I started to see patterns. And then when people started and people asked me to teach and I started to teach and create products and started to coach. I had to systematize it so I wouldn’t say I’m self-taught. I’d say I have a lot of teachers but it was basically a lot of study. I think I worked harder at learning this both as a subject matter area and as a skill than anything else I’ve done in my life.
I really wanted it and I needed it and I enjoyed it. You know I enjoyed the people I met really quirky interesting people quite McGraw-Hill is Southwest than copywriting would be NE’s. I mean is that a different and you can imagine. Yeah. I mean Gary was definitely my biggest influence.
Bob bli I loved his stuff. Bob Serling I remember there was a breakthrough that Bob came up with. He probably doesn’t publish it anymore but it was 14 steps to write copy. And suddenly something clicked yesterday Ted. I certainly went back and read scientific advertising by Claude Hopkins over and over and over again. I think I read it 15 or 16 times you know and all of the classic looks like that. Gene Swartz’s breakthrough advertising and Rosler Reeves’s reality in advertising and many many other end Victor Schwab’s. And a good advertisement
right a good advertisement. Fantastic book. You know so. Yeah I guess the short answer is anything and everything and sort of sort it out later.
You know I think that’s that’s the way I learned. I mean I sort of got into it through Gary by learning that Jerry had sold me his words and told me something and then said he was this scary guy and that sort of led me down the rabbit hole. Now you’ve mentored a bunch of people who’ve gone on to become superstar copywriters people that are known of course like Chris adad had him on or on my take over Tuesday’s show a while ago and he said that you and your critiques your copy critiques and I’ll quote him here. He said they’re freaking gold by the way and he said he’s on the very short list of folks I look at my copy when I’m
working on it and he always comes up with things I simply would have never thought of. Now when you’re developing sort of your ability you know your mentoring ability and ability to teaching sounds like you know all the courses you took and stuff are really elucidating as to how people go about them when you started you know noticing these patterns and copying stuff that you systematize how you approached critiquing people’s copy.
Oh yeah I did. I tend to systematize everything. And on a really good day when the stars are aligned I actually follow my own system.
Let’s get back on the rails a little bit and let’s go into this checklist one year because that’s one of the things you do now. The two things you do primarily are to mentor people and to critique.
Yeah. And in the mentoring. You know that’s that’s a serious commitment to your long program. I only have a handful of clients at a time but the critiques I do all the time. Chris Dodd sent me something yesterday I’ll keep confidentiality. Want to say what it was but it was a VSL in my gosh you know he doesn’t need any help but he does we all do we all need it. I want to look at our stuff and I saw one opportunity to put one slide with three words in it and they were not I love you or go after yourself. They were very conversational words. And it blew
his mind. And it’s because I could. It’s like a song I could feel the rhythm of this thing and it needed to be a bridge between this side and that side it would have dropped too much. You know so. So anyway at these things it depends. I could spend you know 90 percent of my time on one of these 11 points because like with Chris it it’s sort of fell into the first point and that totally changed the letter and you know very hard to find anything and resist anything anything.
But anyway without further ado I have the first point is Gnab ability of your copy. That’s a word I think I made up as a hyphen between grab and ability but the definition of that is as your copy grab the readers or viewers the tension from the start. And that does it. Hold on tight to the close that’s so important if you don’t do that.
You know everything else is you know academic trivial and non-important And you know it could be the headline with a dollar bill letter. OK. You know the famous Gary Howard dollar bill later I have a client who is a very very bright man and he’s a good marketer but he still learning copy. He wanted to save space so he put some stuff to the left of the dollar bill. That’s a bad idea. You want well you understand this as a magician as well as a copyright Do you want to have all the focus on that dollar bill until they get down to see their name on a line below the dollar bill. Simple
thing because I’ve never seen anyone do it before I couldn’t point to a rule book. But you know I knew. I’m so I’m always looking for positive improvements and I’m always looking for where is this going to go wrong whereas Where is the reader going to fall off the page. Right. OK. The probability of your copy is number one. Number two is your claims claims or promises and you need to make one make a promise at the beginning. You may make other claims in the best of all possible worlds. The other claims will fit into the big claim and support it. Expand it deepen and make it more attractive more more
sizzling more areas testable so that the first thing is just by themselves here Clamer claims. How unique and believable are your claims. Let’s say you were selling water and let’s say this water quenches your thirst. Well so does every other water.
