June 25, 2023

Today’s post will bring two concepts together which fascinate me:

  1. When to do something with serendipitous data (i.e., occurring or discovering by chance in a happy or beneficial way)

  2. When to do nothing with serendipitous data

The question is whether to exploit (in a marketing context) something positive, which was received unexpectedly…or just sit back and enjoy the ride.

I have examples of both situations from my career.

Breakthrough Advertising, the masterpiece written by Renaissance Man turned copywriter, Gene Schwartz, has become a global phenomenon.

When Gene wrote the book in 1966, it was considered by the marketing and copywriting community an instant classic…but there was no distribution and the book became, in the decades that followed, a lost classic.

Amazon and eBay have used copies available (now and in the past) at ridiculous prices…as much as $1,000 or more…and they sell at those prices not knowing it is now available at a more reasonable price (from me).

The story on that: When I was working at Boardroom Inc for over 34 years, we had the rights to reprint the book (Boardroom’s founder Marty Edelston and Gene Schwartz were friends and partners…you can read more about their relationship and Gene’s philosophies here) …but we thought it was too small a niche to justify printing it in any significant quantities.

We printed in “batches” of 250 and gave it away to our friends and colleagues in the direct marketing industry.

Some of those unfortunately resurfaced on Amazon and eBay. 🙂

Fast forward to 2015…when I left Boardroom and formed my current company, Titans Marketing.

I approachedGene’s wife Barbara (Gene had since passed) …made the case that I was the perfect shepherd for Gene’s books…and signed an agreement with her to give me the exclusive rights to sell both Breakthrough Advertising and The Brilliance Breakthrough (Gene’s “other lost classic”…even more lost than Breakthrough Advertising). Click on the title to read the foreword to the Titans Marketing edition…which describes its scarcity and why it was so important to republish.

We never imagined the appetite for these books– from marketers and copywriters all over the world–to the tune of 10,000+ books sold to date (and counting) …and in over 60 countries (and counting).

That’s quite a “niche.”

With all of this “worldwide circulation,” receiving correspondence (and not simply orders) with an international flavor, has been the most rewarding byproduct of reprinting Breakthrough Advertising.

The Spanish copywriter who came out of nowhere to overdeliver

One of those international pieces of “serendipitous correspondence” that deserved my utmost attention was from a Spanish blogger.

(And I just thought of a young Brazilian copywriter with a swipe file of 16,000 promotions who deserved my attention as well…who I will tell you about in the P.S.)

Back to Spain…

A couple of years ago I was handed some data regarding a Spanish copywriting training site that was responsible for referring a huge amount of organic traffic for Breakthrough Advertising…resulting in many buyers over a short period of time…without any preplanning on my part, or knowledge of the site, or setting up an affiliate link.

The fact that I don’t dabble very often in affiliate marketing didn’t prevent the site, Soy Copywriter, from endorsing the book with a link back to me that triggered so much interest from Spanish speaking copywriters who are bilingual.

I can’t speak to the claims they make, including that they have, “…the proven way to make a living from writing and creating a life for you through copywriting (even if you have no previous experience in digital marketing, sales or advertising).”

However, the many positive comments and videos on the site about their student’s results make them credible…and recommending Breakthrough Advertising makes them more credible. 🙂

And they aren’t alone.

People like my good friend Ramit Sethi (“I Will Teach You To Be Rich”) and new friend, Derek Johanson (CopyHour), among many others, have recommended Breakthrough Advertising to their online families with no promise (or even a request) to share in any compensation…and I even had to find out from others that they were recommending it.

Their goals align with mine: To share the most valuable marketing and copywriting resources, materials, and books with our respective tribes whether we make money on those recommendations or not.

And despite not exchanging cash, there is priceless value gained on both sides of these relationships.

But you need to acknowledge them…more on that in a minute.

My good friend Michael Fishman said this about the concept Lifetime Value (which is relevant here):

The term “lifetime value” [LTV] is about what you can GET from the customer [mostly in terms of money or something quantitative].

[A better definition]: To indicate value to and for the customer for as long as you have them, which restores congruence.

While I never thought of LTV solely as a “calculation” inside of what Michael goes on to call “marketing economics,” the fact is that most marketers only think of Lifetime Value that way.

But since Life is Long, so too are the monetary and non-monetary calculations of Lifetime Value.

Back to Soy Copywriter …whose founder, Javi Pastor, was probably blindsided by my email letting him know about the organic traffic he was sending to me.

