December 3, 2023

I received this email from someone in my online family this past week:

I know you started off as a list manager.

Do you know of or maybe you have a course on how to pick or segment lists?

All the great copywriters agree this is the most important part.

I can find a lot of stuff on copywriting but I don’t know where to go to learn list management or selection.

This is one of those emails that has as much between the lines as the lines themselves.

First, he knew I was a “list manager” back in the day (it was my first job in direct marketing) …a job title that has had many variations and descriptions since I held it in 1981.

That tells me we are probably talking the same language.

Awareness is the first step towards a relationship.

Then he shows his curiosity by asking about educational opportunities regarding the most important component of the “three-legged stool of direct response marketing” (List/Offer/Copy and Creative).

On that, he is preaching to the converted.

He is now two for two…and has qualified as someone I want to help as much as I can.

And he is three for three when he says all the “great” copywriters agree with this premise, that lists are the most important part of any promotion.

What he didn’t say is that too many copywriters fail to become great when they ignore this premise.

They run the risk of becoming commoditized…copywriters rather than “copymarketers.”

A “copymarketer” isn’t reading his or her press clippings but rather doing the research necessary to combat the fact that copy and creative are nothing without an audience and an offer.

If you are an “aspiring-to-be-great-copywriter,” I encourage you to read on.

If you are already great, you will still pick up something useful.

And if you are not a copywriter at all, there are lessons for you too.

If you have been reading these Sunday missives for any length of time you know this to be true from the “41/39/20 Rule” to “Copy is the least important element of any promotion…until it’s not.”

There is a simpler way to say it:

It’s the list, stupid. 🙂

Back to the inquiry from my eager student above…because I had some answers for him.

Of course, my first recommendation for the kind of learning he is looking for is to join my Titans Xcelerator Mastermind…certainly self-serving…but with justification.

Given that I was born a “list guy,” there are many “list guys and gals” inside Titans.

Dare I say “list savants.”

It makes sense: I’ve preached “who you are looking for is you” in many different ways (as I did in this 20 minute video), with a nod of attribution to Dan Sullivan.

That doesn’t mean I am looking for sycophants and clones; rather I am always looking for the greatest and bestest at everything…because that is what will make me the greatest and bestest…and it so happens that all of the members of Titans Xcelerator, copywriters and non-copywriters alike, have been convinced that lists are people too.

And the most important piece of the marketing pie.

Since I didn’t expect this student to immediately shell out $2,000 to join Titans, I still wanted to satisfy his need to find the ultimate course or video to learn the basics of list selection and segmentation.

And I had just the thing for him.

Based on being a student of lists in my very early days, I developed a 2-day course, “Where Do Lists Come From…and it’s not from the stork” …which morphed into a methodology to become the best list finder and tester possible.

Which led to an article I was interviewed for by a trade magazine in 1996 with the title:

Data Cards: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

And while the article was written about lists used for direct mail, there are so many parallels to how lists and media are bought today.

It was a perfect first bite for my inquisitive copywriter so I shared it with him…and see below as I share it with you too.

Dan Kennedy and I are of one mind when it comes to “offline marketing in an online world” (because we discussed it with my Titans Mastermind when he came as a guest).

Here is how I express Dan’s thesis:

Offline marketing in an online world is not about old news dying on the vine; it’s a differentiator as important as any other because fewer and fewer people are paying attention to it.

It’s not as sexy as online marketing…but it is an “and” (not an “or”) like no other.

Of course the definition of “sexy” varies from marketer to marketer too. 🙂

In addition, everything offline is based on bedrock direct response principles, which can uncover new opportunities everywhere…yes, including online.

If you don’t know what a “data card” is…or a list manager for that matter…I suggest you read my post from 2017, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” for the background and history about how I navigated the jungle of mailing lists and became the best list manager of all time…well, in my own mind at least. 🙂

If you know what a data card and a list manager are, you can jump to the advanced course…the article that appeared in Target Marketing Magazine…in 1996…reprinted in 2005.

In it, I break down everything that makes up a list…that is, how it is “created,” how it responds (based on how it is created), breaking down the source of the list, how RFM plays into everything…and much more.

As a sidebar you can also read, “How you sell is how they respond.”

And, “The currency of time.”

All of these concepts are core principles inside the pages of Overdeliver.

I hope you will see how everything is still relevant in the “advanced course” despite being written in the Jurassic Period of direct response marketing.

Here is the cover of the publication featuring the article…I know, it’s not People Magazine…but it’s one of the few 15 minutes of fame I’ve experienced over the past 40 years:

You can read the entire article here in a PDF…note that there were pictures in the actual article…so this version will be a lot more boring in terms of design.

But the content is the content…and it is still relevant.

Kind of like Breakthrough Advertising still being 100% relevant despite being written in 1966.

I encourage you to connect the dots from “guilty data cards becoming innocent” …to guilty online lists and media needing to become innocent using much of the same criteria.

Hint: There’s work involved…you will need to ask more questions.

But I know you are all good at that.

And, you don’t have time to look at pictures anyway…you have lists to select and segment. 🙂



P.S. Next year in Titans Xcelerator we’re going to be offering a few different “working cohorts.”

These cohorts will run for 5 – 8 weeks and each one will focus on implementing a specific idea or concept.

The question above about list selection and segmentation has me thinking about putting together a “List Building Cohort.”

This would be specifically designed to help you attract the right people to your list using the right series of offers.

Our focus would be on quality of leads, not just quantity.

I’m curious, is that something you would be interested in?

Just email me with a “yes” …and any specific aspects of list selection or segmentation you’d like me to cover.

You’ll be able to attend any of these cohorts even if you’re not a Titans Xcelerator member for a small fee.

The idea feels right up my alley but I’d like to get a sense of how many of you would be interested in working together to build a high quality list for your business.

Would you hit reply and let me know?

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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