February 10, 2019

This post is in two parts…kind of like “the card” and then “the gift.”

And be polite—read the card first! 🙂


Part one: Share the love 

I love Valentine’s Day.

I would have included a heart emoji above but I don’t know how to do that in this email delivery system.

Next week we will talk about sharing the love with better technology.

I love “V Day” because it’s one of those “holidays” where it’s all about love…which to me is the kissing cousin of being grateful for all the wonderful people in our lives.

Truth be told, I should be a Hallmark stockholder on February 14th…I send cards to every female relative in my life (plus my nephew who my daughter and I dressed up as a girl when he was 5–he’s in his 20’s now–and I know he hates getting a Valentine’s Card from his Uncle B).

Now that’s what I call “tough love!”

Also–Valentine’s Day is the birthday of the most influential personal and business mentor to me, Marty Edelston, who passed away in 2013.

He is with me every day and twice on Valentine’s Day.

And he’s a big part of my new book,Overdeliver, since he’s the guy who taught me how to over deliver.

It is no accident that the most generous man with the biggest heart in the world was born on February 14th.

To celebrate his life five years ago (almost to the day), I started this weekly email.

At that time it was so influential, reaching dozens of friends and relatives who felt sorry for me that I didn’t have a weekly blog.

Today my online family has grown to where I might even need a decent size hockey arena to fit all of you—not large by today’s standards–but definitely a small but mighty family.

Thank you for being part of this journey.

Marty often said, “You only go through life once so you might as well be the world’s best”–so I share that with you today as you share the love with everyone in your life, being the world’s best friend, relative, business partner or associate…and being the best at everything you do.

And the quote that I shared to kick off this weekly missive five years ago was this one from my good friend, author and internationally known speaker, Sean Stephenson:


“I love everyone because as soon as I don’t love you, you own me”


The lesson from this quote is simple:

When we spend our energy not loving someone, we willingly hand over our power (and more than likely, our confidence) to them.

But if we work on eliminating the things in ourselves that keep us from loving others, what’s left is just love and gratefulness (and more confidence).

So now make it an awesome Valentine’s Day.


Part two: “The ethical bribe”

OK…you read the card…here’s my gift (and there are a bunch of gifts coming).

I’ll start with a shocker:


Using bonuses and premiums is an idea that was not invented by an online marketer.  


Believe it or not, bonuses and premiums have been part of the best direct response offers since the beginning of time.

In his “31 Rules of Thumb,” direct mail guru Dick Benson devoted two of those 31 to this concept alone (and remember he did his thing before the Internet):

#12 “Dollar for dollar, premiums are better incentives than cash discounts”  

#17 “Two premiums are frequently better than one”  


Digital delivery has made these rules even more powerful. And online delivery has made it easier for us as marketers to offer more premiums and bonuses without adding to our costs.

For those of you who have been doing this for as long as I have, you will agree when I say that this has been awesome for all old school direct marketers.

Giving away our best stuff digitally is so liberating.

The inspiration for talking about this topic today (I have spoken about it before) is twofold.

First, I am in the middle of working on a resource page/web site for my new bookOverdeliver and you will be the first to be able to access it when it’s completed.

It contains 11 (which is “one more than 10” for fans of the movie This is Spinal Tap) hard-to-find and exclusive bonuses just for buying my book through the site.

I’ll just tease it now by telling you that among the 11 bonuses will be:

-Over 6 hours of never before released to the public video from what Dan Kennedy called “The Event of the Decade, (which was called Titans of Direct Response in 2014)

-Two PDF’s of entire out-of-print classic marketing books not readily available anywhere

-A swipe file for the ages featuring the best promotions from the best copywriters talked about in Overdeliver (copywriters I worked directly with over my almost 40 years in direct marketing)

-Interviews with some of the greatest marketers who have ever lived

And yes, there’s more. This list goes to 11, one more than 10.

The second reason I wanted to talk about ethical bribes today is to repeat my take on this critical concept with specific examples– and also to repeat an offer I made a couple of years ago (full of ethical bribes of course).

I was on the phone this past week with Scott Harrison the man who built one of the most influential charities in the world(charity:water) and he will be a guest speaker at the next Titans Mastermind meeting in May.

More on Scott and charity:water in a minute.

Let’s talk first about how Benson’s two rules of thumb on premiums (which can be defined for today’s purposes as “ethical bribes”) apply universally.

When you are sitting in a brainstorming meeting cooking up irresistible offers (regardless of the medium), you should never leave the room until you spend a considerable amount of time talking about what bonuses and premiums will be part of those offers.

That might sound obvious but let’s dive deeper using the two “Benson Rules of Thumb.”

Premiums are better incentives than cash discounts

When you are selling and marketing to an audience who you know and love (and who knows and loves you), you want to always treat them like family.

Giving them a discount is nice…but giving away more of what they love about you will always have a higher perceived value than cash…especially in a direct marketing environment.

