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5 Lessons Learned from Breaking Down 100 Proven Ads in 100 Days 

 May 26, 2021

By  Csaba Borzasi

A few months ago, I decided to do something crazy...


During the course of 100 days, I'd reverse-engineer 100 proven sales letters from OG copywriters like John Caples, Victor Schwab, Eugene Schwartz, or Gary Halbert…


To more recent superstars like Gary Bencivenga, John Carlton, Parris Lampropoulos, or David Deutsch...


While also documenting my learning process via DAILY YouTube videos...


So that I don’t just “passively” consume all this information…


I also actively “re-create” the sales argument behind these timeless pieces of copy!


I wanted to discover WHY they worked...


WHAT made them so damn effective...


And HOW I could apply proven fundamentals from these famous ads in my own marketing.


I'm not gonna lie - it was quite an undertaking...


The whole process took between 2-4 hours PER day...


However, it was absolutely worth it!


There were so many lesson learned, I could easily fill a book with it (and I probably will, eventually)


But for now, I just want to share some of the biggest "gold nuggets" that I think you could also benefit from...

Tired of Lackluster Sales, Low Conversion Rates, and Marketing Campaigns that Bomb?

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1 - CLARITY TRUMPS “CLEVER” EVERY SINGLE TIME

It true.


People don’t want to spend time “deciphering” your carefully-crafted “funny” headline.


They want to see how they can benefit from reading your copy immediately.


No beating around the bush.


No throat clearing.


No setting up jokes that need cognitive power to understand.


Instead, as master copywriter Evaldo Albuquerque would say:

“Show them a NEW OPPORTUNITY that’s the key to THEIR DESIRE and that’s only available through my UNIQUE MECHANISM”

Evaldo albuquerque

Master Copywriter

...explained as clearly as possible.


Virtually every single proven sales letter I’ve looked at in the past 100 days has this dialed in, in some shape or form.


Here’s a great example, written by none other than Gary Halbert, a.k.a. “The Prince of Print”


“Amazing New Formula From Beverly Hills Lets You Look Years Younger”


Or another one, written by Eugene Schwartz, author of Breakthrough Advertising:


“How Modern Chinese Medicine Helps Burn Disease Out Of Your Body… Lying Flat on Your Back, Using Nothing More Than the Palm of Your Hand!”


Notice the critical elements:

  • Primary Benefit
  • Unique Mechanism
  • New Opportunity

Of course, you can also deviate from this formula...


(and sometimes you actually HAVE to)


But as Pablo Picasso said:

 
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”


So remember: Clarity > Clever, almost every single time.


2 - GOOD HEADLINES REALLY DO ACCOUNT FOR 80% OF A PROMO’S SUCCESS

On the surface, this isn't really that surprising...


Probably the first copywriting lesson most people learn is that headlines are really freakin’ important...


It's almost like common knowledge at this point.


If your headline doesn’t immediately grab your reader’s attention…


If it doesn’t “shock people out of their half-asleep, zombie state”, as John Carlton would say…


You’re going to lose readers for good.


There are NO second chances.


People are going to tune out...


And likely never return to read your carefully-crafted message.


So naturally, we all tend to invest a lot of effort into coming up with a strong headline, so that we can all reap those sweet copywriting riches!


Sound good - in theory…


However, after analyzing some of the best headlines ever written…


I’ve realized that probably 95% of copywriters still don’t spend enough time chiseling away at an amazing headline...


(AND coming up with 2-3 alternative ones to A/B test)


As a result, those promotions often bomb… even though they might be super solid otherwise.


Look, it takes TONS of effort to come up with something like:


“Twelve Smiling Swindlers...” (Eric Betuel)


“What Never to Eat on an Airplane...” (Mel Martin)


“Get Rich Slowly...” (Gary Bencivenga)


“Read This or Die...” (Jim Rutz)


Or the super-famous “They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano… But When I Started to Play...” (John Caples)


...But that’s OK because the results will also be exponentially better!


Regardless of how much time, energy, and effort you put into a headline…

Just make sure that it’s at least:

  • Clear
  • Compelling
  • Credible
  • And hints at a Transformation

Which brings me to...