Not only because he wasn’t expecting anything in return for recommending the most important book on copywriting ever written (as a service to his online family) …but also because I don’t think he speaks English all that well (i.e., Soy Copywriter is a copywriting training program for the Spanish speaking world).

No matter. The language of copywriting has no boundaries or borders.

Nor does Breakthrough Advertising.

His English-speaking assistant responded to my email with a polite, “we don’t understand what you want from us” (my words) …and that the referrals were a result of a launch they did…to which I responded:

I am not looking for anything from you but a lifelong friendship, a reciprocal acknowledgment of our obvious synergies…and to explore things we can do together in the future if that is in the cards.

We are aligned.

I also want to express my gratitude for Soy Copywriter promoting Breakthrough Advertising to your audience with no benefit except to make available this masterpiece to your very special online family.

Spreading the gospel of Gene Schwartz around the world (we have sold books in over 60 countries) is now a lifelong ambition for me…so thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me with that mission.

I then suggested that she and Javi take a look at my site with all of the free content on copywriting and marketing…and I invited them to use anything on the site freely (including my weekly blogs) if applicable to their training and coaching programs for their students.

I also offered my other products for copywriters at no charge like the Bill Jayme and Jim Rutz swipe files…and I told him he inspired me to look into the possibility of translating Breakthrough Advertising into Spanish (since I have already translated it into Italian and French).

Just getting the “LTV calculation” on a fast track I guess… 🙂

Even if nothing comes of this relationship after my follow up, nothing would surely have come of it by simply pocketing the cash with no response.

Cash is a short-term gain; relationships are forever.

The lesson?

You must be in action all the time…not simply to make more money (which is nice) …but to create friends for life, give what you have with no expectation of a return…and to quote Michael Fishman again, “…let’s continue to bring equal rigor in framing what we do, [with] our focus on lifetime impact to the customer [rather than on lifetime value with value representing an amount of money or something quantitative].”

And acknowledge everyone and anyone who does you a solid…every time you hear about it or experience it.

Why it’s OK to just stare at the beautiful bride

Now I will give you a contrarian example of “serendipitous marketing data that requires no additional action on the part of the marketer” …not the norm…but it happens.

Many years ago, I was given circulation data about Bride’s Magazine…not because it was a demographic I was going after…or that I was becoming a bride anytime soon…but as a lesson in subscription sales and renewals from a wise mentor.

The lesson centered around “when renewals are an afterthought.”

That’s a tough one for me to swallow because renewals were the lifeblood of my previous business and they are paramount to everything I teach today.

As you might conclude, most brides only subscribe for one year to the magazine …that is, brides subscribe before their wedding but not after.

I guess with a 50% divorce rate there could be a reengagement campaign to those going on a second marriage (and wedding) …but that doesn’t seem like a market worth going after.

A bride is a bride is a bride…but second weddings are rarely the events of first weddings. 🙂

The lesson my mentor wanted to emphasize: Just because renewals are not part of the model, that is no excuse to turn off your marketing engine.

For example, creating products and services for newlyweds once their subscription expired. And you can let your imagination go from there.

(Note: This is similar to the Sesame Street family of magazines in the children’s market, which developed different publications to keep kids and parents engaged, with age-appropriate content as they outgrew the previous one.)

Then I read a peculiar statistic regarding Bride’s Magazine:

It was discovered that there was large newsstand (i.e., single copy) sales among inner city, teenage girls…repeated year over year…with no ongoing subscriptions (or none that could be traced to the original source).

The data also showed that most of these girls were young teens, not planning a wedding, but presumably buying the magazine as a “dream book.”

What would you, as a shrewd marketer, do with this information?

What if I said you should do nothing (except continue to make sure the urban newsstands were stocked with the latest issue of Bride’s)?

I know this sounds like blasphemy from a marketer who never let a potential customer go without an attempt for a repeat sale…or a program geared to them on the “back end.”

But in this case, by doing nothing, it’s a way to reap the benefits without throwing good money at an opportunity that was attained with more luck than skill.

More specifically, it is probably a waste of money and time trying to find this new universe of readers on a responsive list…they define the term “impulsive, hidden buyers.”

And being an accidental market rather than a core market, coming up with appropriate copy to sell the magazine to these readers…with a completely different copy platform and offer…seems counterproductive…and not in the magazine’s marketing sweet spot.

I guess it’s doable but I would prefer banking these single copy buyers as gravy.

I’m all for developing new copy platforms and offers for new audiences…but this one seems more difficult to reach, whether online or offline.

And with a limited chance of success.

