The Two Schools of Thought in Direct Response Marketing. Direct Response Copywriting Email Archive 2018 1

January 2018 1

From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.

First of all, happy new year and I hope you enjoyed a pleasant holiday season.

I hope you enjoyed the series about Gary Bencivenga in the last few emails. A couple of things to take away.

First. Read and digest, then re-read and re-digest Bencivenga Bullets. Here’s the link.

Second. There are two schools of thought in direct response copywriting. One school champions hype, braggadocio, and, I’ll try to put this politely, BENDING the truth. The other school champions research, clarity, and verisimilitude, which is a long word for putting the truth in the best possible light ... but still telling the truth about the product or service.

Gary Bencivenga was one of the greatest copywriters of all time and he was firmly in the latter school. Which school are you going to be in? I don’t know about you but I’m following Gary Bencivenga.

When I’m not writing copy, I go skiing, and, in fact, I’m a part-time ski instructor. One of my favorite colleagues fully understands the technical aspects of skiing … and these can be extremely complex. Anyone want to discuss the finer points of centripetal forces?

But she’s extremely superb at helping with the mental side of skiing. She helps her students feel comfortable on skis and comfortable with confidence on skis.

So, in the next few emails, I’m going to discuss what it really takes to succeed as a direct response copywriter. You can read a TON about the technical side of copywriting. You can read a TON about direct marketing fundamentals. And you can read a TON about dealing with clients. But you’ll rarely read anything about the mindset you need to succeed in this business.

You can also find a lot of information about how to find clients. In fact, I just purchased a program from a well-known organization. The program promises to tell me how to find clients but it’s the same old bunk: nobody tells you which potential clients to contact.

I know how to find them. I’m going to reveal all this year as I personally search for two to three clients I hope to work with for a long time.

But first, it’s important to understand the mindset you must have to succeed in this business. The mindset starts with confidence.

Let’s say I’m skiing and I’m about to ski a pretty steep pitch deep in the trees. I know I have the technique to ski this pitch. But I need confidence and I have to trust myself. Yes … I could fall and I could possibly hurt myself. But I could also ski the pitch successfully and gain the benefits of having tackled something difficult.

In copywriting, trust begins with fully understanding the scale of the opportunity.

A famous copywriter once said to a group of copywriters, “there’s an ocean of opportunity out there, and you’re a thimble.” And he’s right.

I hear two things ALL the time.

First, from companies and agencies … “we’re desperate for good copywriters … we’re always looking.”

Second, especially from people who are in groups on social media, “I’m desperate for clients.”

It’s totally crazy and makes no sense.

The problem, again, is mindset. First, you need the mindset that will lead to constant learning and improvement so you can consistently convert potential buyers into actual buyers. Second, you need the mindset “I’m going to succeed and I’m going to find the clients I really want and need.”

I’m a big fan of Dan Kennedy, for a number of reasons I’ll discuss in future emails, perhaps. But one thing he said really resonates with me, almost every day.

“Most people give up when there’s even the slightest headwind.” If you’re one of those people, then find a full-time job where, in return for a probably paltry wage, you know you’ll probably have employment for a long time.

But if you’re serious about success in copywriting, then be prepared for headwinds, turbulence, and other hazards.

Again … it’s all about mindset and I’ll discuss this more over the next few weeks.

Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter

The Bencivenga Headline Secret. Direct Response Copywriting Email Archive December 2017

From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.

Gary Bencivenga and His Headline Secret

I’d like to continue this series about what you can learn from Gary Bencivenga, now retired, and generally considered one of the greatest copywriters of all time, certainly in the 80s, 90s, and into the 21st Century.

Bencivnega rarely spoke but I was fortunate that a client bought me the videos of Bencivnega’s retirement seminar. These cost $5,000 and if you feel like reading the over 30,000 words of copy selling the DVDs, you can click here. No affiliate commission here, in case you're wondering.

Let me divulge something from the DVDs when it comes to headlines. Bencivnega talked about the inspiration for many of his headlines: book titles. Take a look at book titles and you can get a sense of what Bencivnega was talking about.

How to Work From Home and Make Money in 2017: 13 Proven Home-Based Businesses You Can Start Today (Work from Home Series: Book 1)
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
15 Minutes to a Better Interview: What I Wish EVERY Job Candidate Knew

What are we seeing here?

An all-out “how to” headline. Numbers (specificity) in the headlines. The “tease” factor. Intrigue. Classic headline techniques.

