The late Gary Halbert was a copywriter who lives on in his books and in the newsletters he wrote for subscribers. Many copywriters believe he’s the greatest copywriter who ever lived.
Here’s the number-one thing I’ve learned from Halbert: create a Fact Sheet before you begin writing the ad.
A Fact Sheet is like prepping a room before it’s painted. The prep takes five times longer than the copywriting, but if you do the prep work well, then the writing is a breeze.
Using facts in copywriting can bring huge results. The most famous example is the ad campaign that Claude Hopkins wrote for Schlitz beer.
Hopkins toured the Schlitz brewery and learned details of its pure brewing techniques: special agricultural science to grow superior hops, barley, and malt; the use of white-wood pulp in the filtering process; how the the tanks were cleaned three times daily.
None of the facts was unique to Schlitz, but Hopkins was the first to use them to tell the story of “pure” brewing. Schlitz quickly went from No. 8 in America to No. 1, on the strength of the campaign.
Include “Good” and “Bad” Facts
I have cars on my mind because we’re looking for a used car for our 16-year-old daughter. Thus, I’m going to use cars to illustrate how to create a Fact Sheet.
If you were writing a sales message about a car, here are some of the questions you’d ask for your Fact Sheet.
What make is the car? What color? How much does it weigh? How many miles does it have? Has it ever been in an accident? What kind of tires does it have and what’s their condition? Who owned it? How did they drive it? Did they keep maintenance records? What’s the interior like? What’s the gas mileage? What’s the horsepower? At night, was it parked in a garage or on the street? Where has it been driven: on salt-free roads or salt-smothered roads? How old are the transmission, radiator, etc.?
Pound into your head that this is a confidential Fact Sheet. Include “good” and “bad” facts, because the bad can be useful, too, as we’ll see in a moment.
You’re not done with the Fact Sheet until it has at least 100 facts. I’m not kidding. Here’s what Halbert says:
Please take a lot of time with this. Most amateur “would be” copywriters don’t do this step at all and, even most “pros” don’t take nearly enough time with it. Be redundant. Put in too much. You should literally saturate that CONFIDENTIAL FACT SHEET with every scrap of info about your car you can obtain.
For Every Fact, There’s a Benefit
Next, for every fact, write a corresponding benefit. For example,:
Fact: car is red
Benefit: if your favorite football team has red in its colors, then the car shows off your loyalty (I’m an Ohio State fan, and my cars have to be either red or gray)
Fact: car is a unique shade of blue
Benefit: you’ll get more attention; everybody around town will know it’s you (this is a fact/benefit pulled from a Ford Escape we might buy for our daughter, who likes the idea of having a unique-color car)
Fact: car weighs 4,076 pounds
Benefit: it will be safer in a crash than a light vehicle
Fact: car weighs 2,500
Benefit: it gets better gas mileage than heavy cars
Fact: car has 285,000 miles on it (that’s the mileage for the Escape we might buy)
Benefit: Dad won’t freak out if his kid gets in a fender-bender
See how that works? There’s a benefit for every fact, no matter what the fact is.
Take the time to do the Fact Sheet well. When you do, there’s no shortage of details to choose from and writing the ad is like falling off a log.