3 - HAND-COPYING IS “OVERRATED”

Wait... whaaaat?!


Now, before you immediately object with something like:


“But Csaba, I thought hand-copying sales letters is one of the best ways to learn copy!”


Let me explain…


Hand-copying sales letters is a great way to get a deeper look inside the minds of master copywriters…


Problem is, it’s slow and has a deceptively big “opportunity cost”.


What do I mean by this?


Simple: When you’re hand-copying sales letters for extended periods, it’s very easy to “phase out”.


To switch into this weird autonomous mode during which you’re kind of in a trance.


You stop thinking about analyzing copy…


And you start experiencing all sorts of random invasive thoughts instead.


What I’ve found is that - in many cases - I simply “phased out” and hand-copied things without actually THINKING about them.


The entire process became a passive thing.


And after asking a few people about their own hand-copying experience, many have said the same thing:


They struggled to keep focus…


And they often started thinking about random things.


Even worse, the rate at which you can absorb information through hand-copying is limited because the act of handwriting itself is a slow process.


Think about it… when was the last time you hand-wrote multiple pages for hours?...


Probably quite a long ago...


And most people are super inefficient at it.


So here’s what I’ve discovered:


It isn’t necessarily the act of hand-copying itself that “magically imprints copywriting into your brain”...


Instead, it’s the fact that you’re concentrating on a SINGLE thing, while in a flow state, without distractions.


In other words, hand-copying kind of FORCES you to absorb copywriting knowledge because you can’t really do anything ELSE during that time.


The thing is…


I’ve found that - for me, at least - marking up certain parts of a sales letter and leaving comments while reading it helped me absorb MUCH more information…


And I could do it way quicker…


Which meant that I had more time to also shoot/edit/upload/promote the daily YouTube videos.


Now, since we all have a limited time each day to focus on things like this...


(without neglecting other parts of our business)


I’ve found that this version was a much better copywriting accelerator than just hand-copying.


So after about 20 days, I stopped hand-copying my daily assignments…

 

And started focusing more on the “reverse-engineering” aspect…


With markups, comments, and deeper analyses - instead of just passively hand-copying.


Plus, there are certain 40+ page sales letters that I definitely wanted to break down…


But that would take AGES to hand-copy.


Anyway, this brings me to my next point...


4 - TO SEE REAL PROGRESS, YOU GOTTA LET GO OF PERFECTIONISM

OK, this isn't necessarily related to copywriting itself... But still super important!


Here's why:


When I started my YouTube channel about 2 years ago, I spent waaay too much time editing my videos.


I wanted to make sure that they look “professional” and have perfect cuts and flashy video effects.


The result?


Spending much time then I should have on individual video projects… without a meaningful spike in viewership.


I tried adding more effects.

 

I tried playing around with length.

 

I even tried better thumbnails.


And while these DID affect video performance a bit…


The difference wasn’t that big, to be honest.


However... the difference in my upload schedule WAS enormous! 😱


I HATED the process of creating an entire video end-to-end because of the 10+ hours of work it required…


But at the same time, I was kicking myself for sometimes going months without uploading anything!


And even when I tried outsourcing video editing...


It didn’t really produce the results I was hoping for.


And then... I kind of "decided" to let go of my perfectionism.


Really, I just decided to do it, turned it into a habit, and never looked back.


Fast forward to the past few months, and I was able to consistently pump out 30-40min videos DAILY!


And the ENTIRE end-to-end video shooting + uploading process took about 1.5 hours.


(plus the time I needed to actually read that day's ad and analyze it)


Now, could my videos be shorter, tighter, and better suited to today’s “low-attention span” audiences?


Absolutely!


But by letting go of all this stress and perfectionism around video production...

 

I’ve increased my productivity by 10X.


Maybe even 20X!


PLUS - I’m actually looking forward to doing these videos now...


Which is a HUGE win!


I mean, during these videos I’m talking about a mega-niche topic that wouldn’t really interest “how to make money online”-audiences on YouTube anyway…


So why spend an extra 5, 6, 7 hours editing & cutting these 30-40-min in-depth videos when the RIGHT people appreciate them regardless, right? 😃


It just doesn't make sense to me.