That’s not to say that cash or early bird discounts or discounts on multiple orders are not effective inside of your best offers (and those should be tested rigorously); but offering more of the material they came to you for in the first place is where the offer becomes much more irresistible.

Let me add my own corollary to Benson’s rule here:

“If your audience is buying information (e.g. editorial content), premiums that are “additional information” (e.g. editorial content) are better than “hard premiums” (e.g. hard goods, gifts)

The core audience of the company I helped build, Boardroom Inc. (which published books and newsletters for affluent consumers), were “information junkies” of the highest order.

Because of that, we always had our biggest successes offering additional content as premiums.

Our subscribers and book buyers couldn’t get enough of our stuff.

We often joked that we sold our content by the pound.

And when we tried to simply add in a calculator, a magnifying glass or the hottest new gadget that we could offer that cost us less than $5, those offers never did as well as when we just kept giving them more free content related to the topics they were most passionate about.

Irony: The stuff they wanted most (e.g. books, special reports, pamphlets, information) not only worked better in terms of creating higher response rates, but those kinds of premiums were much cheaper to produce and fulfill than more expensive hard goods.

That’s even truer today when the content is digital (and for the most part free to fulfill)  and the hard goods are not.

One exception occurred with our Tax Hotline newsletter. The control package for that publication offered a calculator as a free bonus with a subscription…but even there, the calculator by itself as a premium was never a winner. The best package was always some version of the calculator along with a 200 page special report on new tax law (or some other additional special report or book).


Interesting that when we removed only the calculator from the offer we had better results than when we removed only the special report.


Having both was best but we wanted to know how each premium was pulling its weight.

We always did “single variable testing” to make sure we knew precisely which element(s) were lifting response and profit.

Conclusion: The editorial premium was much more important to the offer than the calculator to this audience.

And maybe even more important, if we just had the calculator, my guess is that the lifetime value of new subscribers coming in on an offer like that (i.e. without an editorial premium) would be lower.

That is, we would run the risk of the offer looking more like only a “bribe” rather than a “bonus”; and  we would also run the risk of attracting new subscribers who were only interested in the free calculator (”tire kickers”) rather  than potential long term subscribers.

While the calculator was part of a winning offer, it was BOTH the calculator and special report that was the best offer.

Lesson: Understanding your audience and how you can be super generous and still create the highest lifetime value, with the highest upfront response on the initial offer, should be your goal as you construct offers with lots of bonuses and premiums.


Two premiums are frequently better than one

I’ll add on to Benson’s rule of thumb here too:

“Two premiums are better than one; four are better than two; 50 are better than four; 100 are better than 50”

You get the idea.

Benson stopped at “two” because he was a direct mail guy who always had printing and postage costs on his mind.

I think it’s safe to say that Benson would have also loved the lower cost of digital content.

Case history: We had an offer for an annual book called, The Bottom Line Yearbook and our copywriter created a new package with 2 ( two) “special reports” (and yes, they had to be printed on paper and sent in the mail). I know that makes you digital folks break out in hives.

When that worked, we created 4 (four) special reports under the copywriter’s direction.

When that became the new control, we created 50 special reports with each one being approximately 2 pages in length, on 50 specific topics we knew our readers were most interested in.

To keep our costs down, when we fulfilled this premium, we had the 50 premiums printed and bound into one 100+ page book.

The offer then revolved around the “50 special reports” much more than theYearbook itself; and every report title was listed and described in the promotion, creating many more entry points for potential readers and buyers.

Once that became a huge winner for us, and the fact that our copywriter was no dummy, the next test became 100 special reports as the premium (in a single bound book of 200+ pages).

If we could offer 100 bonus reports (printed on paper!)  in a direct mail package and make it pay out (which we did), I encourage you to think bigger and bolder regarding your premiums and bonuses when you construct your offers.

Some version of that package was the control for years…my guess is that it still is…and the printing and fulfillment didn’t cost a lot more compared to the cost when we had only two special reports.

It got even more economical when we created the online version of that promotion and 100 special reports cost the same to fulfill as two.

That’s why I am so excited about this “digital content thing”—I believe it will eventually catch on.

This reminds of a funny quote from a coach I worked with who was helping me prepare a speech.

My PowerPoint slides had way too much copy on them and he encouraged me to take my 20 slides and turn them into around 50 slides with only one image or only a few words on each slide.

He said:

“Slides are free!”


I titled part two of this post “The ethical bribe” for a reason…even though I haven’t even hinted at anything that could be construed as “unethical” in the examples.

I love bribes that are used for good and not evil.

Creating premiums and bonuses for your  family (i.e. your  list) is always about giving them more of what they want, not just giving them “more free stuff” to get them to say yes the first time. And when it’s the “right stuff,” they will stay in your family a lot longer.

I also always found it fascinating that our best offers always emphasized the premiums and bonuses above the main product being sold.

