‘I can tell you how to write an ad in one word: Don’t.’
– Joe Karbo, from ‘The Lazy Man’s Way to Riche$’
Joe Karbo, in his masterful book ‘The Lazy Man’s Way to Riche$,’ writes in chapter six about How to Write Successful Ads. The quote above is the intro to this chapter, which covers Joe’s steps on writing successful ads. He goes into more detail then we can cover here, so I encourage you to read Joe’s book if you have an opportunity.
Joe explains what he means by the quote above – ‘Most people who try to ‘write’ ads immediately adopt a stilted style. Or try to be terribly clever. Or use words that they – and the rest of us – have to look up in the dictionary. The result is a special language and form that I call ‘Advertise-ese.’ There’s only one problem with it: it doesn’t communicate. It’s not personal. It’s all skin and no flesh. And certainly no guts.’
Here are the highlights of Joe’s approach.
1. First, think of all the things your book will help people do. Then, pick out the one, most important, specific thing it will do.
2. Think about what you’d like the book to offer you. What problem you’d like it to help solve.
3. Write down all the ideas that come to you. Even if they seem silly or wild. Don’t try to judge them – not yet. Just write them down. Keep a pad and pencil in your pocket within easy reach.
Do you notice what each of these activities had in common? Nothing. That’s right, I was doing absolutely nothing about solving my problem – how to sell a particular product – and then the right idea suddenly popped up. Not out of nowhere – out of my subconscious mind.
4. Think about what the book will help them do. Something better, or cheaper, or faster than anything else you know about.
5. Think about all the reasons you would buy it. Think about all the reasons you wouldn’t buy it.
6. When you feel you’re saturated with facts and insight…when you’ve racked your brain, simply forget about the problem. The next step is to do nothing. Go on with the other things that make up your life. In an hour, or day, or week, you’ll get the idea. The one, perfect way to express exactly what your product will do. It’ll come when you’re not thinking about it at all.
7. Write it down! And keep writing. Because the ‘headline’ or the attention-getting idea is just the valve – and it’s been blown off by the pressure of the whole idea that’s boiling underneath. It’ll all come out now. Just keep writing. Keep writing till you run out of steam.
8. Don’t even look at all those notes you took until you’re finished. That’s because you want to give your subconscious mind a chance to edit them – to polish up the good ones, combine some to produce a new idea, discard the ones that are unworkable.
9. After you’re all through writing, look at your notes. There might be a phrase or two that you’ll want to include. But it’s not likely.
10. Put what’s you’ve written away again for a couple days before you look at it again. Make minor corrections. Read it aloud and listen to whether it sounds like you’re talking.
11. Have other people to read what you’ve written. But you’re not to listen to their opinion. The only thing you want to know is whether your ad is clear.
Keep in mind this is just a quick overview of Joe’s approach. He offers a lot more ‘meat’ on the subject in chapter six of his book.