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In this week’s edition of The Next 100 Days Podcast we have a big name form the USA. Brian Kurtz chats to us about direct marketing and his book The Advertising Solution. Brian Kurtz loves direct marketing. For 36 years, he worked with Boardroom Inc selling millions of newsletter subscriptions and books. He became expert in direct mail and lists. He oversaw 1.3 billion pieces of direct mail over a period of 20 years.

Brian’s whole life is dedicated to educating the next generation of direct marketers. Brian Kurtz told us he had to do a 10-minute talk on direct mail, and asked his son what he could say. The answer was “Dad, that’s like 9 minutes, 30 seconds too long!”.

The experience Brian Kurtz got working largely in one company is like compound interest. You meet a copywriter, meet with them, get some ideas, meet the next copywriter, work with them and build on that. Then he’d work with a direct mail consultant, learn this, then another, build on that. Everything Brian has done in his life is cumulative.

In an interview with Doberman Dan, a copywriter in the US, Brian Kurtz who had worked with luminaries of direct response since 1981. Brian had mentors like Eugene Schwartz (“one of the smartest and most proficient copywriters the world”) and Marty Edelston (who founded Boardroom Inc), and Dick Benson who was ‘the smartest direct mail guy of all time’ and Gordon Grossman, who invested the sweepstakes model at Readers Digest. Dan asked Brian “at the time, during those early years, did you think you were doing something that was incredible?” Brian answered that on the one hand he didn’t think he was taking it for granted, but he does remember that there was an element of “pinch me”. In the case of Gene Schwartz, he wasn’t a list expert, Brian was, so Gene would go to Brian for list information, so Brian was helping him.

He didn’t know then that the accumulation of these experiences was going to be what it has turned out to be. He didn’t foresee himself as being a future educator of direct marketing in 2017. Brian did like to teach, and taught students in his early days.

He stressed to students, you must get into this business – it’s awesome. You are going to get feedback on everything you do. If your promotion sucks, you are going to know it immediately. If your promotion is great, you are going to know it immediately. Accountable advertising as the Hall of Fame copywriter Gary Bencivenga called it.

Great tips:

Brian now has 2 mastermind groups, of the best direct marketers. He has written a book about the 6 legends of advertising – The Advertising Solution ( and that he is about to write another book about his experiences.

The Advertising Solution and Direct Marketing with Brian Kurtz - The Next 100 Days Podcast

Direct Marketing with Brian Kurtz – The Next 100 Days Podcast

Brian eulogised about Frank Kern.

Brian Kurtz is a student of the online world. And studies at the feet of Frank Kern. To his surprise, Brian was invited by Frank to his $50,000 mastermind group in California! Same thing, “pinch me”. A group of the best online marketers were interested in what Brian knew…as Brian said, “pinch me”.

Frank’s group were eating it up. But Brian did a speech to 400 up-and-coming copywriters last year, and he asked them…

“How many people know what RFM is?”

About 5 or 6 people raised their hands. So, they don’t know recency, frequency, monetary.

(If you don’t either here is Brian’s recent email on the subject, which you’ll find illuminating)

What is the ONE fundamental every marketer needs to know, regardless of the medium they work in, that is “the fish oil of direct response?

That is, what is that one thing that everyonecan apply to everything they do when selling or marketing any product or service that will steer them most powerfully to their best customers, now and in the future?

And it came down to three simple letters:


I wanted to talk about RFM today to make sure everyone in my online family understands that this “vitamin” is the one everyone needs to take…digest…and unlike fish oil, there is no chance of an aftertaste and there is no chance that you will ever be allergic to it.

If you know all about RFM already, you can stick around for a refresher on the most important principle in direct marketing (in addition to its kissing cousin “Lifetime Value” which we can talk about another day). 

I’ve been shocked how many people practicing direct response marketing today are not even aware of the term–or that analyzing RFM on their customer list might be the most critical and basic thing to do over all else.

While at its most sophisticated level on multi-million name databases you may need a statistician figuring out RFM formulas and models for you, it’s actually a pretty simple concept accessible to anyone–and much of it can be done by observation and “tallying” (or tagging) your prospects and customers this way.

Let’s break it down:

1) “R” is for Recency: 

What this says is that a suspect/prospect/customer who interacted with you more recently is far more responsive (and immediately more valuable) than someone who responded less recently.

I remember when I entered the direct marketing industry in 1981 how much this didn’t make sense to me logically…thinking that if someone just bought from me, they now had less money to buy something else from me right away. 

I even remember an old time legacy publisher who did not rent their mailing list of book buyers to other mailers offering books because they foolishly thought that, “every person has a set budget to spend on books per year and we only want them to spend with us.”

