Bacon Wrapped Business With Brad Costanzo
BWB Kurtz | Direct Marketing Response

Marketing Titan Brian Kurtz Overdelivers Direct Response Wisdom From 40 Years Experience


Direct marketing response titan Brian Kurtz makes a comeback in this episode to share more sizzling business advice from his decades of expertise in marketing.

This time, he focuses on having the marketing stamina to build a business for a lifetime.

Brian and host Brad Costanzo share some of their first-hand experiences in applying the methods they discuss.

Brian also shares some juicy details from his book, Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing, and what future endeavors he plans to undertake.

Some Topics We Discussed Include:

  • The number one mistake new marketers make that old marketer don't
  • How to incorporate direct mail with online operations
  • Turning your VIPs into life-long customers
  • Customer acquisition vs customer retention
  • How to empower your team for better customer experience
  • Why start live videos and how it affects your ad spending
  • Standing out in a crowd of “experts”
  • How to spot and compensate a great copywriter
  • Genius ways to use direct mail
  • The bundle of bonuses that comes with Brian's book, Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing

To grab a copy of Brian Kurtz's new book, Overdeliver, and receive a bunch of bonuses, visit

About the Guest: Brian Kurtz

BWB Kurtz | Direct Marketing Response

Brian Kurtz is a true titan of direct response marketing. With a career spanning nearly 4 decades, he has sent 2 billion pieces of direct mail and mastered the marketing of newsletters and books via direct response television (infomercials) and using e-mail and the Internet in huge numbers. At the height of his infomercial success, he was responsible for buying media in excess of $80 million and he sold over 3 million books via direct response television over a three year period while at the Boardroom.

Under Brian's marketing leadership and during his tenure, Boardroom’s revenues went from approximately $5 million (in 1981) to a high of over $150 million (in 2006).

Brian was instrumental in building Boardroom’s print and electronic newsletters, including Bottom Line/Personal, Bottom Line/Health, Bottom Line Secrets and Daily Health News. And he was also responsible for selling tens of millions of books, mostly in the categories of health and finance, for consumers.

His mission for the next 40 years (as the Founder of “Titans Marketing”), is to be the bridge between the eternal truths of direct response marketing and all that is considered state-of-the-art direct response marketing today. And to make sure everyone he works with understands the complexities and the need to be multi-channel.

Marketing Titan Brian Kurtz Overdelivers Direct Response Wisdom From 40 Years Experience

I've got a special treat for you. It is very rare that I invite guests back for twofers, for a second showing here and this is one of those rare exceptions because he was one of my favorites.

He is literally one of the titans of direct response marketing and somebody that not only you can learn a lot from but the people who you learn a lot from.

His name is Brian Kurtz and he is the author of a book called The Advertising Solution, which you may have read and we talked about on the previous, but now he has released a book called Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing.

Brian's got many years of experience in this business. Personally, I’ve got about ten and it doesn't go nearly as deep. It doesn't scratch the surface of what Brian's been able to do. He's worked in every single medium probably in advertising.

He was with Boardroom for many years. If you're not familiar with Boardroom, it is a publishing company that produced print and electronic newsletters from business to health to wealth and all of the various aspects under there under Brian's tenure.

Starting in 1981, they went from about $5 million to about $150 million in 2006. He's been responsible for sending about two billion pieces of direct mail and selling tens of millions of dollars of books.

When I say this is one of those you will want to read, I mean it because it is rare that I get a chance to get somebody like Brian.

One of the things you'll recognize if you read the last one is he is extremely generous with his knowledge. Brian, welcome back to the show.

I liked the fact that I can come a second time. It was one of the favorites that I did for Advertising Solution. The Advertising Solution was a book that I did with Craig Simpson and we profiled six grades of marketing and I got to get a little of myself in there.

I give Craig a lot of credit for getting me off my butt to write this book, this new book, because I realized I had a lot more to say about and go further than I was able to chime in and Advertising Solution.

I'll mention that it is a big difference between many years of experience and one year’s experience for many years. Hopefully I'm the former, not the latter.

I will try to share as much as I can from the book and anything else you want to ask me. I appreciate you having me on again.

It's my pleasure. Here's all we want to know is how do we make the quick, easy money with absolutely no work whatsoever?

That is something that I’ll have to tell you on a different day.

Are you keeping that secret to yourself?

I know you're kidding, but it's a good place to start because it's not an easy button. It's you. You have to work at it. I think that as I’ve gone on into my fourth decade in this business, it's not that the new marketers are not as good as the old marketers.

In fact, I'd say the new marketers are even better than most of the marketers from before. The one mistake that they make if they make a mistake, it's that it's all about quick money.

It's all about I have an offer and I'm going to put it on the internet and I'm going to do email and I'm going to make some money.

It's one way to go, but it's not the way that you build a business for a lifetime. I do want to talk about what it takes to have the stamina. We call it marketing stamina.

In many years, you've got some credentials to be able to do that. You mentioned in your book, “A product and a promotion is not a business.”

I got, “A product is not a business,” from Chris Farrell who's an online marketer and it's obvious. I learned that in 1981 when I got into this business.

I read Bob Stone's book, Successful Direct Marketing Methods, one of the first things he says is no direct marketing business can succeed without repeat business.

Anybody in marketing knows that. You get a pop-up for an upsell before you even get the first sale. Everybody knows you got to have multiple products.

It's never been harder to sell someone something the first time, but it's never been easier to sell them something the second or third time. Share on X

“A product is not a business and a promotion is not a business,” is important. I got that from John Carlton. John says the guys that develop a PR a promotion like for ClickBank and it crushes it. The thing is going on and they have nothing else because they haven't developed the next promotion.

I was taught in the 1980s and it's true now that the control is meant to be beaten. One of the things that I always said is that the day you have a successful promotion that becomes control is the day you try to start beating.

Always have other copywriters and other people in your world that are going to help you always improve upon what you're doing. As my mentor Marty Edelston said on stationery, “Good, better, best, never let it rest until the good is better and the better best.”

That's definitely a great quote. I want to go back. I want to contrast because you're one of the few people who can give great insight into some of the evolution in the industry, especially having started back in the ‘80s.

I know a lot of Boardroom was built with direct mail. Direct mail was the workhorse. This is before all the internet advertising.

The copy could easily be hard-hitting and sometimes you just get one chance to be in front of that person unless you mail them again and mail them again. Somebody's ability to research you as a person or a brand was limited.