In fact, I made a rule that I CAN’T edit or cut anything out so that I stop worrying about getting it “perfect”.


That's pretty YOLO if you think about it...


But surprisingly, it actually made me a MUCH better improviser and speaker...


Even though my native tongue isn’t even English!

 

(it’s Hungarian)


Now, do I still make tons of mistakes, grammar errors, and stumble from time to time?


Sure.


But who cares?


The content itself is solid and existing viewers are loving it.


And the best part is that I'm much more happy and fulfilled this way.


All because I took a chance and banished my perfectionism.


And you know what?...


You can, too!


Just give is a shot. It's way easier than in seems.


This was one of the biggest lessons for me throughout these 100 days.


5 - ONE GOOD “BIG IDEA” OR COMPELLING HOOK CAN MAKE OR BREAK THE ENTIRE PROMO

Ever since I first heard Joe Schriefer of Agora Financial talk about the concept of "The Big Idea"...


I knew that it was pretty important.


But I never really understood HOW important it actually was… until now.


Virtually every single proven sales letter I broke down during the last 100 days had a Big Idea that’s:

  • Simple
  • Relevant
  • And immediately connects with the reader

...Without trying too hard to explain all the subtle details that make it work.


It just... “connects”.


And it hits HARD.


The same is true with killer Hooks.


For example, instead of saying:


“This supplement is so great, it’s the best way to enhance your libido and have more energy, endurance, and stamina”...


Boardroom’s “Mount Rushmore” copywriter, Parris Lampropoulos came up with the following:

“Every night, Chinese emperor Kang Xi was REQUIRED to have sex with 9 women from his harem. And he was required to SATISFY each and every one of them. Here’s how he did it…”

Parris Lampropoulos

Master Copywriter

^ ^ DAAAAYYYUMM!!! 🤩


Now THAT’s something that immediately grabs people by the balls!


Here’s another example from the amazing A-list copywriter, David Deutsch, written to sell a book on estate planning - arguably one of the most BORING topics you could ever think of!


“What every wife wishes her husband knew about estate planning… and the IRS hopes you never find out”


(which was followed by the unfortunate story of a U.S. Senator who - even though having a net worth of $20 million - still left his family in debt after passing away because he didn’t have the correct estate planning)


Again, super powerful!


And let’s not forget other amazing Big Ideas like:

And the list goes on and on and on.


Case in point:

 

A killer Big Idea and/or Hook is really freaking important to make sure your promotion hits HARD.


So don't be lazy about it.


WANT MORE COPYWRITING “GOLD NUGGETS”?

Here’s how you can (legally) STEAL the “secret recipe” behind some of the best direct response ads of all time... 


Including no-nonsense practical tips on how you can apply the same principles to your own products or services for more sales and profits.


Simply CLICK the link below and grab my FREE cheat sheet called “Secret Copy Recipe”.


Once you do, you’ll also receive instant access to my proven vault of conversion boosting resources…


Along with a complimentary subscription to my free e-letter where I break down more proven sales letters and share actionable marketing tips that work in 2021.


Get it all now when you click the button below… 👇

Tired of Lackluster Sales, Low Conversion Rates, and Marketing Campaigns that Bomb?

Steal the “Secret Recipe” Behind 100 of the Most Profitable Ads of All Time…

And Apply It To Your Own Marketing For BLOCKBUSTER Response... In Just 15 Minutes!

Interested in more great content on copywriting? Check out my Copywriting Resource Hub where you'll find in-depth guides, interesting case studies, and practical resources that will help you boost your conversions and sell more, without being salesy or aggressive.

Csaba Borzasi


Csaba Borzási is the founder of Game of Conversions. After spending 10 years learning the ins and outs of persuasion psychology, Csaba now focuses on what he loves most: helping ambitious entrepreneurs grow their online business and get more profitable customers. When he isn't geeking out on discovering how the human mind works, you can probably find him climbing a mountain, dancing salsa, or traveling around the globe.

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