I guess it’s no surprise that this company is no longer in business, failing to understand that no one has unique names, only unique lists…and also failing to understand that all boats rise when we keep the folks on our list active and happy with all kinds of relevant offerings. 

Thank goodness I discovered how naïve I was within days of entering the world of direct response and that I didn’t fall into the trap that many others did at the time. 

It still astounds me when I think about the companies who considered themselves direct marketers back then didn’t understand the power of recency.

Fortunately, most marketers today know the importance and value of recency…when have you NOT received a pop up or immediate cross-sell (or up-sell) offer immediately after buying (or even inquiring) about something online? 

In direct mail, the names of more recent buyers are called “hotlines”–and list owners still charge a premium for those names.

I have been lucky that I have been able to see firsthand–over decades of mailing millions of names and almost always selecting hotlines on lists–that is more often than not the make-or-break whether a list pays out.

The importance of recency should never be lost.

And this is as true today as it was in the past.

2) “F” is for Frequency:

Man cannot live on recency alone…

Frequency pushes us to combine the most recent buyers (or inquiries) with the most frequent buyers or inquiries (what we called “multibuyers” in the direct mail list business).

Recency and frequency gives you a one-two punch that will enable you to segment any list, no matter what the size, in order to focus on the people who will be your best customers for subsequent products or offerings. 

Again, for many of you, I know this sounds basic. 

Of course someone who bought from you multiple times is a better customer than someone who bought from you once…or never…right?

But let me add creative and copy into the mix here:

 Are you communicating with a “multibuyer” with different language based on their relationship with you as opposed to communicating with them as a one-time buyer or inquiry (for example)? 

Or are you sending the same message to the “3 time buyer who bought their third product from you today” that you are also sending to the “one time buyer from 6 months ago?”

The first group is “family”…the second group are invited “guests.”

And there are even cases where frequency trumps recency…based on the direct marketing rule of thumb that your “expires” (or previous customers or buyers) are usually your “best list.”

Example: If you had a subscriber to a publication who renewed multiple times and then stopped subscribing 6 months ago, mailing them again with messaging that speaks to them like “family” (e.g. “We want you back!”) rather than messaging that speaks to them as a “guest” (i.e. like any other new prospect), you are clearly missing a huge opportunity. And this would apply if they stopped subscribing a year ago…or more.

While recency of when they expired is still important to know and select by, I have had experiences in my career where I was able to mail expires who have not been active for 3 or more years and we could still revive them–and make them active again–by knowing their real value as previous, frequent customers.

I know most of you know this instinctively…however, I have consulted with too many marketers and heard too many horror stories from folks who use “one-size-fits-all copy” to all segments of their audience; and even something as simple as “we want you back” to a segment of frequent, former customers (who may not even be recent) can double your response rate…or even more. I’ve seen that happen.

They know you know them already…you know them much better than you might be acknowledging…and you also (I hope) once loved them.

Why would you want to hide that? 

3) “M” is for monetary value: 

Now round out this RFM formula by making sure you know the total amount of money every person on your list has spent with you…and create “tiers” that make the most sense based on the price point(s) of your products.

The amount of money spent by each customer, in isolation, can be deceiving however…but combine it with recency and frequency and you will see the power of segmenting your list in this very basic way. And making sure you don’t have “one size fits all promotion” as I mentioned before (emails, letters, anything)… and that you talk to your customers based on their relationship with you…all “calculated” through RFM…can be a game changer.

I want to share a quick story to bring this hom

I have a friend/client who has 18 different products…and she does an incredible job cross selling and upselling to her existing customers the products they have not bought previously.

 But when I saw a breakout of her buyer list, something like 80% or more of the folks had only bought one product while most of the others had bought 2 or 3 at most…and it seemed that with some “RFM segmenting tweaks” there was huge potential to get more of those “1 to 3 time buyers” to buy much more given all of the related offerings available.

We got religion on this when I noted that there was ONE person on the list who bought ALL 18 products (and no, it was not a relative!)…and I asked the question:

“When did you invite this 18 time buyer to dinner?” 

Of course I was being a little sarcastic…but I was also trying to make an important point.

Yes…”lists are people too!”

From that question we started surveying the most recent, frequent and high dollar spending customers, finding out why they bought multiple products and also in what order they bought them to look for trends in buying behavior. 

That led to what I call a logical (and much more successful) “contact strategy” where we started offering products to previous buyers in a sequence that made more sense than simply making random offerings. 

This strategy was rooted in addressing the needs and buying patterns of existing customers…and of course with copy and creative that spoke to why their recent purchase leads perfectly to the next purchase…with customized copy to different segments.

I am only scratching the surface how something as basic and fundamental as RFM can change your entire marketing strategy in terms of which offers to offer when–and how to speak to different segments of your family when making those more targeted offers. 

