While going through some videos in my archives, I came across one from a couple of years ago sent to me from a member of my online family.
The video is a discussion starring baseball superstars Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds talking about the art and science of hitting a baseball.
Just the fact that it was sent to me is proof positive that having an online family who is interested and not just interesting pays off—since this “family member” is interested in the fact that I love baseball–making this family the gift that keeps on giving.
But I’m not sure he expected me to relate the video to marketing.
Or maybe he did since he knows me like family. 🙂
Since I’ve written before about how baseball imitates life in so many ways…and I’ve also written about marketing not being everything but the only thing…I’ll link baseball and marketing once again for baseball fans and non-baseball fans alike.
If you don’t want to watch all the “inside baseball geekiness” in the video about hitting a baseball (it’s about 20 minutes long), skip to the 12-minute mark where Rodriguez and Bonds share some insights on becoming a “complete hitter.”
And if you don’t want to watch any of the video, that’s OK too…because as long as you keep reading, I’ll share two takeaways I found most meaningful, one from inside the video and one I thought of after watching the video:
1. How we can become “complete hitters” (i.e., “complete marketers”)
2. How we can earn a “double white belt” (in anything…with an emphasis on how it works in marketing)
Being a complete hitter
The late Clayton Makepeace, one of the all-time greats of copywriting and marketing, published an iconic online newsletter/blog/email (often with interviews) which he called “The Total Package.”
I’ve got a link to all of his past issues which I will share with you in a future post…stay tuned.
There are many meanings we can take from the title (phrase) “the total package”…and I’m sure Clayton thought of all of them.
There’s a micro/non-personal meaning (i.e., creating a particular package or promotion is bigger than any one element) …and a macro/personal meaning when we refer to the craft of the individual creating copy and marketing (i.e., that it’s more than writing sales letters or planning a campaign to become a “total package” yourself).
With apologies to Clayton, I’ll talk about “the total package” as it pertains to baseball players first…but I promise to bring it back to copywriters and marketers.
If you don’t know what’s happening in baseball today in regard to hitting, I will simplify it for you (which is discussed in the aforementioned video):
The hitters coming into the league today are being taught “launch angle” (i.e., “swinging up,” or a way to hit more home runs).
Bonds has a different angle (pun intended)…it’s detailed in the video…and he’s got the street cred for you to pay attention (if you are into this sort of thing).
Steroids or not, Barry Bonds was the most feared hitter in baseball when he played…so feared that a manager of an opposing team once intentionally walked him with the bases loaded (forcing in a run—unheard of)–but that was better than him driving in multiple runs with a hit (or a home run).
He finished his career with 762 home runs (and don’t tell me how many you think were steroids induced because we can still agree that he was as good a home run hitter as anybody in history). Can’t we?
But the difference with Bonds is that he also batted close to .300 (actually .298) which is a particular measuring stick for a great hitter…but not as revered as it once was with an emphasis today on hitting home runs.
Note for those who don’t know anything about baseball: Batting .300 (or getting 3 hits for every 10 at bats) emphasizes how difficult it is to hit a baseball…when achieving that number is considered excellence, the top of the game.
762 home runs is not too shabby either…but to do both is rare.
Also note: In marketing, 3 out of 10 successful promotions may be pretty good too depending on the circumstances…and how much you spend on each one. More on the marketing angle in a minute. 🙂
Bottom line: You don’t have to hit home runs every time to become a hall-of-famer in baseball…or marketing.
In marketing, like baseball, hitting home runs seems to be the goal more often than not…however, I maintain that a .300 average (with occasional home runs) might be a better formula.
It leads to more cumulative success…marketing stamina…and longevity.
An example would be a one-hit wonder product/home run vs. a product with renewability, continuity, consistency and higher lifetime value.
Emphasizing launch angle in baseball is akin to creating a “product” that you think is a “business” in marketing…but the risk of it fizzling out much faster is much higher.
Another interesting angle (pun intended again) is something that Bonds says in the interview about changes he would make if he was playing today…and note that it’s coming from the all-time home run leader.
With all the “shifts” being employed today in baseball (a new phenomenon where teams put multiple fielders on one side of the field and leave fewer on the other side, to compensate where the hitter is expected to hit the ball), Bonds said he would adapt by becoming a different hitter (i.e., giving up some home runs for batting average).
Bonds said, “I would bunt more often [hit a ball softly on the infield where the fielders are not situated] until I hit .400.”
The fielders would then need to adapt to him rather than him adapting to them…and you can see how this philosophy could relate to marketing.
One way would be to avoid copycat marketing…and steal smart instead. (There’s a way to do that in the P.S. of this post)
Another might be to always differentiate your message and offer no matter what the media environment is throwing at you.
I’m sure you can think of many more examples.
In baseball today, it’s all about hitting home runs—even if you bat .250 or less—and the definition of a “the total package/complete hitter” has changed.
But Rodriguez and Bonds make the case that the real measure of a complete hitter is when you do whatever is necessary to combine home runs with runs scored and runs batted in (RBI’s)…and batting average.
Note: For those of you who know nothing about baseball, when you score more runs than the other team you win. By any means necessary. It’s pretty straightforward.