If they liked it or they didn't, they threw it away or they bought later on. These days, somebody's ability to research a company and a brand is infinite. That you can get dirt on pretty much anybody if it exists.

They can get dirt on me or you, but everybody else.

Not us. We’re angels. What are some of the things that you've seen? Let's look at customer acquisition. I want to talk about some of the more innovative backend and retention strategies.

When you put that first message in front of somebody for your offer, whether that's through direct mail or the internet, have you noticed much of an evolution in the effectiveness of the hard-hitting nature versus maybe softer selling upfront?

Then supporting that through a lot of different advertising channels to stay top of mind. Do some of the hard-hitting stuff still work? It does, but I'm curious to see your view of the evolution of it and what's working well now.

There's a lot there. What you saw there is packaging in there. I'll try to go in different directions and you can interrupt me.

Chapter three of the book is called How Paying Postage Made Me a Better Marketer. What I'm trying to say in that chapter is going to get to the crux of your question. It's not that direct mail is superior by all means. In fact, it's not.

Email is the killer app now. Every other medium and advertising opportunities are now infinite, whereas back in the ‘80s, you had very select. You had direct mail, you had print, TV ad, radio, you had inserts. It was finite what media that you could use.

When I say how paying postage made me a better marketer, one of the things that chapter three is about is discipline, because everything you're sending in direct mail has to pay for itself because you're paying postage and printing and it's a lot more expensive.

Fast forward to now that you say, “Email's cheap and I can throw it out there.” I say you can't because every time you interact with your audience, either if you're not selling something, you may be turning them off to the next email.

That's a big cost that you don't see, whereas in direct mail you see it because you spent on it. That's a subtle thing because everybody says, “I’ll bombard them with email,” for example. “There's no cost in that.” While there's a huge cost if you send them the wrong thing.

The opportunity cost of lost attention.

That's a very important element of email versus direct mail. Your other question about whether you can do hard-hitting versus everything's got to be softer, I don't think any of that is true. I think that to me, the best package is the best package, good copy is good copy.

A good sales letter is a good sales letter. A good sales letter can be a good video sales letter if it's done right and there is no such thing as the short copy is better than long and long as better than short. You can't be boring.

You’ve got to be interesting. You can't do long copy say on Facebook, but you want to be able to use all of the techniques that all of the great copywriters used in direct mail and use them online.

Right at the beginning when the internet was getting popular, we took our direct mail and put it in an HTML format and in long-form, put it online.

It didn't always work, but it was still pretty effective because you couldn't do the sidebars that we had in our direct mail and all that.

BWB Kurtz | Direct Marketing Response

Direct Marketing Response: Direct marketing business cannot succeed without repeat business.


Because you're telling a story, you're telling a narrative and it was interesting enough for people to read a magalogue. Why wouldn't it be interesting enough to read through a long sales letter online?

I think the evolution has seen a lot of techniques that you can do in online that you couldn't do in offline.

You've got the technology available, you've got hyperlinks, you've got all kinds of things that can get them to an order page faster, that can get them moving towards an order faster, but you still can't rush it.

You talked about people didn't know about you when you are offline and they can find out everything about you and you’re online. I hadn't thought about it in this context, but I'm glad you brought it up. In the offline area, we had to sell our company because no one knew who we were.

We had one million subscribers to bottom line personal and we were the most unknown million-name subscription file ever or newsletter ever.

We had to tell a long story to tell you what we were about. Online now, yes you can do the searches and all that, but if you are still an unknown brand, you've got to put all of those elements in still.

You've got to add credibility, you've got to be able to tell people who you are, why you're good for them, why they should care. Shortchanging that in copy because it's online to me is silly. There are formats that lend itself to shorter copy, that lend itself to different formats.

That's the nature of the media. I see a lot of similarities between great direct mail and great email. It's funny, I think a lot of the copywriters that I dealt with in the ‘80s and ‘90s, a lot of them have made a nice transition to the internet, but some of them haven't.

I think it's because they didn't adapt as but I think they still are able to make some headway because they have the talent, they have the ability to write a great story, great narrative. Tell a story of a brand that you have to tell from scratch or you have to tell the story of that brand so people can get it.

It was top of mind. I was talking to a close friend of mine who has got an offer coming out and it's very related. He was asking me to give a quick copy critique and it was hard-hitting.

Part of it is I'm a little jaded because I’ve seen so much of that. He's like, “What do you think?” I'm like, “I wanted to throw up in my mouth. I'm not going to lie.” Granted, there's a difference between hard-hitting effective copy and overly hype-y copy.

Sometimes it's in the eye of the beholder and sometimes you don't see it right away. Online marketing, because direct mail was an opt-out medium, meaning that you get on a list, you can rent that name, you can mail it as long as you want and you have to unsubscribe. Whereas email is an opt-in medium.

Technically, the names should opt-in. They should double opt-in. Not everybody is, but that's the nature of it. It’s the compliance, not so much the hard-hitting, that's one issue. Compliance is a lot tougher online. It's a lot worse. Some people would say it's better.

It’s getting more restrictive.

Not to say that you can get away with everything in direct mail, but you can do some stuff in direct mail and it'll play. People look at the US Postal Service as kinder and gentler than Amazon and Facebook when it comes to that.

Google, Amazon and Facebook have a much tougher barrier because they're out there in the ether and the government is looking at it and everybody's looking at it whereas the postal service has that too.

You can still get arrested for mail fraud but it's a lot tougher. I'm not saying go to the point of fraud. I'm saying that you want to have a good attorney when you're selling things in the health area or in the finance area.

You've got the SEC and you've got the FDA and all of that. Your point about is well taken about super-aggressive versus hype-y. Sometimes it's a thin line because aggressive can be very much great selling whereas hype-y can also be great selling.

I always say it's like pornography when you see it. I know when I go over the line, but that's my line and everybody has a little different line. The line has blurred with so many people because the internet has such a low barrier to entry that people can get in.

You've got a lot of people doing a lot of shady things that you would never have seen in direct mail. There were shady people in direct mail, but you wouldn't see it because the barrier to entry was so high.

Now you can't get on the internet without seeing the carnival barking all in your face. It also makes me think with the growing restrictive nature of what can and can't be done online.