There’s an irony here. Book publishers are among the WORST marketers on the planet. That’s based on my personal experience with this book I wrote. I sometimes wonder how any of them make any money. I wrote a VSL for a client. The VSL sold an ebook about dementia. The client was selling 1.5 million of these ebooks a month. That would put the book at the top of EVERY bestseller list on the planet for several weeks.

Now … there are lots of super-weak book titles. Take a look at these.

Leaders Eat Last
The Player: Target: The Executive Suite
Principles: Life and Work
The One Page Marketing Plan

Look at the first three. What do they mean? What’s the benefit? What’s in it for me? The final one offers a bit of a benefit but the premise is not believable … especially to someone who is in marketing.

Now let’s take a look at some direct marketing book titles.

The Direct Mail Solution: A Business Owner's Guide to Building a Lead-Generating, Sales-Driving, Money-Making Direct-Mail Campaign.
Direct Marketing Doesn't Have to Make Sense, It Just Has to Make Money.
Confessions of a Direct Response Copywriter: An “Old School” Advertising Man Reveals How to Make Your Marketing Twice as Effective at Half the Cost - ... Secrets of Success in Business and in Life.

Better book titles/headlines … especially those long ones; the latter is for a Bob Bly book so it's no surprise the title is excellent.

I’m working on a book about copywriting and I’ve chosen the title based on a believable benefit. It’s based on a headline template I like to use.

So … the next time you’re in a bookstore … or your looking at a book site, take a few minutes to rate the titles/headlines. Put the good ones in your headline templates.

Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter

Gary Bencivenga and Copy Clarity. Direct Response Copywriting Email Archive 2017 3

From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.

Gary Bencivenga and Copy Clarity

Brian Kurtz still calls Gary Bencivenga the world’s #1 copywriter, even though Bencivenga is retired. Kurtz was in charge of marketing at Boardroom, one of the top direct marketing companies on the planet. Bencivenga used to write extensively for Boardroom.

I attended Kurtz’s event The Titans of Direct Marketing back in 2014. We all received, as part of the goodies, two folders of Boardroom controls, including plenty of copy from Gary Bencivenga. I’ll share some of that copy in the next few emails.

But first, let’s focus on the ad I consider one of the greatest ever written.

Click below to see it.

Focus on a couple of things here, both closely related.

First, the total clarity. I regularly see ads that are difficult to understand. This happens more often in the branding world where the copywriters are striving to be clever and impress copywriters and art directors. I regularly see headlines that have me scratching my head, wondering what the ad is actually trying to achieve. In fact, I saw an ad like that just last night when I picked up a friend from the airport. There was a big sign with a photo of a woman plus the name of the company; I'm still struggling to figure out what that company actually sells.

I even see this lack of clarity in direct response copy. Remember that we’re writing at 6th or 7th grade level. I strive to make my copy extremely clear ... so the prospect knows, with intense clarity, “when you hand over your money, here’s what you’re going to get.”

Second, the copy in the Bencivenga ad may be somewhat dense, but it’s very simple. Look at the basic “how to” headline. Look at the simple bullets. Every copywriter should strive for this clarity and simplicity. There’s no hype here and every claim is believable and backed by proof.

One more thing … check out the specificity. You see this in the headline and you see it throughout the body copy. But Bencivenga avoids having too many numbers. It’s easy to overwhelm the reader with facts and figures. There’s a balance.

This ad appeared in newspapers and magazines so it reads like an article … it’s an advertorial.

What else can you discover from this advertisement? What can you take from this ad to your copy?

Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter

Free Resources for Copywriters. Direct Response Copywriter Email Archive November 2017 1

November 2017 1

From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.

One of the Best Free Resources for Direct Response Copywriters

I'm confident you've heard of Gary Bencivenga. He only writes sporadically these days, for his olive oil company, and he's mostly retired but, until his retirement, he was the #1 direct response copywriter on the planet.

He wrote several controls for Boardroom, back when Boardroom was rocking out those powerful magalogs. He worked for other direct marketers too. He earned millions in royalties plus he charged $25,000 just to show up for a project. That’s around $50,000 in today’s money.

$50,000 a month for 12 months. Plus royalties. "You do the math." And that was 20 years ago.

I have closely studied Bencivenga’s work and I try to model my style after his style. His style is very “non-hype” and it's super-clear. The clarity of the offer is perfect and this clarity is something I strive to emulate every time I write copy.