Back to marketing:
It’s still about writing the “home run sales letter” but one that has staying power (i.e., “a .300 average”) to go with it.
Cross sells, upsells, pop ups, opt ins etc. are where the staying power begins…but it doesn’t end there.
It’s also about taking the home run sales letter and not resting on its initial success…by building on it…incrementally…to create, through effective testing, additional “hits” (none of which need to be home runs).
That is, blockbuster or not, you’ve got to innovate with additional great leads, headlines, subject lines—through constant testing—and the real magic happens when you combine those copy changes with innovating your offers, premiums and all the other supporting content (e.g., memberships, subscriptions etc.) that makes for a winner over the long haul.
I think we could call that the total package?
Or maybe a complete (heavy) hitter? 🙂
The Double White Belt
I might be taking a little poetic license here—excuse me if I do (and feel free to correct me)—but I have surveyed quite a few black belts in various martial arts and many have told me it’s true.
And since it works for my thesis here, that’s good enough for me. 🙂
Most of the martial arts have belts to mark achievement—usually from white (beginner) to black (expert)—and lots of colors in-between.
I’m a geek about baseball but not the martial arts…obviously.
But in some martial arts circles, after you achieve your black belt (or 10th degree black belt?), you get a white belt again.
I’ll call it your “double white belt” after coming up empty on The Google.
I interpret the double white belt like this:
Now that you can kill someone with the touch of your hand (i.e., you’ve achieved mastery with your black belt), you have a moral responsibility to keep a “beginners’ mentality” and to never forget the basics and where you came from.
And that you understand that you now have a responsibility that you won’t use lethal techniques until absolutely necessary…and never for evil.
Also: Now that you did it, you have an obligation to teach it (nod to Jay Abraham).
What Barry Bonds is doing in the video is teaching from his double white belt.
Richard Viguerie does the same thing.
Who is Richard Viguerie?
He is a direct marketer who pioneered and invented political direct marketing and fundraising; and today, in his mid-80’s, he not only works every day practicing and improving his craft, but he attacks everything from a student’s mindset.
And he teaches his wisdom (which is substantial, accumulated with compound interest, over 6 decades) to anyone who asks…and some who don’t (but should).
I would award him a “triple white belt” after achieving multiple black belts in direct response marketing–and thank goodness for all of us he took on this noble obligation.
I had him speak multiple times at my Titans Mastermind (and he eventually became a member).
You can read what he shared in 2019 about “The Four Horseman of Marketing.”
To take it one step further, I’m sure Richard could take many of his secrets and teach them to folks who could use them for evil…but of course he doesn’t.
The black belt who becomes a double (or triple) white belt understands the responsibility—and integrity–of owning all of those belts.
In short, I encourage all of you to become complete hitters and double white belts…which includes hitting home runs and still hitting for a high batting average…and never forgetting where you came from.
P.S. In honor of the two complete hitters/double white belts mentioned above–Clayton Makepeace and Richard Viguerie—I want to introduce another one to you.
Interesting to note: Clayton and Richard were great friends.
Success leaves clues.
Or…complete hitters and double white belts stick together. 🙂
World class copywriter Jim Rutz was a complete hitter cut from a different mold…because he always swung for the fences (i.e., he would always go for the home run with his packages) …but when he struck out (i.e., failed miserably), he quickly adapted to the environment.
Sort of like Barry Bonds if he had to hit into a shift.
They both would just innovate even more.
Rutz was a double white belt cut from a different mold too (I maintain he broke the mold)—because his writing style was virtually “unteachable”; yet his mindset, behavior and the way he attacked every project is easy to emulate if you look for the signs hidden in plain sight.
That’s why I created Read This or Die: The Lost Files of Jim Rutz…which is much more than a swipe file from one of the greatest writers and minds who ever lived in direct marketing.
You need to study Jim Rutz to truly understand him.
And he’s worth understanding, despite his eclectic and often bizarre writing style.
Correction: He’s worth understanding because of his eclectic and often bizarre writing style.
He’s top of mind for me today because of the post above; but also because two of the best writers in email marketing and social media marketing, Ben Settle and Harlan Kilstein, recently promoted Read This or Die, complete hitters and double white bets in their own right…which tells me it’s worth promoting here too.
The product is 200+ of successful (and not-so-successful) promotions Jim wrote throughout his career…and you will learn as much from the winners as you will from the losers.
That was Jim being a complete hitter.
But there’s a lot more to this product than just his complete works.
There are interviews, letters to and from Jim’s mentors and mentees…and even a special video of me (a mentee) reflecting on Jim with two other complete hitters/double white belts (and mentees), David Deutsch and John Carlton, all of us influenced profoundly by “Sensei Rutz.”
If you buy this collection, you’ll own the complete “works” of Jim Rutz…both literally and philosophically.
Simply put, you will learn what made this genius/madman tick…and you can adapt the swipes and other resources within it to any copywriting or marketing project you embark on…now and for the rest of your career.
Check it out here (even if you don’t want to buy it).
You owe it to yourself to read about another legendary complete hitter with a double white belt. 🙂