Flint Michigan water which might kill you but there’s any claim you don’t want to make. Exactly.
But you know like OK so I got sold on this water filtration system that and that makes the water more alkaline. And so there are some claim that they made to me about the I don’t know alkaline water improves your immune system or gets you stoned legally or helps you live on a three minute mile.
I don’t remember what they told me. I know that not only unique but believable so it probably would have to be more like immune system than you just don’t legally. But to your claims how you and believable believe your claim. Right under that is proof of claims. Number three how convincing is your proof. This is probably the area where most copywriters screw up in the area where the best copywriters are masterful because most people will look at proof as sort of a fill in the blank paint by numbers kind of exercise like well if I have
you know for testimonials and I tell my origin story.
Well. Maybe. I mean it all depends on how it flows in the reading how a reader will respond how organic it is how much it seems like a real conversation you know.
And on Tuesday big Jason Henderson I don’t know if you’re familiar with Scott Haines or so he’s Jason’s doing a special project where he’s finding some of Scott’s multimillion dollar letters and he’s asking people like me and Carlton and David Deutsch and Mike Morgan others to to break the letters down for you know sort of a commemorative product that he’s doing. And I was looking at the letter Scott wrote in 2009. It was a letter for a solar powered generator which with which I had a sealed lead acid battery. So it would kind goddy
days it work indoors after you’ve stored energy. And what he had done with proof was it was like you know it was like a short symphony. I mean it just took you through the motions and just to the point of a crescendo he says oh by the way yet remember here’s the product that takes care of all that protects you from all of these horrible things that I just told you about. Now I’m not saying all proof needs to be like that how you know everything’s unique but the proof that proof was totally convincing and I was only half of the proof. The other half with all of
this detail about how many home Blender’s and TOSed stories you could around on this are how many computers you could run on this or you know I mean you know this long table and it would seem absolutely ridiculous to someone who is not part of the market or are interested in most of the letters sold millions. It was absolutely crucial proof information for the target prospect for the avatar you know. Absolutely. That’s great. So Nexxus testimonials which is sort of a subcategory of proof. And the question is how well can your target market relate to the people giving testimonials.
A lot of marketers will go for the biggest names they can get the top celebrities and experts in their market. And that’s a good kind of testimonial. But if that’s all you got then what’s the reader’s going to conclude. Oh well since I’m not a top expert or authority or guru in the market I guess this really isn’t for me at all happens at an unconscious level and it will. All right. So you need to have people like your customer or maybe just a notch above your customer someone who used to be like your customer that solves the problem and is now in a place where your customer would like to be you know there. Again I don’t know how many
parameters or systems you can have for figuring all these things out and I create systems like that. But you know at least I need to learn a general principle I mean one way a person can learn this for themselves is to you know take notes make a list of all these 11 points and then go look for examples and copy in and try to figure it out. But it’s much smarter to hire me.
So next I’m glad you got that back that the next one is the directions. How well do you interest payments answer objections. This is this is a thing people take personally on. They have a product and a kit and imagine anyone would object to it because they’ve already done the work they’ve tested it. Oh yeah there are many ways to handle direction. It would take a whole call just to do that. I’d be glad to if you wanted to sometime but you know the shortest cut wide that can tell you now is through an FAA cue where you say you know here’s some questions actions and objections even an objection can be turned into question stead of what you know
does cost too much. No. Why is the price so high. You know then to say well actually it’s not when you show them so you can you can list objections in F-8. Q That’s a good way to do it. Next next. Number six we talked about this a lot. Flo factor. Right. But rather than the copywriter in a state of flow flow factor here refers to how well do you develop and refreshed curiosity how effect your subheads to keep the reader engaged. How smooth Are your transitions. How well do you keep building anticipation right up to the close. And by the way when I’m doing critique I’m not sitting there with you know
a checklist and a little meter.
Now anticipation is risen to that there are people who do copy that way. You know God bless them but I’ve sort of got this this internal God thing.
Oh yeah. This is this is awkward. You might. You might not lose them but you might confuse them or you might bring them back into their critical mind which you don’t want to do. You know that it has. As a magician as a performer as well as a copywriter right. So you know I need to smooth out there so yeah. But this does sort of reverse engineered from my more organic process I think. Number seven consistency are their logical and or emotional inconsistencies that need to be fixed. I mean this is a sort of sad when people do cut and paste stuff and the the
person writing the letter is named George at the beginning and at the end.
