Grow Your Business Like the Copywriting Masters Teach

Grow Your Business Like the Copywriting Masters Teach

October 13, 2022 | By Curtis Dennis | No Comments

I attended, virtually, AWAI’s latest Copywriting Success & Getting Clients Bootcamp. In today’s blog, I’m going to cover what Sandy Franks — AWAI’s Senior Copy Chief — shared about learning from the copywriting masters to grow your copywriting business today. (And these have absolutely nothing to do with being creative.)

To keep things interesting, Sandy has given each of the featured copywriting masters a nickname. All the great legends have nicknames, don’t they? Elvis was the King of Rock and Roll, and Frank Sinatra was Ol’ Blue Eyes and “The Chairman of the Board.”

Let’s take a look at Sandy’s tips from 11 renowned copywriting masters …

1. The Maverick

Mark Ford, one of AWAI’s co-founders, has built dozens of multimillion-dollar businesses over his career. Mark landed his first client at age 12 after writing and selling the booklet, Excuses for Amateurs.

In 2008, he introduced one of the pillars of today’s copywriting industry, The Power of One:

  • Write about one idea to present it clearly and convincingly.
  • Focus on one emotion such as trust, fear, belonging, gratification, opportunity, or even greed.
  • Stick to one captivating story to make it real for the prospect. You want them nodding in agreement as they read along.
  • One desirable benefit that will improve your client’s life when they use your product or service.
  • One response for the prospect to choose to receive that benefit, such as buy, subscribe, watch a video, or download a white paper or guide to learn more.

When using The Power of One for your copywriting work, you should:

  1. Find the one thing to focus on: it should be unique to the product or service.
  2. Drill down to learn the most compelling benefit for the buyer persona (there may be several to choose from).
  3. Only write about that benefit/emotion, and nothing else.


2. The Astronaut’s Eye

Joe Sugarman started out in marketing and authored The AdWeek Copywriting Handbook. He is also the guy behind the Blu-Blocker sunglass craze. Joe obtained the patent for the film used on astronaut visors when the company went bankrupt, and the rest is infomercial history.

Joe uses a different approach for his copywriting that includes the following steps:

  • Write from your reader’s perspective to create a “buying environment.”
  • Make true claims that resonate with the reader and are verifiable.
  • Never try to sell the product/service… focus on the improved outcome for the reader.
  • Refine your copy (several times) to eliminate unnecessary words, fluff, and distractions.

The better you understand the prospect, the easier it is to establish the trust needed to answer your call-to-action (CTA).

3. The Father of Advertising

David Ogilvy cut his teeth writing for the direct-mail industry. He is known as the “Father of Advertising” and founded Ogilvy & Mather in 1948. In case you’re wondering, yes, Ogilvy (its current name) is still in business, generating over $900 million in revenue last year.

Before he puts pen to paper, or fingers to keypad, Ogilvy said he:

  • Writes a clear and detailed definition of the problem for the prospect.
  • Outlines the purpose of the writing: is it sales, leads, follow-up?
  • Lists every conceivable fact about the product you can find through research.
  • Writes out the selling idea for the product/service.
  • Spends time researching previous ads and marketing campaigns to understand the promises made, the offer mechanism, determine the one Big Idea, and what data (charts, graphs, or illustrations) to use for proof.

After that, you are ready to write copy that speaks to the prospect, answers their questions, and makes it easier for them to say yes.

4. 33 Minutes

Perhaps best known for writing Breakthrough Advertising, Eugene Schwartz was one of the highest-paid copywriters of the 50s and 60s. In fact, Rodale Press once paid him $54,000 for four hours of work.

He is also known for his 33-Minute Writing Process, which we are focusing on today.

  1. Choose your task: research or writing.
  2. Set a timer for 33 minutes and 33 seconds.
  3. Turn off all other distractions.
  4. Write/research until the timer goes off.
  5. Take a five-minute break and repeat as necessary.

Gene also established the levels of customer awareness, a scale which determines the voice and tone for your writing:

Unaware: prospect doesn’t realize they have a problem.

Problem Unaware: prospect knows there is a problem, but doesn’t know a solution is available.

Solution Unaware: prospect knows they have a problem and are actively looking for a solution.

Product Unaware: prospect is researching different products that can provide a solution.

Most Aware: prospect is knowledgeable about different solutions and ready to buy, but they need a little push before they click.

Each of these audiences will require a different message to resonate with them depending on their level of awareness.

5. The Shorthand Man

Victor Schwab wrote How to Write a Great Advertisement, and Advertising Age called him the greatest mail-order copywriter of all time. What many don’t realize is that he started out as a private secretary because he knew shorthand. After training under a copy chief, he began writing copy on his own. This led him to create his five-part outline for writing copy:

  1. Get attention with a powerful headline.
  2. Show people an advantage by writing from their perspective.
  3. Prove it to satisfy the logic behind the emotional purchase.
  4. Persuade people to grasp the advantage by painting a picture.
  5. Ask for action by telling the prospect the next steps to take.


6. Say It Like You Mean It

This copywriter is none other than Paul Hollingshead, the other co-founder of AWAI. With 25+ years in the industry, Paul is an expert in conversational copy, writing million-dollar controls for Agora and AWAI.