From anybody who's out there doing Facebook ads now knows that they are either denying or shutting down ads for some of the most innocuous infractions. You can't call somebody out. A call-out is one of the most standard direct response.

“Are you this, that or the other? Do you face these issues too?” That's why with some of that evolution, I don't think that'll happen in mass because I think people are used to the cheap online mediums.

You can't write a great copy by committee, but you can get interesting insights from your peers. Share on X

It makes me think that the smart business owners will start to revisit direct mail in that to go, “This stuff works to say, but if I can't say it over here. There's still one place I can say it.”

My mastermind groups, they're multichannel marketing and they're all online, but they're all looking for ways. It's an and not an or.

In tribute to Dan Kennedy, the most dangerous number of the business is one. I knew a company that did $30 million on Amazon and Amazon's the most permissive might be, and they got wind of an ad and they shut them down. It's 100%. It's not even 80%.

In my book, I have a thing on O to O to O, Online to Offline to Online. It's not that the smart online marketers aren't looking at direct mail, they're incorporating it into their online operations.

For example, someone does launch for a digital product and it's got all kinds of stuff in it and they offer a hard copy of it and it gives them an opportunity not to send the digital files but to send a physical product, which then can have other things in it.

The package inserts are something that the online business doesn't even know about. That's big business in offline marketing. If you ship a product, you can put stuff in the box. It's the simplest thing that I can mention.

I buy a lot of stuff online, sometimes directly. Mostly through Amazon, but other times I as well buy directly from other companies.

Sometimes I’ll buy them to see what's in the package. I'm so blown away by how few times I get any real package inserts unless I'm literally buying this from a direct response marketer.

It's always the direct response people. It's always the people that have done direct mail that understand that. I will say this that the idea of using direct mail specifically on the back end of digital marketing business is such a no brainer. I'll give you an example.

Let's say you sell a $47 something online digital and then you upgrade them to a $1,500 product. They’re your VIPs. You've got a lifetime value now of that customer that’s so much higher.

The mailboxes are emptier. That's an obvious thing. If you can send something to that mailbox that sticks out, that supports your online business, it's a no-brainer.

These are your VIPs. I'm not saying send them a love gift. I'm saying send it to them as a bonus for what they bought already since they spent so much with you and it's an amazing stick strategy.

It's an amazing way to cause a barrier to switch if you have competitors. Even with direct mail. I used to do direct mail to millions of people selling a $39 product.

This is a whole other direct mail. You have a list of say 10,000 people who have worked with digital products and then another 1,000 people that bought the next thing and then 100 that bought the next. Those 100 have spent a load of money with you.

I think of sending those 100 people a Federal Express envelope with a book and a note and another offer or whatever. I'm not going to go through the offers, but that's direct mail too. Direct mail’s definition has changed.

That's a big evolution. Any business that is exclusively in direct mail now is sucking air. Any business that is launching in direct mail is not going to do that well.

Any business that's not doing direct mail as a supplement to its online business is silly. I know a guy in my Jeff Walker mastermind, Will Hamilton. He's Fuzzy Yellow Balls. He does tennis instruction.

He's amazing. He did a thing where he wanted to do some physical products. He has these digital courses on playing better doubles and serves and all that.

What he did was I think it was like an offer where he identified what their thing was, whether it was their serve or their doubles game or whatever. He gave them a playbook. The playbook was not only digital, but then he sent them a playbook.

It was a spiral-bound book. The interesting thing that he did is that each instruction, each video in the playbook had a QR code where you could have the book in your tennis bag, you go out to the court, you point your phone at the QR code, and you could look at the video while you're on the court.

Now the direct mail physical product became portable digital. That's like a great example of O to O to O. Is that a digital? Is that physical? I've seen a lot more examples like that.

We all do love to get something in the mail that has any value. It's still so rare. Most of us get either total junk mail or bills. How often cool stuff in the mail that isn't from Amazon?

Lumpy packages with handwritten notes are a form of direct mail that is phenomenal. I did a thing where even with my mastermind group, they pay me a lot of money. I give them books at the events and I give them all kinds of stuff.

I came home from the event and I said, “There’s that book that I wanted to give them and I forgot.” What I did was I sat here with my assistant and I wrote to every single one of them.

BWB Kurtz | Direct Marketing Response

Direct Marketing Response: The idea of using direct mail specifically on the back end of a digital marketing business is a no-brainer.


There was no offer. This will tie right into customer service and fulfillment and back end. I sent them each a handwritten note.

It was like 30 people and I sent 30 books. I sent my assistant to the post office with 30 packages. I wouldn't even call it a love gift because if it was a love gift, I'm not getting anything in return.

It is a love gift. I love them, but it could that be the something that they'll remember when they come up for renewal? Maybe, maybe not. I'll take my chances with something like that.

Did you buy the books and then write a little note and then had those mailed out?

I had a stroke and I had to cancel my main mastermind. The main mastermind, I was going to give everybody a copy of Overdeliver. That was a good example.

I did buy the books, but I had them in inventory and I wrote a note on each one and I sent them. I've had situations where I wanted to send something in the holidays that wasn't a card. I bought a bunch of different books.

I went to the discount table at Barnes & Noble and I picked out some interesting books and they were targeted. I had six that went to these people and five that went to this. It gave me an opportunity to let them know I was thinking about them.

I wrote a blog post once called Christmas Cards in July. Christmas cards are nice but you get a Christmas card, you look at it, “Great. Garbage.”

You got 100 other ones in the mail.

You get a package, you're opening it. If it's a book, they're not throwing it out. If it's targeted to them, that's special.

I'm trying to think who did this. Speaking of sending books, now I'm remembering. I'm going back in the archives here.

I saw the smoke coming out of your ears.

I always thought this was cool and you made me think about it. I haven't thought about it in a few years, but there was a company, I think it was called Quarterly Co. and they would work with influence.

They still may be doing this, I don't know, but they work with influencers. You could buy let's say $100 a month and I want to follow Tim Ferriss or somebody like that. I know had one of these, but every month you'd get a curated box of some of the stuff that he likes and he'd send it out to you.

Oftentimes it was a book, maybe a product he was using, maybe something also of that nature. This one wasn't Tim, but it was another celebrity who did this where they sent one of their favorite books. Granted, the celebrity person didn't do this.

It was Ferrell. As I'm saying this, this is rushing back to me. He took a book that he liked and he did this once, which is he went through it and put ten different little Post-it notes on different little areas with a little note and a little arrow to the quote that he liked.

