Bruce Barton, cofounder of the legendary BBDO ad agency, wrote letters that got staggering results. He wrote a letter for Berea College that brought in an amazing 100% response! (You can read the entire letter in The Seven Lost Secrets Of Success.)
When you consider that the average successful letter gets about a 0.02% response, Barton clearly leaped past anyone else in his letter writing skills. But what was his secret? After studying Barton’s letters, books, private memos, speeches, and advertising campaigns, I’ve discovered Barton’s method. I’ve used his technique to write my own letters and I’ve been astonished at the results.
One letter got a 20% response. Another nailed a 10% response.
Still another is approaching a 97% response (ninety-seven per cent!)! (It, too, is in The Seven Lost Secrets Of Success.)
I will now reveal the technique I’ve been using: Bruce Barton’s “Secret Formula.”
Barton said that good advertising copy (and letters are advertisements) had to be three things: (1) Brief. (2) Simple. (3). Sincere. In an eye-opening essay he wrote back in 1925, Barton said the following:
“About sixty years ago two men spoke at Gettysburg; one man spoke for two hours. I suppose there is not any one who could quote a single word of that oration. The other man spoke about three hundred words, and that address has become a part of the school training of almost every child.” About Simplicity:
“I think it might be said, no advertisement is great that has anything that can’t be understood by a child of intelligence. Certainly all the great things in life are one-syllable things — child, home, wife, fear, faith, love, God.” About Sincerity:
“I believe the public has a sixth sense for detecting insincerity, and we run a tremendous risk if we try to make other people believe in something we don’t believe in. Somehow our sin will find us out.” Let’s look at these three steps a little more closely. Ten Ways To Promote Your Site And Increase Traffic.
Brevity. A short letter isn’t necessarily what Barton meant. I’ve read many of his letters and memos. Most of them were so brief they were blunt. But those were not sales letters. When Barton wanted to persuade you to donate money to a good cause or buy something he was selling, his letters were longer, sometimes several pages long. (Again, see that sample letter in The Seven Lost Secrets Of Success.) Barton knew you had to give people a complete explanation before they would buy.
Simplicity. Barton’s letters were always simple and easy to read. He strove for clarity of communication. No big words, long sentences, or convoluted passages. He was clear and direct and conversational.
Sincerity. Barton was always sincere. He once dropped a million dollar advertising account because he didn’t support the client. That sincerity came through in everything he wrote. Readers could pick up on it.
Finally, Barton’s letters were “… phrased in terms of the other man’s interest.” Barton said your letters had to go straight to the reader’s selfish interest. He said the favorite song of every reader is “I Love Me.” As Barton said in 1924, “The reader is interested first of all in himself… Tie your appeal up to his own interests.”
The next time you have to write a sales letter, consider Barton’s formula. It helped him write letters that are still talked about today, and it helps me write letters that are making my clients rich. Now use it and see what the formula will do for YOU!