His name is. And he said to me Jane why did I you know. Oh no. So he named George at the end. There are. Oh wait he went to Sweden in the spirit of Kris Jenner now. OK.
So number eight and this is what you were talking about and I am sure you have thought about it a lot and are very good. I know you’re very good at it. And that is rapport and empathy. And my gosh that that’s that’s a complex skill set and it’s developed developable anyone can learn it. And it may take some time and some work and some attempts that aren’t quite there yet. But the main question I’m looking for and the main question every person reviewing their own copy or someone else’s is to the writer how well do you make your prospect feel comfortable with the languaging and the tone of your message.
Number nine stories how effective and intriguing are your stories. Everybody knows how to tell a story. Most people who tell fairly decent stories when they’re speaking in a little stilted and awkward when they try and write stories down so you need to edit the stories down to the nub they need to seem conversational. But Dave if you’ve ever listened to someone in Starbucks tell a story you’re going to repeat themselves a lot. You go off on tangents. Focus in on details that are totally boring and leave out details that would have made the story makes sense. So you don’t want to be conversational in that way you want it to be
conversational language and logical flow and a very informal easy to read easy to understand way with a story. Number 10 is what you are talking about with the first copy you read from Gary Howard before you even knew it was Gary’s copy and that’s bullet points was the master of that. And and. And I think he’ll really appreciate the question I came up with because this is what made you buy it. The issue is how much sales power does each bullet point have. Right. That is a good bullet point will do exactly what you described your experience as which is sometimes you know once you’ve set the stage
once you set the frame made the claim given them the big idea and made the big promise. One bullet point you can close a sale by itself. And so and you know some some great copywriters will rewrite their bullet points three or four times and spend half a day on one of them and it makes all the difference when you’re mailing to millions or you know running millions of clicks through Facebook or Google or some other online ad. And then finally your close how strong and appealing is your clothes. To paraphrase Zig Ziglar timid copywriters have skinny kids like a gorilla.
So you know clothes with gusto and enthusiasm. You know a lot of people say well I don’t want to sell to the wrong person and I don’t either. I think you can make a lot more money always striving to discourage and dissuade the wrong person to buy. But by the same token you should give it everything you’ve got to the right person. You should give them every reason to buy. Especially if you have a guarantee and especially if you believe it’s a good product you’re a good service and that’s awesome.
So yes for sure. I’ve heard people often talk about you know being almost phrasing it like it’s your duty if you have a product that will solve that problem. It’s your duty to try to get enough people in you.
I think that’s true especially since a lot of products that are generally available are sort of bland as far as whether or not they can sell products.
Some of the best products are are sold through direct marketing and there’s also some stuff that’s not so good but some of the best things available are sold through direct marketing. So you have to push a little harder maybe that may be your only shot to convince them. But yeah if you have to and it’s going to solve a problem for somebody they need to have solved. Should I do that.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Well that is a comprehensive checklist. That’s great. I’ll be stealing that. Please do. That’s why I said it. Exactly. Now for people because you’ve given a lot of knowledge over this last hour it’s gone by like a flash. You know if people want to get a hold you want to drink the Kool-Aid on on their copy. And how do they go about finding out. OK that’s easy.
It’s Garfinkle coaching dot.com G.A.R.. F I N K E L coaching dot com and I’m sure everyone will remember that except for the people who forget it. And the way they can. My knee is thankful that I’ve counted all redirector Garfinkle coaching.
OK now you have your own podcast coming out as well. By the time this is released it should be live and where is where do we find that.
That is a copy writer’s podcast. It’s just like it sounds S.O.P y w r i t r s d d c s t dot com.
Excellent. Excellent. Well I really want to thank you for coming on the show Dave about this is this has been excellent and I was really looking forward to it. It really delivered.
Thank you it was my pleasure. You are fun to talk to and that is a very high compliment coming from me and I’ll just leave it at that. Maybe you can figure out why.
Well we will do it again soon because I think a lot of coverage covering the objections and stuff. I think that’s a good topic as well.
And I think we have to meet somewhere between Salinas and San Jose Offi.
Maybe we could find a better place. It was somewhere near Salinas let him have a cup of coffee. All right.
I think you’re right. Everyone listen to this but guys of course. Be back with another only I can only hope they’re half as entertaining as David is on the next issue that