According to Paul, all copy starts with a Big Idea. A new or interesting way to say what everyone is talking about will help you stand out in a crowded marketplace.

The Big Idea, when unique and compelling, should jolt the prospect from complacency to urgency.

For example, which of the following grabs your attention?

Earn 200% with This European Alternative Energy Company


Russia’s New Secret Plan to Stop All Natural Gas Flows to Europe… And One Company Stands to Make a Fortune This Year

Paul’s writing eventually evolved into the “Barstool Test.”

Imagine you’re in a bar having a drink with a friend and read your copy aloud. Does it sound like a typical conversation, or are you using industry jargon to convey your message?

Always write like you speak.


7. Jack-of-All-Trades

This term refers to Bill Bonner, the founder of Agora Inc. who grew the company from $10 million to $1 billion and authored the 20-year control for International Living.

Bill is a firm believer in show, don’t tell.

The girl is crying.


Heavy tears ran down her pink cheeks as she stood alone in the dark corner of the room.


Other examples included:

Interest rate hikes will create a housing crisis


The central bank’s plot to seize your home


Diet pill helps you lose weight


Secret formula turns fat into muscle


How to sell stocks


Create money out of thin air


Another lesson from Bill: people don’t like to be sold or told what to do. But they will listen to a friend’s recommendation or advice.


8. When They Laughed

— besides working as the VP of an ad agency, John Caples also wrote Tested Advertising Methods. But he is best known for his “They Laughed When I Sat Down At the Piano… But When I started to Play” promo that’s in everyone’s Swipe File.

From John’s writing we learn to use these strategies:

Specificity — For example, one mill states that their quality standard is 52.7% better than the industry standard requirements. When they changed the number to 50%, sales dropped off dramatically.

Strong opening — arouse the reader’s interest by asking a question or telling them something different or unique.

Be personable — always address the prospect as you, your family, your community, your pain points, etc.

Benefits before features — answer the “what’s in it for me” question before they ask it. How the benefits will improve their life, career, home life, etc.

John also developed a seven-step copy review process that many writers still use every day:

  1. Is your writing attracting the right audience?
  2. Does your ad hold the prospects attention?
  3. Does the copy create desire?
  4. Do you prove it’s a bargain or value?
  5. Was confidence and credibility established?
  6. Did you make it easy to act?
  7. Did you include a reason for the prospect to act immediately?



9. Son of a Preacher Man

This is none other than Claude Hopkins who wrote Scientific Advertising and My Life in Advertising. His core belief was that advertising existed to sell and measure results.

Although he was working at an agency located in Grand Rapids, he wanted the advertising manager job with a firm in Chicago. During his interview, he was told that he was applicant number 106, and shouldn’t expect to be hired.

He returned home and wrote free articles for the local newspaper, teaching businesses how to write copy, and then sent those published articles to the Chicago company.

Then he reached out to his local network, asking them to write recommendation letters, which were also sent to the company.

Long story short, three weeks later he was hired for his dream job.

Every writer, newbie or otherwise, has a network that they can turn to for recommendations or connection requests.

If you don’t have a network in place yet, start building yours by attending seminars, workshops, or industry-related conferences.

Or you can also use LinkedIn to start or grow your own network. And there are other platforms such as Alignable, NextDoor, and Communo that allow you to post comments or articles to reach local clients, too.


10. The Prince of Print

This should be an easy one since Prince of Print is the title of his book. Of course we’re talking about Gary Halbert. His first sales letter for Family Coat-of-Arms was only 381 words long but launched a $1 million business.

Gary relied on this cold-call letter structure to drive a steady stream of customers to his agency.

Your lead is responsible for 20% of your click-through rates. Gary used a bold claim about his ability to get mind-blowing results to get his letters/emails opened.

The body copy is responsible for 60% of your click-throughs, and case studies are a great way to provide proof to your prospects. Start by asking for a testimonial, and then convert it into a case study to use as proof for future prospects and reinforce your authority and expertise.

The close is responsible for the last 20%, be specific about the steps for the prospect to follow and provide your contact info again.

According to Gary, the most successful sales letters provide:

  • Proof
  • Authority
  • Confidence
  • A compelling promise
  • A specific call-to-action


11. The Higher Principle

Robert Collier is well-known for several books, including The Robert Collier Letter Book.

In The Higher Principle, Robert suggests that there are three key elements needed for success:

Knowledge — of the subject, product, or industry you’re trying to reach, as well as the prospect or buyer.

Judgment — to determine the best platform for the product or service such as print or digital, and then dive down into the specific writing assignment such as white paper, case study, etc.

Persistence — there will be good days and bad, but you must show up consistently, and focus your energy to complete that assignment to your client’s expectations and satisfaction.

Of the three, persistence is the toughest element for most copywriters when starting out as it’s easy to get discouraged.


Key Takeaways:

Being creative isn’t as valuable as understanding direct-response marketing.

Curiosity is one of the strongest human incentives.

The most powerful persuasive messages are built around one single idea.

About the Author


Curtis Dennis

Latest in B2B Copywriting

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top