In direct marketing, if you can make all the free stuff worth more than what folks would pay for just the core product, selling the core product becomes that much easier.

I wrote in my afterword to the new edition of the classic, Breakthrough Advertising, that human behavior has not changed since Gene Schwartz penned his classic book in 1966…and frankly, human behavior hasn’t changed since 1066…or even way before that.


Another simpler way to say this is to quote Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas), who was the lead character in the movie Wall Street. Gekko famously said, “Greed is good.”

In direct marketing, it is especially good when your existing and potential customer’s greed matches your ability to make them customers for life with an offer that is ethical, robust and relevant (and full of awesome bonuses).






P.S. I want to appeal to your greed right now…and use that greed to encourage you do something that will make you feel so great as you share the love on Valentine’s Day.

There are ethical bribes involved (i.e. more gifts for you) so please read on and participate.

I mentioned that one of the incentives to repeat this concept about ethical bribes today was my call with Scott Harrison, the innovator and world changer behind charity:water.


Scott is the hero who started this noble mission which is an organization dedicated to bringing clean water to everyone on the planet.


Like you, I give to many charities…many of which focus on a single disease that has hit someone in our families or circle of friends…and often just something that moves us in bigger ways.

When you think about how many diseases or causes of death can be eliminated by simply making sure everyone has clean water to drink, an organization like charity:water is one of those missions that is so easy to get behind…it’s kind of an “Uber Charity.”


I also love charity:water because 100% of the money donated is used to bring clean water to people around the world. That is, they have a completely separate fundraising division that finances the overhead of the organization. 


I’ve decided to only support charities using this model going forward.

And if you join me today, I have five (5) ethical bribes for you, which as you learned earlier, would be more than if I offered you only two. 🙂

I met some of the amazing people who fund the overhead for charity:water (this special group is called “The Well”)…and they are some of the most heart centered entrepreneurs and business people you will ever meet…many of whom are quite famous, names you would know (but I don’t think they want their names mentioned–they are not about the publicity).

But to repeat: Every dollar donated by folks like us builds wells and/or brings clean water to places where people are constantly sick (and dying) because all they have access to is contaminated water. 


Scott set up a page just for me (and you), my fellow Titans, to give you more details on this one-of-a-kind organization…and the video on this page tells such a compelling story.


And the page also makes it easy for you personally to bring clean water to places around the world that need it most.

Please watch the video here and I encourage you to set up a monthly donation.

I hope you will join me in donating any amount you can on a monthly basis.

Many of you have already donated to this monthly giving program in the past which they call “The Spring” (thank you!) and today I would like to encourage many more of you to contribute for Valentine’s Day…and for the 5 ethical bribes too.


For a monthly donation of any amount, I will send you the following:

1) The best summary of Breakthrough Advertising ever written by marketing genius Rich Schefren: While I want you all to buy the book, Rich has written what I believe is the best summary on the most important book on copy, marketing and human behavior ever written. It’s way more than Rich letting us know that “Greed is good.”

2) Titans and Tweets: This is a 136 page priceless document which was put together by direct response marketing pioneer (and Titan himself), Ken McCarthy.

During the landmark Titans of Direct Response event in 2014, Ken wrote (and then tweeted) as many of the gems as he could–during the event– from the most amazing lineup of speakers ever assembled in one place.

There are hundreds of rules of thumb in this document.

3) “Titans Collection” from Jay Abraham: This is a 100+ page document that another Titan (and one of my mentors) put together–which came as a surprise to me.


Jay took 22 of my past blog posts (his personal favorites) on a variety of subjects and put them into one document…and since he thought it was worthwhile to gift this document to his tribe, who am I to argue that it might be worthwhile reading for you too?

Hope you can get some useful tidbits from my writing, especially if you are new to my online family.

And I know not all of you open my emails every Sunday (sigh).

Note: One of the 11 bonuses with my new book will be posts that I have written since the completion of the manuscript…”The Lost Chapters” of Overdeliver…inspired by Jay’s “Titans Collection.”

Jay has also contributed to the Overdeliverresource page with “2 items of the 11”: One is a course that is the most definitive collection of his lifetime of work; and the other is an audio file of “21 keynote speeches” he has given over the years (“Jay Abraham Live”).

But those are ethical bribes for another day.

4) 5,500 of the greatest headlines ever:  This is something else Jay put together–a personal collection/compilation of the best headlines he could find…anywhere and everywhere.

These headlines are applicable to any medium.

It’s also a swipe file that will prevent you from ever having writer’s block as you think of your next great headline, subject line or lead for a sales letter.

5) Dick Benson’s 31 Rules of Thumb…don’t you need the other 29? I’ve got them for you in one nifty Word Document.


To receive all of these gifts, go to this special page and watch the video…and once you donate, just email me back here and put “ethical bribe” in the subject line.


I will send the 5 bonuses above (immediately) to you.

I am looking forward to sending out these ethical bribes to everyone who donates.

Please donate here.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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