He had the team systematically do this. I don't know how many hundred or thousand books he created, but it was very noteworthy when you get something from somebody you like and they're here on this page.

It’s mass customization. It's fantastic.

I've got to over-deliver. I open it up and I see all of a sudden three or four. It doesn't even have to be a lot, these things directly from Brian himself.

If I'm a $1,500 customer, if I'm a VIP customer, you may not have a ton of these, but it probably does go a long way with giving that extra value.

I think that marketers sometimes forget what the total take is on that customer. I say take in not a derisive way. There's a store near me called Stew Leonard's and they have this training thing for their workers.

They say, “When you walk around this store, you have to look at the person with the wagon. If they're a regular customer, there's a bubble around their head.” I don't know what the number was. Let's say it's a $6,000 bubble around their head. “That's what they spend with us.”

Whatever it is, whatever your businesses, and it goes back to frequency, monetary value. If they're a recent customer and you and a frequent customer know that they spend a certain amount, always think about that.

Honor your mentors. Share on X

Because they've spent so much with you, you have a little extra money to spend on them that still is part of your ROI. It's an underused methodology when it comes to direct marketing.

Direct marketing, you pay for the media, you get the orders, you make your money back in some period of time or whatever the measurability is.

This says, “I make a lot of money and now I can give them a little bit more as I go along because I made all that upfront,” and that's your marketing budget for that customer.

It can go a long way when they come up for renewal or they come up to buy another product from you, they might remember. That's all part of the mix. It isn't like you threw it out there.

You knew you had the cash from them in the bank. That's an important thing to think about when you're thinking about your best customers.

I first heard Perry Belcher say this, but I don't know if it was originated from him. It was, “It's never been harder to sell somebody something the first time, but it's never been easier to sell them something second, third, fourth, fifth time.”

If you satisfied them and you took care of them the first time, you get 50% returns on their first product.

As long as it's not a piece of crap. With the ability to follow up with them, with the ability to also the fact that because there's so much noise out there in the system, trust is a lot harder to earn.

Once you earn that trust, then it becomes easier because people aren't giving their trust to absolutely everybody. This is a great way to do it.

I want to segue into one of the things that you drill down in the book Overdeliver that you said you didn't talk about in The Advertising Solution. It dovetails into exactly what we're talking about, which is seeing customer service and retention as a major marketing strategy and profit center.

As I segue into that, I want to bring up something that you talked about when you're talking about the numbers and the financials. How much money do you have? How much are you playing with?

It reminded me of a one that I did with my close friend Ron Lynch. Do you know Ron? He’s sold $3 billion or $4 billion of products on infomercials. He's a big infomercial guy. He was responsible for GoPro and a whole bunch of stuff.

It's an amazing interview that I did. Of the things that Ron talked about on the financial side is he goes, “Any real direct response company that knows what the hell they're doing, they engineer a profit margin of 10%.”

He goes, “Especially if we're doing infomercials.” He goes, “If we're making more than 10% profit margin, it means we're not buying enough advertising.” Don't just be like, “We made 40%. Let's go buy a boat.” Whether you engineer 10% or not, it is an interesting thing if you do.

You've got to have $1 million business and it's successful, you got a 25% profit margin or something super healthy. I think wearing that hat allows me to go, “I'm playing with more money than I should be playing with. How can I spend some of this money on the backend?”

As opposed to the front end, how can I delight my customers? How can I retain them more? How much am I spending to retain customers versus acquire?

I believe such a minority of business owners think about how much do I spend on customer retention? You talk a lot about that in the book. I'd like to hear some more of your thoughts.

That's chapter eight and it's not there intentionally not because it's less important, but I want people to get it that it's a lot easier to keep a customer and then to get a new one. It’ keeping customers happy and fulfilled.

Chapter nine is lifetime value and continuity, which is I talk a lot about the bogey, which is something that Dick Benson, my direct mail guru, taught me in the ‘80s. Whatever you're doing in your business, you got to have a bogey and your bogey is how much can I lose?

Forget about making money. How much can I lose in year one to make it back sometime after that? Now we went from a one-year bogey to a three-year bogey because we accumulated a lot of cash.

That's a lot about reinvesting the money in the acquisition. You don't want to keep on going after acquisition after acquisition program without spending time on cross-selling products, upselling products, then taking care of customer complaints.

The people on the front lines of your business, the people who are answering customer service calls are right there with the customers. Those people should not be your least-trained employees. In a lot of businesses, they are.

They shouldn't be your lowest-paid employees. In a lot of businesses, they are. At Boardroom, I used to listen in on the customer service calls and we had trained customer service people, and that was a good way to get from me to get a sense of what are our customers complaining about?

BWB Kurtz | Direct Marketing Response

Direct Marketing Response: If you satisfy your customers and took care of them the first time, you get a 50% return on their first product.


What things can we improve that way? That's like small hinges creating incredible leverage in your business. I remember Dean Grasiozi, a great marketer, talked about that he hired a secret shopper, which we did too.

A secret shopper is someone that you pay to go through everything in your business. The people who they're interacting with have no idea that they're being paid to do this and they complain intentionally. They return something and then want it back.

They become the biggest pain in the asses. They do everything they can to break your system and do everything. They are awful.

What Dean did is he had a nicer angle on that. He had the secret shopper keep a diary and every step of the way during their journey through your customer funnel or whatever it is, they would say, “I did that. How did that make me feel?”

They'd write it down in a journal. I think I have it in my book, one of the big things that they found out is that they had a live event that they charged money for and then they sold the $15,000 or something or another coaching program.

They sold it at the live event on a Saturday and they realized that no one contacted the person that bought it until the following Wednesday. Buyer's remorse, whatever spouse bought it, the other spouse at home is going to say, “What did you do?”

You've got five days for them to return it to have buyer's remorse. They worked into their system that on the next day, they got a phone call and started coaching them and realizing what they bought and how beneficial it was going to be. That's one example.

Those kinds of things, you're not necessarily going to find out because you're too close to it. A secret shopper is a great way to do it. Listening in on customer service calls is a great way to do it.

Make sure you compensate and take care of the customer service people, the people who are fulfilling the orders, because those people are gold to you.

In fact, if you have people who've been with you a long time and you give them some power to give away a certain amount of maybe not thousands of dollars, but maybe hundreds of dollars in merchandise to save a customer.