I admit that talking about RFM in a little less than 2,000 words doesn’t do it justice…but I needed to get this out there just in case there is even one person in my online family who doesn’t look at RFM as the most important, basic segmenting tool at their disposal. 

It’s the one thing that always needs to be in play when doing any kind of direct response marketing.

(Back to the podcast)

RFM is a basic premise of direct marketing. These RFM concepts is so critically important to everything you do or write online today.

He recounted some feedback following the publishing of a podcast interview which got deep on regression modelling. It was published to Facebook and one of the comments was “God, I thought Facebook invented lookalike models. Mind blown.”

Facebook didn’t invent everything! It’s the biggest online list. It’s a channel. Like direct mail. Brian recently wrote a blog post about direct mail, another channel.

Direct mail is not easy, so people avoid it. If you do it right in the 55+ demographic it is a pretty good place to start. Despite its cost.

Brian explained his pitch to a company with 60 high-value clients by ‘picking’ on a young member of the team and asking “do you know what a mailbox is?”. Yes. So, if you got a piece of lumpy mail in your mail box, would you open it? Before anything else? Of course, said she. This opened the dialogue about how powerful a targeted high value, lumpy, direct mail piece could be to their most important customers.

Similar principles hold for mailing 60 to mailing the billion. Of course, you wouldn’t send a Federal Express package with a gift inside to the whole billion! But the principle of sending higher value packages to your best customers, the ones who write the biggest cheques.

Direct mail is an excellent ‘back end’ marketing strategy with your best customers.

Another client, with a $20,000 coaching client programme, with an average ‘stick rate’ (how long they stay as customers) of 3 years, didn’t want to create a budget for back end marketing! Brian designed a direct mail campaign with a book inside and sent by overnight Federal Express, costing $50-100 per pack. If you get ONE more client, you’d have to go a long way in other channels to get the same bang for your buck.

Referrals are important. Get your biggest customers to get your new customers. Who writes your biggest cheques on your list? You want more of those kinds of people. You want to create an incentive for them to give them a discount. In the old days, it was member get member.

Brian’s comment that referrals is not a marketing strategy. He says that some companies rely ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY on referrals as their new customer attraction strategy. HUGE mistake, look at referrals as another channel. It is NOT a marketing strategy. A marketing strategy is I’m going to do this much by referrals, this with Facebook, this with direct mail, space advertising in trade magazines, all these channel ‘buckets’. THEN, you have OFFLINE to ONLINE. Then you can bring these together.

If you go out with direct mail, Brian advises you should get the response via direct mail. If you are targeting the 55+ demographic, to get them to go online, probably not ideal. They may pick up the phone to an 0800 number. Chances are they are used to doing that. However, there are people in that 55+ audience who are more open to going online. We can find that out – it’s called direct marketing. After they’ve responded through direct mail, we can figure out their email address. Send them a follow up direct mail package, which offers them a choice of getting a new special report, would you like that in addition? Give us your email address.

Now you have romanced them into giving your email address. You have to meet them where they want to be met. Some 60 year olds never want to be met on email, they only want to be met in direct mail. Many of them though will want to be met in email.

Now you have taken a person who originated in direct mail, way more engaged than if they originated in email. They are way more qualified. They probably read the direct mail piece. They are now much more engaged at the start. They are going to have a much HIGHER LIFETIME VALUE. And now you can put them into an email funnel, and it is a lot less expensive to do your back end to them. But you do it intelligently. Don’t just ‘slap it against the wall and cry I’ve got to get them on email, I’ve got to get them on email!’. You want them on email. This is not about saying email sucks, Brian says he loves email.

Breakthrough Advertising

When Brian Kurtz launched “Breakthrough Advertising” (the reprinted book by Eugene Schwartz, for whom Brian owns the copyright), he did it all on email. He is sending a PHYSICAL product though.

He is following up this book with “Brilliance Breakthrough” – Schwartz did fill in the blanks exercises of how to construct your copy at the end of each chapter. The sub-title is “How to Talk and Write So People Will Never Forget You” – it will be marketed for $195. He doesn’t want people to write inside the book as it is a collector’s item. So, he is producing a companion work book, all happening in the next 100 days.

The Advertising Solution

Brian Kurtz and Craig Simpson, US direct mail expert, put the book The Advertising Solution. Brian is allergic to advertising that’s not measurable.

The Advertising Solution and Direct Marketing with Brian Kurtz - The Next 100 Days Podcast

The Advertising Solution Craig Simpson with Brian Kurtz

What are the top 3 things Brian Kurtz has taken from the legends? The book features the following legends of direct response:

  • Robert Collier
  • Claude Hopkins
  • John Caples
  • David Ogilvy
  • Gary Halbert
  • Eugene Schwartz

It’s a great short cut. There are actionable checklists in the book. Use them as a checklist.