Turning these single copy buyers into multi-year subscriptions only sounds like a good idea.

These girls are buying Bride’s as a “dream book” (for the most part) rather than planning a wedding—and the single copy buying behavior is a function of impulse buying rather than strategic selling.

The odds of getting any of them to subscribe for a year (or more) …assuming you could compile a list of them…seems like a dead end.

Does that mean you ignore these newsstand sales?

Of course not.

Based on the size of the market, in key areas where this demographic resides, you double down on inventory.

That’s exactly what the publisher did, with no added marketing expense except printing more issues for the best-selling newsstands.

Single copy sales, in the days before digital content, were more profitable per copy and the publishers always gladly accepted those sales.

But was there any extravagant marketing plan developed to penetrate this newfound demographic further?

The good news was that the answer was “no.”

The publisher wisely accepted the windfall from this surprising and enthusiastic audience…chalked it up to a happy accident of content meeting a new universe of buyers that they never could have predicted in advance…with no additional follow up.

And…no elaborate marketing funnel needed. 🙂

Sometimes marketing works this way.

Not every action needs a reaction.

Warning: Don’t use this example as an excuse to begin getting lazy exploring marketing opportunities anywhere and everywhere.

You must always have your antennae tuned into your current audience and potential new audiences…but be aware some new audiences have more potential than others.

You’ve heard this before but it bears repeating:

Not everything we do, in marketing (and life), is a revenue event…but everything we do is a relationship event.

That includes when it comes to someone referring you (e.g., Soy Copywriter) or people buying your products with no additional marketing expense (e.g., unexpected subscribers).

And both can lead to revenue, directly or indirectly.

While most relationship events require intentionality, not all relationship events are created equal.

Some simply require showing up and being there…and responding (or not responding) accordingly.



P.S. I promised to tell you about the young Brazilian copywriter who wrote to me out of nowhere with “serendipitous data.”

This data was in the form of a special swipe file…seemingly put together just for me…. changing the direction of how we teach and sell the concepts inside Breakthrough Advertising.

I received an email a couple of years ago from Luis Flavio Nunes, who told me he was a copywriter and a student of Gene Schwartz (gratifying since there aren’t many 20 somethings from Brazil—or anywhere—who could make that claim).

His email included a “pitch” to create a 55th Anniversary Edition of Breakthrough Advertising, complete with every ad that Gene mentions inside the book, and only with my permission.

His industriousness was overwhelming…he had curated 300 “Breakthrough Advertising ads” (many in color) …which were a subset of his 16,000-piece swipe file.

How could he have compiled this with only 20+ years being alive? 🙂

With my marketing partner Chris Mason, we went back to Luis with a counter offer…offering to pay him something for the ads…and then creating a companion volume for Breakthrough Advertising which would include all of the worksheets from the Breakthrough Advertising Bootcamp (we’ve held four with the fifth one coming this fall)…along with the 300 ads he had compiled (in full color where available).

He didn’t want to take any money…another indicator that he was all about Lifetime Value…so I gave him a lifetime membership to my Titans Xcelerator Mastermind, an acknowledgment in the new book, Breakthrough Advertising Mastery, and a golden ticket to accept any product I offer on my Titans Products page (at no charge of course).

If I had perceived his email as another copywriter or marketer trying to cash in on Gene’s writings (and legacy), I never wouldn’t have opened it.

I get a lot of those as you might imagine.

And when he led with the idea of publishing the 55th Anniversary Edition on his own, which would have violated the copyright, I was initially wary.

Thank goodness I read my emails carefully.

And I open most of them unless they are scary…or want me to claim a million dollars from a Nigerian prince.

I never would have had the opportunity to create Breakthrough Advertising Mastery without Luis…and my gratitude to him and all he represents is something that goes beyond any revenue his email intended or creates.

The lesson once again is to pay attention to all “incoming” …try to separate the serious from the non-serious…because the gold will be found where you don’t expect it to come from.

Yes…this entails opening and reading as much correspondence as humanly possible…and not responding with an auto-responder.

I can live on a diet of serendipitous data…because even if some data doesn’t yield anything significant or directly in the present, or needs immediate action,  everything is connected…and if it doesn’t yield anything today, it will in the future.

At least that’s the way it seems to work for me.

P.P.S. If you would like to purchase Breakthrough Advertising Mastery, go here.

It’s such a special and unique book.

Thanks Luis!

And if you want to buy it in combination with Breakthrough Advertisinggo here.

I never said I was a non-profit company. 🙂

About the author 

Brian Kurtz

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