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Want more ideas than you could ever use?

Eugene Schwartz, one of the highest-paid copywriters of the 20th century, had a simple, no-fail strategy for finding ideas: he asked his clients good question, then he let them talk.

A story about clients and the things they say:

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One time, Schwartz listened to a client talk about a product for four hours without interruption. 

If the client hit a lull, Schwartz would just ask another question. And the client was glad to answer it because he had a lot to say. And the copywriter was glad to listen because he was hearing idea after idea. 

That night Schwartz went home and wrote the ad, 70 percent of which was in the client’s own words, even the headline!

The ad performed, selling out the product.

Both the client and the copywriter made a lot of money, which begs the question:

Did Schwartz really earn his share?

He did. He earned every nickel.

Because unlike his client, Schwartz knew which words to use and which ones to toss. He knew how to frame a concept—an idea—and how to present it in a clear, concise, and engaging way.

Schwartz knew how to write copy, which is mutually exclusive from having ideas. 

“You don’t have to have great ideas if you can hear great ideas,” said Schwartz.

So, what’s an effective strategy for hearing ideas?

Here's what I do:

Step one: I record my client calls, especially the initial ones. 
Step two: I ask efficient questions designed to cover a lot of ground.
Step three: I transcribe every word of the recording, even if there are thousands.

That transcription is full of ideas. Some are worth noting.

Step four: I review the document—diligently, patiently—for these raw ideas of note. Ideas that, with some molding, can lay the foundation for copy that compels.


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