Here’s an example of what I consider the most perfect copy I have every seen. Click here.

I met Bencivenga at the Titans of Marketing event. You can see my review of the event here.

I was having a pleasant conversation with him until three extremely rude people barged in. Don’t do that.

You can get a copy of Bencivenga’s retirement seminar DVDs for $5,000. A client bought the DVDs for me and they are superb.

Thankfully, if you don’t have $5,000 lying around in your house/apartment/office/manse, Gary published what he called “The Bencivenga Bullets.” These are totally free.

These will give you more direct response wisdom than you’ll find in 20 direct marketing books.

Here’s a link to the first one. This link will lead you to the other bullets.

If you want to learn something today, pay extremely close attention to Bencivenga's syntax.

In the next few emails, I’m going to discuss and dissect some Gary Bencivenga copy. And in the next couple of weeks, at some stage, I’m also going to obliterate an archaic old-school copywriting notion: A-Listers, B-Listers, and so on.

Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter

Free Gary Bencivenga Resources. Direct Response Copywriter Email Archive July 2017 2/3

July 2017 2/3

From the desk of Scott Martin, direct response copywriter, Aspen, Colorado.

What You Can Learn from One of the World's Top Copywriters

Is Gary Bencivenga the greatest living direct response copywriter? I'm not big, personally, on sentences containing words like "personally" and I'm not keen on rankings and the "greatest" and the like ... even though I have massive respect for the person (and people) who call Bencivenga the greatest.

In golf, is Jack Nicklaus the greatest? Tiger Woods? Bobby Jones? It's fun to debate but all three golfers are superb. But in direct response copywriting, it's not about being the greatest: the goal is generating revenue for clients. Gary generated tens of millions for his and so I follow him extremely closely ... and so can you ... for free ... I'll show you how in a minute. But I can see why Gary's clients called him "the greatest." Bencivenga brought them customers and revenue and made them seriously wealthy.

I met Gary Bencivenga at The Titans of Marketing event that Brian Kurtz organized 3 years ago. Gary was in the lobby of the venue with his wife and I introduced myself. Both Gary and his wife were extremely cordial and we were having a pleasant conversation until three extremely rude people literally pushed me out of the way to speak with Gary. I was not a happy camper.

So here’s some advice … it’s great to want to speak with someone famous but wait until they are free to speak. I have waited upwards of 15 minutes when I’ve attended an event and patience is not a strong suit. I wait out of respect for the person who is speaking to the person I’d like to meet.

By the way, if you want videos of the Titans event, click here. The best direct marketing event I've been to, by far.

What are the Gary Bencivenga character traits I admire? Here’s a short list.

  1. Competitive fire. Bencivenga wanted to be the best by beating controls, even his own.
  2. Epic copy. My all-time favorite piece of copy is by Bencivenga. You can see it here.
  3. Clarity of writing. Bencivenga, unlike Gary Halbert and his raft of imitators, sought clarity and ease of reading. Bencivenga’s writing rarely gets “disco” and rarely includes contrived metaphors and hyperventilating. I strive to reach Bencivenga’s level of pure clarity.
  4. A little bit of “hard to get-ness” without comic pomposity. I’ve tried to meet Bencivenga in person twice have been told “no.” When he was writing and he said he was booked, he was booked, and you had to request a time on his schedule. I HATE it when a copywriter writes on his/her website, “let me see if I can fit you in on my schedule” when I know they don't have much work. I don’t do the “schedule” thing even though I’m busy. My message to all potential clients is, “let’s talk about your goals and how I can help you.”
  5. Study. You can tell that Bencivenga has read everything in the direct marketing and direct response genre. Have you?
  6. Research. You can tell that Bencivenga did his homework.
  7. Being easy to work with. A colleague once worked with Bencivenga and said he was polite, pleasant, humble, and amenable.
  8. An aggressive approach. In person, Bencivenga is well-mannered. But he was aggressive about getting the work he wanted and contacting clients to get that work. I could spend hours writing about my admiration for Gary Bencivenga and I hope, one day, that I get to sit down with him … if nothing else for just a cup of coffee.

If you’re feeling flush (UK slang) then you can buy videos of his retirement seminar. They are $5,000 and a client bought them for me a few years ago. Epic wisdom. The sales copy is about 30,000 words and you can read it here. No affiliate commission for me!

