July 8, 2014

Don’t let Gary Bencivenga fool you into thinking that he’s simply the nicest man in the world (which he is).

He is warm, charming, smart and a joy to be around.

And when he said he would speak at my “Titans of Direct Response” conference after saying some years ago that he would never speak again publicly after his landmark  “Bencivenga 100” event, I definitely saw the soft underbelly of the man I call the world’s top living copywriter.

But just try to beat one of his controls and Gary will behave like a mother lion protecting her young. 🙂

He is absolutely the fiercest competitor in the copywriting world (ever) and it’s why in his prime, no one wanted to write a package to try to beat one of his controls.

Most couldn’t anyway.

In addition, he made sure that before anyone else tried to beat him, he would first try to beat himself regardless of the level of success of that new control.

And if he didn’t beat himself the first time, it was only the beginning…he never stopped trying.

And watch out if he was trying to beat YOUR control!

With a formula like that, it’s not surprising that he rarely lost.

Gary clearly subscribed to the Vince Lombardi philosophy:

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”

There were years at Boardroom when our highest priced “employee” never showed up at the office…Gary was at home,  collecting royalties for blockbuster winners…and thinking about how to beat those blockbuster winners with bigger winners.

When people asked me if that bothered us, Marty and I would simply say, “No…just the opposite.”

Our credo: “If he’s making that much can you imagine how much WE are making?”

And how much would we be mailing had he not written that package which beat all comers by a wide margin?

The answer:  “Millions fewer…”

I tell you this not to brag about Gary or to talk about our direct mail successes.

I tell you this to illustrate some critical concepts to building a direct marketing business for the long haul:

1) Being a cheapskate with your copy and creative is a huge mistake…and feeling bad because a copywriter “makes too much money” is shortsighted. It’s also thinking scarcity, not abundance.

2) If your copywriters aren’t hungrier than you are, don’t hire them. This notion that copywriting and developing creative is easy is pure nonsense…and don’t believe what you read about the toughest “job” for a copywriter being how well they can count their money while hanging out at their beach house in the south of France

3) The day you get a new control package/winning promotion is the day you need to start thinking about how you are going to beat it. That’s advice for copywriters and marketers alike.

Planning this “Titans” event got me thinking about so many things…how I got to this place as a serial direct marketer and who were the game changers for me and so many others in direct marketing.

Most importantly, I started exploring how the Titans really became Titans.

Nothing happens by accident…and being tenacious in all you do and never being the smartest person in the room will get you far.

That seems to be the core of the formula.

Hope to see you in September…if you are there, you will hear heroic stories of “marketing tenaciousness” throughout the two days; and I guarantee that you will not be the smartest person in the room.

Interestingly, with the caliber of people speaking and attending, no one will be the smartest person in the room! 🙂

I love it when that happens.



P.S. I wrote about the “Bencivenga 100” a few weeks back and shared some lessons learned from it…before Gary told me he would speak at “Titans“…if you missed that one, you can read it here.

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

  1. Hi Brian,
    Hope you’re doing well.we met some years ago
    at Kennedy event in St Louis where you spoke.
    My Question is this:
    I understand the importance of of copywriters and want to understand how to choose the right one.
    But, even with the best copy who does the copywriter turn to find which direct mail list or which niche magazine to place copy?
    Do most copywriters pass on what I think is a critical component for savvy biz owners?
    I understand that there’s trial and error in finding the right mail list or niche magazine, but am I wrong that this can become costly investment?
    Thoughts and comments appreciated.
    Joe Dadich

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