All these people wrote copy, but they all understood that the LIST was the most important thing. List being the audience. Halbert’s “it’s not about a brilliant burger, it’s about a starving crowd”.

Gene Swartz

It’s fascinating that the best copywriters of all time understood the audience. They know if they are writing to a hungry crowd, it makes their job a lot easier, and they knew to learn from that crowd and write better copy.

Gene Swartz said that he didn’t write copy but he assembled it.

You want copywriters who can interview you, who can get the best out of you about what you know about your product or service and then let them create the poetry from it. It’s all in you already.

You’ll recognise a great copywriter if they are asking you great questions! The key is, what is NOT in the product, that you could be writing about.

Assembling NOT writing example. At Boardroom, they would hand Gene a copy of a book and say write us a great promotion for this health book. Gene said he could write a lot of fascinations, bullet points, things he could refer to in the book. But, he’d spot something. “in chapter 6, you talk about these things that you can do for Type 2 Diabetes, but there is a bunch of stuff that is NOT here that is really new research.” Gene was so smart, he read everything. Boardroom went back to the editors and found new information that was more cutting edge, then they put that into the book so that Gene could write better and more compelling copy. That alone is a lesson for a lifetime.

  • Know what is IN your product and what is not in your product.

This is about what great marketers do. They create products that people NEED. How? Through a great sales letter. A factual letter. Not BS.

David Ogilvy

Ogilvy was big on “The BIG IDEA”

Ogilvy was big on research. If you are not continually asking your customers what they want, what they need and delivering it, as opposed to delivering what YOU think they want and need.

Ogilvy was a direct marketer trapped in a direct marketer’s body.

Matthew Weiner who wrote Mad Men did a lot of research on David Ogilvy.

Offline to Online to Offline

In the next 100 days, what could our listeners do?

O to O to O. Toggle between the two depending on where you want to meet your customers.

If you have a lot of postal addresses, from a shipping address. If you market online, but have physical addresses, Brian recommends doing an email campaign where you offer up another physical product or a free special report. To get an idea from those on your list who is direct mail responsive. Then you can follow up with THAT group with a direct mail campaign.

If the opposite is true, you’ve been in direct mail and you want to get the email addresses, do a mailing and offer them something of value like a free special report, offer BOTH a physical copy and pdf if they want it. DON’T do either or, you don’t want the people you cannot get online or don’t want to get online to feel like it is pdf only. If they already have done direct mail, meet them where they are. Meet them where they are. You know they would probably love a paper copy of the special report. But offer them a pdf if they give you an email address. Once you have their email address, create a series of emails, create content to solidify the relationship.

The beauty of ONLINE, everything is NOT a revenue event, but everything is a RELATIONSHIP event.

Online, you want to concentrate on list building. Offline, because of the costs, it is very hard to do straight relationship building.

ADVICE:  Assess your assets in the next 100 days. What do you have. Postal, email. How do I bring them together? What they want, where they want it.

ADVICE: Do a lot more surveying. We are thinking of doing these 5 products, which one would you be interested in? Start getting a sense of what your customers want.

ADVICE: If you do have postal addresses, figure out an RFM analysis of your list. Find the people who have responded to you most recently, who have responded to you most frequently and who have spent the most amount of money. For everybody those are all different. Take a small group who are the MOST recent, frequent and big spenders and create a campaign that is a lumpy mail, send them a book, send them a handwritten note. Know what you want to do with them. What’s the offer? A thank you for your business PLUS an ascend/upsell offer. Way better than an email.

The idea is you send stuff all year round. Thinking about YOU. It would make a person’s day. Brian does this every day. Always be totally connected to your best customers. This is all direct marketing principles to having a life of contribution.

Are teachers of social media, imposters? Do they understand direct marketing? Not so, There are some great online teachers – people like Ryan Levesque, Russell Branson, Frank Kern, Jeff Walker – who said when he figured out it was direct marketing it took off. Don’t get lost in the world of social media.

In Brian’s mastermind, he brings speakers who teach, radio, package inserts, direct mail, display advertising, google adwords. Bring the fundamentals of direct response marketing and help people with new media.

But’s what’s behind the campaign?

John Carlton the great copywriter says: “A promotion is not a business”. Chris Farrell, the UK online marketer ( ), says “a product is not a business”. A business is multi-channel, multi product. That’s direct marketing.

How does anyone get in touch with Brian Kurtz:

Buy The Advertising Solution and get amazing FREE resources at

Opt-in to Brian’s list. Get a swipe file from the legends. A full hour of Gary Halbert video. A pdf of Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins.

Sign up at:

Over Delivery, How Life Imitates Direct Marketing – the title of Brian Kurtz’s next book.

The Next 100 Days Podcast is brought to you by Graham Arrowsmith and Kevin Appleby

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