I used to play the game. I tell the story in the book. I used to stay at the office late in the 1980s at 8:00 or so to see what calls would come in. The call would come in. There's no automated attendant. The phone's ringing. I pick it up.

I know it's always going to be a customer complaining about something. I have a customer and he’s pissed-off. My goal is at the end of this call, how can I make them a customer for life? It didn't always work, but I had the power to send them anything I want.

I could've sent them a card probably, but I would send them like a series of more books and I took care of them. I made sure that everything they wanted was taken care of and when they hung up I said, “I didn't lose that customer. I probably kept one for life.” That's one example.

Two examples accentuate your point there. My very first job out of college was at Disney World and I was working at Epcot, but I went to the training, etc.

There's nobody better on the planet probably at delighting customers than Disney. They've got it down to an absolute science. One of the things that they taught us is a very big part of their philosophy then and as now they call them take fives and magical moments.

They empowered even the janitors at the park to anybody to where if we see a guest or especially a child, but anybody not having a good day like kids crying or something's going on, we had the power to walk over.

I've done this. I saw a little kid crying, “Mommy,” or whatever. They may have been in a bad mood, but I said, “Is everything okay?”

She goes, “He's just moody.” I said, “Come with me. I got a surprise for him.” I walked twenty feet over into a gift shop, grabbed a little Mickey doll, I told the woman behind the counter I’ve got my badge and everything.

I said, “Service recovery.” I walked over and I handed it to the kid and he’s all smiles and the mom was super happy. I was making minimum wage, but they had those little moments to people.

One other example on that is how I became a Mac fanboy for life. It was August of 2011. I remember it. I bought my first MacBook computer and I was so excited. It took me a week to get everything all set up and I spilled a cup of coffee right on the keyboard. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

AppleCare didn't cover dumb ass, but this was the thing that I never forgot. I had just bought it and most of us who buy things on credit cards. There is a credit card insurance for 90 days, even if you screwed up.

I called my credit card insurance company. They said, “We'll cover this.” I took my MacBook into Apple per insurance company's instructions.

I said, “They need to get a quote on repairing or replacing this. Here's what I did and I know it's not covered with AppleCare.”

Some people in online marketing are their own best copywriter because they're writing in the one area that they know better than anything. Share on X

They said, “We'll take a look at it and we'll call you tomorrow.” They looked at it and they said, “You can come to pick up your MacBook.”

I went over and got it. They said, “It's all fixed.” I said, “What do you mean it's all fixed? I didn't want you to fix it. I needed you to give me a quote so my insurance could take care of it.”

They said, “We looked at it. Everything was messed up except the hard drive. We replaced everything in it. You have a new computer and we saw that you just bought it. We went ahead and took care of it for you for no charge. Don't worry about insurance.” I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

This was the guy there that had the ability to do that. Apple Corporate probably granted that. That's been years and I remember it to this day.

As I mentioned, I'm going to be working with one of my clients on a customer retention strategy. He sells a done for you sales and marketing and operation service for real estate investors and agents.

They do all the customer acquisition marketing and follow up sales. We realized after taking a look at some of the churn numbers, how do we strategically go in and increase the retention a few months because that'll move the needle. These ideas are very top of mind.

I have a bunch of things in that chapter.

I've got it all highlighted. There are a few of the other questions that I wrote down. You've got your mastermind and you've got your ears to the ground of like what who's doing what at really high levels.

Are there any either opportunities that you think people are overlooking or people doing innovative stuff that we should be paying attention to? That's two separate questions, but I'm curious what you're seeing.

In my groups, because my group is focused on multichannel, so I see a lot of this O to O to O, using direct mail with online marketing. There are a lot of neat things to be doing.

It's all old stuff, first of all because it's not all new. It’s using the physical product, using those things that we talked about.

On the other side on what's new, like whizz-bang, I'm in Jeff Walker's mastermind group and it's an innovative group because I have seen some neat things on YouTube that I hadn't seen before.

It's harder to read responses and get a real sense of ROI, but it clearly has some ability to scale in numbers of not just views but people interacting with the video.

I saw one launch that did Facebook only, which I thought was very innovative. It's like fixing things that aren't broken plus taking what works and keep doing it.

It's the combination of that. You have a launch. It's not broken. You can do it every year and make a certain amount of money. There are some things you can tweak that are very innovative. One of them is doing the whole launch live. Do it all live instead of doing it on video.

Facebook Live streams and things like that?

You could do it on live webinars.

Everybody’s trying to do everything automated these days because there are so many tools out there and when everybody's trying to get automated, if you go the other way, you get much more intimate and real.

We’re talking about putting notes on the book and stuff for each person and it feels so much more personal. That's some of the stuff.

One of the things with YouTube and video, I don't know if this is one of the strategies you were referring to, but it’s something we've been testing over here with some decent results. Have you heard of a term RLSA, Remarketing List from Search Audiences or something like that?

You can get a lot of people to watch a YouTube video. Let's say you run ads. You're running an ad to a video, if you can get them to watch, I believe it's like fifteen seconds.

I could be a little wrong. I'm not the one managing the actual strategy. Let's say you build a list of 10,000 people who've watched fifteen seconds of your video.

BWB Kurtz | Direct Marketing Response

Direct Marketing Response: Make sure that you compensate and take care of your customer service people – the people who are fulfilling the orders – because those people are gold to you.


Those people, if they then go tomorrow or the next day or something of that nature to Google and they search for something they want and you're bidding on those keywords, the cost per click on your market is 95% cheaper. It's awesome.

We're about to roll that because we've been testing with some other clients. We're about to roll this out for my wife, who's a mortgage loan officer.

We filmed a few videos and we're going to be running to people in certain demographics all around the San Diego area where we live and try to build up a list of 100,000 people who've watched fifteen seconds of her video.

When they go and type in real estate-related keywords, which are notoriously expensive, we should be able to get them for a lot less and then get them right into her lead acquisition.

There are so many things. I think that what Ryan Levesque is doing with ASK funnels is the idea of using quizzes in your marketing is becoming much more widespread and it makes such sense. The idea of sending one size fits all emails and segmenting your list is so critical.

Tools to help you do that is I think some of the most interesting technology that I see. That's really good. I think Russell Brunson's doing some interesting stuff with ClickFunnels.