But there are some free resources.

First … Bencivenga Bullets. A MUST READ for everyone in direct marketing. In just 3 hours of reading, you’ll treble your direct marketing nous. Second … this rare interview with Clayton Makepeace. Third … fresh copy from Bencivenga, who now runs his own olive oil business.

I hope you make the time to discover more about Gary Bencivenga.

Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter

Great Advice from Gary Bencivenga. Direct Response Copywriter Email Archive May 2017.

Advice from the Greatest Living Copywriter ... (not me!)

Ask many direct marketers the question “who is the top copywriter?” and you’ll get a lot of different answers.

But the top living copywriter is Gary Bencivenga. I won’t give his full bio in this email ... you can discover more about his work elsewhere at your leisure, but his work generated tens of millions for Boardroom, a company that made a point to hire the world’s top copywriters. Bencivenga was the top Boardroom copywriter based on insight from Brian Kurtz, who used to run the marketing at Boardroom. Bencivenga no longer writes copy for clients; he runs an olive oil business and writes copy for his business.

A client bought me the videos of the copywriting seminar Bencivenga ran when he officially semi-retired in 2007. I took a lot from those videos and the accompanying book but I’m going to focus on something Bencivenga said that resonates with me every day.


What exactly did Bencivenga mean? My interpretation: be selective when it comes to clients and the products and services they sell. So … if a client knocks on my door and they want to sell sunlamps in the Sahara or they have some crazy idea that only makes sense to the inventor, I might have to decline. It’s hard to write copy for a product nobody really needs or wants.

But what happens when a potential client is presenting you with a marketing challenge AND they have a large check waiting for you?

Early in my career, I accepted the challenge and the check! I wrote the copy to the best of my ability and sent the copy to the client. The client wanted copy so I gave the client copy.

Here’s a general rule of thumb. The more experienced you become, and the stronger and deeper your results, the more selective you can be. Who did Gary Bencivenga write for early in his career? I don’t have that list of clients and products but I’m certain there were some “marketing challenges” in the mix.

As Bencivenga broke records and established controls, he became more selective and wrote for companies with big lists, superb products, and the ability to pay high fees plus a healthy royalty.

Writing direct response copy is always a challenge. The reader is skeptical … you have to overcome objections … competition is fierce … budgets are tight … scammers are sadly prevalent in our space. There’s pressure to produce results for clients. Branding copywriters have it easy because there’s no accountability. Direct response copywriters must motivate the reader to buy and that's ALWAYS a challenge.

So when Bencivenga says, “don’t take on marketing challenges” he’s not talking about writing copy … that’s always hard … but his advice is “avoid bad clients” … or at least that’s how I take it.

A different type of marketing challenge is a client who is a bully and/or constantly unreasonable and rude. I won’t take on that type of challenge.

One component of great copy: it attracts the clients and customers you want and repels the clients you don’t want. The copy on my website is a conversation with the clients I know are a good fit for me. I make it clear I’m not the cheapest option and I will NOT work with scammers, spammers, and other miscreants.

And guess what? The over 600 potential clients who have contacted me in the past 4 years directly from my website have been solid leads who understand the value of direct response copy.

When I created my database of potential clients, I was careful to avoid including companies I thought would be a hassle to work with … or clients with products nobody would really want. The database includes strong direct marketing companies who value copywriters.

I just finished my first ski season as (very) part-time ski instructor.

Rookie ski instructors have to take on “instructional challenges.” Most of my students during my first year teaching were “rejects” from group lessons; these students were holding up the progress of the group. Other instructors would say, “Scott … do you see those two people over there who are upside down? They’re yours for the rest of the day … and by the way … they don’t speak a word of English.”

I happily took on the challenge. Another student, a big man, fell over constantly for two hours until he was “re-assigned” to yours truly. He didn’t fall over again that day. Again … I happily accepted the challenge of keeping this 275 pound man from smashing into the snow.

Ski instructors who have been teaching for 25 years get the top clients and get to ski the most enjoyable terrain. But it’s still a challenge for the instructor to help the student.

If you’re just starting out, there’s nothing wrong with taking on clients who present marketing challenges … provided there’s a healthy fee. I would not take on scammers just because they have a budget. This will usually end in tears … but when you have a list of results and a great portfolio, you can take Gary Bencivenga’s wonderful advice and avoid marketing challenges. You'll get to that point.

Scott Martin Direct Response Copywriter