I see it all. I find that when I'm in groups of digital marketers where I'm not the expert, I'm a total student and being a sponge.

I doubt that that happens very often that you're in a group of digital marketers. You mean you're not the one leading?

I'm not the leader. Sometimes I think I'm the dumbest guy in the room and it's great because I get to be a student for that period of time and then I can bring that knowledge back to my mastermind groups. My mastermind groups, they're looking to me for certain knowledge and leadership.

In fact, we have great guest speakers at my mastermind. I realized that my members are all into something cool. I've got my members doing spotlights at the meetings and they're some of the best marketers around.

They're as good as some of the guest speakers. I guess it comes down to everybody is an expert about this much and I'm holding my thumb and my index finger three inches apart.

That's why I think specialization is so much more important because it's like the old agencies in the ‘80s. If you want one-stop shopping for all of your marketing, I didn't even do it when marketing opportunities were not infinite.

Now that marketing opportunities are infinite, how can you get anyone person that knows everything about everything? There are people that that set themselves up that say, “I can do your Facebook, I can do your search, I can do your direct mail, I can do your creative, I can do everything.”

There’s nothing well, if you're going to do everything. They probably do one thing well and find out what that is. I would run away from those people.

I think buying a la carte is the key now. It was that way back when I was doing direct mail. For instance, on the creative side, if you're a great copywriter, you're not working in an agency.

You're working on your own because you're getting royalties and you're good. I would never go to an agency for everything or anything.

My specialized list buyer was here, my insert broker was here and my copywriter was specialized. It was freelance and top-notch. I had to pay more, but it was worth it.

I've got a very boutique consulting company. I don't take tons of clients. I don't pretend to be a one-stop-shop.

I also don't pretend to have 50 employees that I have to manage, but I’ve done a good job of connecting with some of the best of the best. This is one of the best ways that I’ve been able to do that.

Selfishly, if I want to know who's doing kickass things, I mentioned YouTube advertising or Facebook Ads with this or copywriting. I make a habit of building my deep connections and relationships with them so that when people come to me, I’ve got my value proposition handled.

You don't have to worry about are they on my payroll and are they any good because we can afford to go to the best and get that to work.

One question that I had written down, and it may not be perfectly in order for this convo, but I'd love to get a little more of your insight on it. It comes to the area because I know you've probably hired a ton of copywriters.

I'm not bragging, but it's true. It's not bragging if you did it. I've worked with probably the best copywriters that have been alive since I got into the business. It goes back to Gene Schwartz.

You can be humble and competitive at the same time. Share on X

Did you work with Gene?

He was a mentor. I used to go to his house for lunch and I own the copyright to Breakthrough Advertising and Brilliance Breakthrough with his wife now.

I didn’t know that. That’s fantastic. It’s such an absolute classic of a book, Breakthrough Advertising. This question also stems from a conversation I was having with another friend. We were talking about hiring copywriters and some of the nuances of that.

Because you're hiring something that you don't know if you got good money until it's all done and if it's going to work. Somebody can have a great portfolio, they give you a great piece and you're like, “Your past stuff looks pretty good, but how do I know if it's going to work for this, that or the other?”

When it comes to paying copywriters, the more credentials they have, the more experience they have, the more expensive they are, and that's fine as they should be.

If you're not an eight-figure business, but you're a six-figure or seven-figure business and you're trying to get good copywriters to work for you and to make sure that you're not getting taken and make sure you can trust them. Do you have a framework for working with them, compensating?

When I get a request in my email saying, “Do you know a good copywriter?” I get two or three of those emails a week. It's the wrong question.

The right question has to start way before in terms of what your product is, what your market is. In my book, I turn to the page because I can go over these quickly. I identified seven characteristics that were present in every great copywriter.

I'm talking about A-plus copywriters: Gary Bencivenga, Jim Rutz, Gene Schwartz, Clayton Makepeace, every one of them. The first was that they had to have a hunger, and you could get that by interviewing them or talking to them, that they have a hunger for the business.

By hunger, I mean have they spent the hours, maybe it's 10,000 hours, maybe it's 5,000, but they have had to do so much work to get to that point.

How can they show you the hunger that they had done? That is the research that they've done, the clients that they've had and how they work with them and how they went a mile deep instead of a mile wide?

The second one is insatiable curiosity. That's also one of the things that when I hired a great copywriter, they would be asking me questions as I'm asking them questions about my product, about my market, about the list.

Any copywriter that I was going to hire that wouldn't ask me for a list history, in the case of online, the audience that we've done well with versus the audience we haven't done well with. In direct mail, you knew all the lists that we mailed.

If they didn't ask me for a list history, I'd be suspect whether they knew what they were doing because in The Advertising Solution I talked about particularly Halbert and Schwartz. All six of the guys that we profiled, every one of them, do you think they'd be bragging about their copy? No.

They were saying that it's not a brilliant burger, but it's a hungry audience. It's the list that's what's important. That's the 40-40-20 Rule or the 41-39-20 Rule that the list is the most important.

The third is I'd ask them who do they hang out with? Who do they tech check their copy premises with? Every one of them, every one of the A-plus copywriters had one or more other A-plus copywriters that they bounce copy off of that they bounced ideas off of.

You can't write copy by committee, but you can get interesting insights from your peers. If they're writing copy in a vacuum, it's not as broad. It's not as going to be as deep. Number four was passion.

I liked the fact that I think when I do this in a speech, I use a reverse funnel. I say, “You've got to go narrow,” and I put it upside down. You got to go narrow to wide.

You start in a very narrow market and the best copywriters of all time, eventually they were able to write about anything. They didn't start that way. They started in a very narrow universe.

In fact, I would say that some people in online marketing are their best own copywriter because they're writing in the one area that they know better than anything.

For the freelance copywriters, if they started in an area they know more than anybody about, then they branch out. That's much easier to do than being a writer for everything.

Number five was that they have to understand marketing principles. They have to understand lists, they have to understand segmentation, they have to understand lifetime value. They have to understand the relationship between lists, offer and copy.

Anybody who doesn't study and hasn't studied marketing books as opposed to copywriting and copybooks is someone that is probably not the top at the top of the game. Six is humility. I feel strongly about this.

BWB Kurtz | Direct Marketing Response

The Advertising Solution: Influence Prospects, Multiply Sales, and Promote Your Brand

I tell this in the book. I had a guy come to me in my last couple of years at Boardroom and he wrote me an email and he said, “Brian, I’ll be the best copywriter that's ever walked in the door at Boardroom,” and he gave me his site.

I went to the site and I can assure you, he was not the best copywriter that ever walked in the door at Boardroom. He had no idea who had written for us. I wasn't a snob either. It’s a fact.

If you're going to be better than Jim Rutz and Gary Bencivenga and Gene Schwartz, you better have some chops. I wrote back to them and I was a little sarcastic, but I wasn't mean.

I said, “Shame on me for not knowing you because if you're better than anybody who's ever worked at Boardroom, how did I miss you? How did I miss out on you?”

I went on to say, “Frankly, I looked at your stuff and it's good, but it's not up to snuff at the time.” I let him down easy, but I didn't understand where his lack of humility was coming from.

I go the other extreme, Gary Bencivenga, who's the best copywriter living now, who had incredible humility. He would talk about all the other writers and how great they were. Once he started writing, he wanted to beat them for sure. He would beat himself.

He can be humble and competitive at the same time.

Humble and competitive, that's the key.

It is one of those things where if you're not humble, I believe it shows that you don't have much marketing experience. I remember somebody else telling me that marketing boils down to two things, guessing and testing.

How often are we wrong? I've come up with great angles like, “This is going to crush. It's going to be the best thing ever,” and it is an absolute flop. You're like, “I thought I was smart and good.”

You throw something out there. Maybe you weren't even thinking that much. You were like, “I'm just going to get it out and it,” and it does better.

You're like, “Maybe. I don't know. Maybe it is.” Know the fundamentals, put it out there, test it, watch the numbers.

Your audience will tell you.

It's like baseball. You're going to strike out more often than not.

We've got about 300. You'll be a Hall of Famer. This the seventh thing. It's funny because you said you say to people, “Show me your portfolio, show me what you've done.” That usually is the first thing. That's my seventh thing of seven.

Once I go through all the others, then I’ll look at their stuff. I don't go through this that much anymore because I'm not hiring writers. When people ask me about copywriters, I send them my blog posts that talk about these seven things.

I also tell them there are specific things in your market that you think that a writer should have or should know or should research because that's where you want to start, but you also want all those other things too.

One question there, and I know this can range on who you're hiring and how you're hiring, but did you prefer to pay people a flat fee plus a performance bonus?

I'll go back to the original, like Jim Rutz and Gary Bencivenga. Two of the first royalty writers. It was way back in the late ‘70s, I think.

They would not charge you for the package and then you pay them a royalty. At that time, it was probably $0.02 or $0.03 a name or $20 or $30 a thousand.

For how many people?

This is direct mail. That was the origination of the royalty agreement. They were so good and they always got the control.

They had a line out the door and then they started charging like $30,000 against royalty and all of that. This was in Boardroom. We were going up against some of the best writers. I would try to negotiate something.

A product and a promotion is not a business. Share on X

I did think that the writer should get something on the back end should they write a winner. That's my basis. It didn't have to be a royalty over time.

What I would do is I had some deals where I would pay them a one-time bonus if they got the control or I pay them a bonus on the first two continuation mailings or something like that based on some criteria that we set up upfront as to what success is.

Usually, it was that their pay package became the control and that we mailed it for most of the names for that product. I think that for new writers, while it's nice to get royalties and it's nice to get a percentage of the gross and all of that.

If you're just starting out, to demand that upfront, unless you can back it up with an amazing track record, it's hard to do.

On the other hand, if I'm a marketer with very little money in my budget, maybe you can come to me and say, “I’ll do it for nothing,” although I hate writers working for nothing. I don't like people working on spec.

“I’ll do it for nothing, but I want this incentive should I get the control.” For a cashflow situation, that might work better for a marketer.

If they're that good, they're going to get the control and they're going to get an incentive on the back end. Maybe it is a decent way to do it.

I have to look at their track record and look at who they've worked for. As far as a new writer that's just starting out with no track record, the best I’ll do is a fee plus a bonus maybe because I want to see them prove themselves.

There's a lot of things in between you can do. You can have the royalty be against the upfront. You can have the upfront via a fee and then if they get the control, the royalty starts immediately.

There's a lot of ways to jigger how they get paid. I've done enough of these where I’ve done every possibility.

That's valuable, especially as somebody who does hire copywriters occasionally. I do some copy because I like it, but I'm not necessarily a copywriter for hire.

Whatever you want to charge for a sales letter or whatever and you want to charge, $5,000, $7,500. The thing about online is that you can get the control and you're going to lose it in fifteen minutes. In direct mail, you could keep control for a year.

I think one of the things you could do is the bonus situation if you get say $7,500 for the package. If it becomes the control and they do it and they mail it again, you get another $7,500.

That's a nice way so that they're not beholden to you, you're not beholden to them, but you get an incentive for success. That's always a good thing.

Brian, this is the part in the convo where I always ask everybody, I’ve asked you before, but are there any nuts you're trying to crack? You've got the book out, you're taking care of your health.

You've got your mastermind, you're doing a lot of advisory stuff. Is there anything out there right now whether it's people you're trying to meet, something you're trying to learn, get access to?

I don't sell my masterminds. I keep them small because I want them intimate. It's not about money. One thing that I'm interested in, and I’ve made some strides to it, but I haven't been focused on it, but it is a nut I’d like to crack, using your phrase. It's the ability to sell online with a real bill me.

I'm talking about a physical product or a digital product shipped without any money sent, bill them after the fact and collect like we used to in direct mail 60% or 70% or 80% on the back end or get it returned to us. That's where the physical product.

Bill them after they get it or after a certain period of time?

No. The bill me that you see now is that we'll ship it to you in 30 days. We'll charge your credit card and then it becomes automatic. In 30 days they forget and then they send it back. You got chargebacks. That's one model.

My model, because in direct mail we used to ship the book, no cash, no money, no credit card, no nothing. When they got the book, the first invoice was on the book and then we had a billing series of six efforts.

The reason why you can do that in direct mail is that you can do a credit screen on the list before it goes out. You can get a lot of bad debt out of there. You can get a lot of names and we used to, on outside lists, I’ve seen on house lists, we used to get 70% or 80% pay up because we knew they paid up before.

On outside lists, we used to get 60% to 70% pay up. Believe me, getting a bill me upfront with high response rates going to be anywhere from three, four, five times what cash with order will do.

BWB Kurtz | Direct Marketing Response

Overdeliver: Build a Business for a Lifetime Playing the Long Game in Direct Response Marketing

If you get 70% pay up, you will make so much more money and for the bad debt, it doesn't even matter. The linchpin in this is that you offer it this way, they go to a squeeze page. When they put their email in, I need a credit bureau in real-time because it says, “Bill me. Don't send cash. Subject to approval.”

You go to the page and if they had bad debt or they're a bad person based on your criteria, they'll go to a page that they have to pay cash. That's the piece that I haven't figured out.

I have some people that say they can do it. I haven't been convinced they can do it. You have to do it in real-time.

Quick question on that because that's an older school than what I had ever seen. I got the book, I ordered the book from you. I get it in the mail and then there's an invoice with the book.

I call it the acknowledgment. It was an invoice. It's the acknowledgment invoice, but it was an invoice.

Would I be responsible for either writing a check or making a call or something like that?

If they purchased with direct mail, they send an order card back. Some people went online, but not many after the internet. There'd be a business reply envelope in there, an invoice, and they can put their credit card right on there or they could send a check and they put it in the envelope and send it back.

This is not apples to apples, but are you familiar with some of the strategies in using PayPal credit, PayPal bill me later?

A little bit.

I've only used it once and it was a few years ago. I have some other colleagues who've had some success with it. I think it has to be above $100 dollars and maybe up to $10,000, I don’t know, but in essence it says PayPal is automatically qualifying me or not.

If it says yes, let's say I'm buying something for $100, I don't have any payments or interest on it for a few months. Granted, I have to start paying at a few months.

I either have to pay it all off or interest, I’ve got to double-check now, or it starts charging me back interest for the whole thing. PayPal pays me, the vendor, immediately. They'll pay me my $100 and they'll take the credit risk.

There's a degree of similarity there. It's not the same thing. There’s merit to that, especially let's say you've got a $2,000 offer and hopefully you're pretty confident in it.

It takes most people a few months to start to see some results from this, that or the other. Utilize this. Save your money for all your other marketing and expenses. By then, you've made money.

Do you have to be PayPal-approved?

Exactly. That's an interesting one. That's a good nut to crack.

They're delaying their cash for a few months if it's on credit. That's a long time to wait.

Remember, you're not waiting. You are literally getting paid the same day. It's really good. I think Mike feels the same. Do you know Mike? Mike is the first one I saw using this when he was selling.

I don't remember if it was a software or a course, but I remember thinking that was a pretty innovative way to utilize that if you figure that on your other end.

I will let a lot of people know.

Brian, that brings us to an end. This one's so hot. If people want to grab your book, it’s There’s a bunch of bonuses and whatnot on there as well?

I set up the bonus page the way I did because if I have a book called Overdeliver, I better over-deliver on the bonuses. There are eleven different bonuses.

I've got a Swipe file going back to 1900 of mailing pieces from some of the greatest copywriters ever. If you say, “What do I want direct mail from the 1920s?” You do.

You'll get the ideas and platforms and subject lines and all sorts of stuff. There's a course that Jay Abraham did. It took him $200,000 to put together. He's not selling it anymore. It's all on there digitally. Also, 21 keynotes Jay has given, which is amazing.

Two books by two of my gurus in direct mail, Gordon Grossman and Dick Benson, that are phenomenal and you can't get these books anywhere. I have a PDF for each of them.

There's a PDF of Gary Bencivenga, best living copywriter called the Bencivenga Bullets which are some of the best things that he ever wrote. He allowed me to put it in one PDF. Dan Kennedy was at my Titans event. He did a 270-page Sswipe file that he let me offer as a PDF on this page.

I have the last chapters of Overdeliver, which is all the stuff I wrote since I put the book to bed, which is another 178 pages, not that anybody wants to read more of me after they read the book. I have some videos from the Titans of Direct Response in 2014.

It's an amazing bonus package. You go to the site You push your button, you got to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indy books.

You buy the book, you come back to the page and you put your order number in, you opt-in and you download all of this stuff. The other reason why I did such an extravagant bonus page was that these are all my mentors.

I realized when I saw the movie Coco, I don't know if you've seen the movie. It's a Pixar film. It's all about honoring your mentors.

It's about Dia de Muertos. It's a Mexican film and it's all about you're not really dead until you're not remembered anymore. I have some people on this page that are dead. I have a lot of people who are still alive too. Be remembered. It's always remembering.

That's what I'm doing on this page. I encourage everybody. I think the book is good. I think they'll get a lot out of it and they'll certainly get a lot out of all the bonuses I'm making available.

They'll also opt-in to my blog posts every Sunday, which is all content. I don't do affiliates and it's a lot of information.

That's what I'm up to since I had my stroke and I survived. I didn't say now I'm going to live because I haven't lived before. That's not the case.

I'm 61. I have a great life. Now that I have a second chance, I can continue to teach and share and contribute. That's what this page is about too.

I hope we get a whole lot more out of you. We lost a titan. Brian, thank you very much. I really appreciate you. It was fun to talk to you on this special twofer.

Important Links:

About the Guest: Brian Kurtz

BWB Kurtz | Direct Marketing Response

Brian Kurtz is a true titan of direct response marketing. With a career spanning nearly 4 decades, he has sent 2 billion pieces of direct mail and mastered the marketing of newsletters and books via direct response television (infomercials) and using e-mail and the Internet in huge numbers. At the height of his infomercial success, he was responsible for buying media in excess of $80 million and he sold over 3 million books via direct response television over a three year period while at the Boardroom.

Under Brian's marketing leadership and during his tenure, Boardroom’s revenues went from approximately $5 million (in 1981) to a high of over $150 million (in 2006).

Brian was instrumental in building Boardroom’s print and electronic newsletters, including Bottom Line/Personal, Bottom Line/Health, Bottom Line Secrets and Daily Health News. And he was also responsible for selling tens of millions of books, mostly in the categories of health and finance, for consumers.

His mission for the next 40 years (as the Founder of “Titans Marketing”), is to be the bridge between the eternal truths of direct response marketing and all that is considered state-of-the-art direct response marketing today. And to make sure everyone he works with understands the complexities and the need to be multi-channel.

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the Bacon Wrapped Business Community today: 

Got A Question Or Comment For Brad?