It's Monday -- that means it's time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

How much email space should I promote to selling?  And how much to content?

That’s the gist of today’s question — but there’s a whole lot more, as you’ll soon see…

It’s Monday — which means it’s time for me to open up the ol’ Mailbox!

And while the last couple weeks have only revealed crickets (What the heck?  I almost ALWAYS have questions!  Maybe you’re just getting so smart you don’t need me?)…

This week, I found something!

Remember: to have YOUR question answered in an upcoming issue of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, you can hit reply if you’re an email subscriber…  Or send it in to

Alright, with that out of the way…

Today’s question…

Hi Roy,

I have a question that could very well be relevant to us, your audience.

Considering your experience working close with the big boys in media publishing and the direct response space…

What do you see would be the perfect balance between promotional email offers and pure content emails like those you tend to send us?

I totally get the answer to that will be dependent on strategy. Nevertheless, any guidelines or direction from an experienced copywriter like you would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for all the hard work you put into this e-newsletter. Its like seeing and eternal continuation of the legendary Bencivenga Bullets.  Easily the most valuable one on the sales and marketing space right now.



Wowzer!  What a piece of praise!

To be compared to The Great Gary B., one of my copywriting mentors, is always flattering!

And in fact, Gary B. may be able to come back from retirement to help me with this answer…

Once upon a time, I wrote to Gary — and this was long before Titans gave me a reason to do so, and the direct connection.

And what he told me serves as a great jumping off point for my answer…

Here’s what I wrote to Gary Bencivenga…


One question, and if you’ll take the time to answer it would be much appreciated…

Which promotion of yours bought the retirement house? Which tallied over 100 million pieces mailed?

… Nobody seems to know, so going straight to the source may be a long shot… But perhaps you’ll kiss and tell? I believe I first heard about this promotion when Ken McCarthy sent me a copy of his interview with you.

Thank you!

Roy Furr

Gary Bencivenga replied — and here’s what he told me!

Hi, Roy,

That promotion was for a Rodale book, “New Choices in Natural Healing.” [Note from Roy — you can buy a copy of Gary’s actual promotion on Amazon here.]

My direct mail effort excerpted lots of great nutrition tips from the book and interwove them with my sales pitch, all in the form of a paperback book (not a traditional direct mail envelope package).

As a paperback book, the promotion was one of the first to bring to the world of book promotion two of my favorite precepts for direct mail: (1) Make your advertising itself look, feel, and actually be valuable to your target audience, and (2) In direct mail, your format IS your headline (i.e., the first thing your prospect notices and thus is the most important influence on whether he/she will read it or toss it instantly).

Prospects are reluctant to toss away on a snap judgment a valuable paperback book on a subject of high interest to them. That’s why it was so successful. This thinking can be applied to any advertising medium.

All the best, Roy,


Here’s Gary’s most important principle, as applied to the question above…

Quoting Gary: “Make your advertising itself look, feel, and actually be valuable to your target audience.”

Following Gary’s lead here, what’s the answer to the question of the right balance of content and promotion?

A really effective email strategy is going to be 100% of both!

What the heck do I mean?

Well, your advertising should be valuable content…  And your content should be advertising!

At the very beginning of the Story Selling Master Class (join the wait list for relaunch here), I challenged participants to answer two questions:

— What do I want to be known for?

— What do I want to be known as?

Your answers to these questions should set you apart as the ideal source for whatever value your product or service provides.  They should establish you as the unique authority on the subject.

In conveying the answers to these questions to your readers, through email, you are selling.  You’re setting up the sale.  And sometimes, you’re actually convincing readers to take direct action.

But even so, you might also be sharing the answers to these questions in a way that comes across as pure value.

So for example in this email, I may want you to know me as “the next Gary Bencivenga.”  I may want you to know me as a leading direct marketing expert.  I may want you to know me for having the specific strategies that work in online and offline direct marketing.

When I convey the value I’m conveying in this issue, those things can be communicated as part of the message.  But without coming across as “salesy.”

If you’re in a particular place, that may lead you to come to me right away as a client.  Or, perhaps down the road, it may make you more prone to buy a product from me.

It’s doing both.  It’s giving you valuable content right away.  But by my choices of message, language, positioning, and so on, I’m also selling you in that content.

That said, I do have some superficial recommendations on this…

Like I said, I like to incorporate a lot of value through the selling process.  Even if someone doesn’t buy from me, I like to have them feeling better as a result of having consumed my marketing messages.

For this reason, my dollar-per-email-address metric and conversion rates on my list are off the charts.

But if you’re going to put a gun to my head and ask me to give you a model, here are some thoughts.

First, I like how the Agora divisions do it…

Most free Agora email publications (under all the umbrella companies) have 3 to 5 articles per week, as well as a weekly wrap-up.

Then, throughout the week, there are a couple promotion-specific messages, that drive you to a content-rich long-copy promotion.

Throughout the content-first emails, there are also Editor’s notes, banner ads, and more that drive you to the promotional messages.

Often, the editorial is tied into whatever is being promoted at the moment — but there’s also some editorial separation that I think helps with credibility.

In the investment and health markets, I think this is a pretty darned good formula.  And it’s hard to argue with Agora’s success explosion over the last 15 or so years.

I also like how Ben Settle does it…

I stopped reading Ben’s emails and listening to his podcast because the tone got on my nerves.  But his content is still great, and his model even better.

Ben emails every day.  I think he started emailing Monday through Friday, like Breakthrough Marketing Secrets.

Then, he slipped into Saturdays.  And now, he sometimes emails multiple times per day.

Each email usually has some quip or story or observation that his readers find valuable, followed by a call-to-action.

In this sense, Ben is really taking the same approach I recommend above.  Every email is valuable content.  And every email is promotional.  There’s simply a turn at the end to asking for action.

Breakthrough Marketing Secrets is also a good model…

I email Monday through Friday, every week.  Every issue is a content-packed essay, which is meant to increase how much you know, like, and trust me on the subjects of marketing, selling, business, copywriting, and so on.

Many issues also have a CTA (everything from an Amazon link to a direct offer for something from me), and some have none.

I’m also doing more frequent product launches, where I do additional content and promotion around an offer.

One of the things that I like to do is a “hot list” or “wait list” campaign, tied to a new product.  I will certainly talk in my normal emails about the offer.  And I’ll do an extra couple emails related to the offer.

But in addition to what I send to my main list, I give you an opportunity to sign up for a list specifically about the topic the offer will be centered around.  Because you opt in for this, you get extra content.  But you also get extra promotional messages.  Because I’m clear about this, the extra content is appreciated and the extra promo-heavy messages are more tolerated.  (This is especially relevant around a deadline.)

Here’s the most important thing for YOU…

I strongly encourage you to adopt the 100%/100% mindset when it comes to the content and promotional mix.

However, it should be clear from even just three examples above that there are a lot of formulas that work.

Come up with what you are going to do, then stick to it.

Don’t do what Roy does, because I do it.  Don’t do what Ben Settle does, because he does it.  Don’t do what Agora does, because they do it.

Figure out what will be comfortable and manageable for you.  Define that formula.  Set your course.  And stick to it.

You will inevitably hit obstacles you need to deal with.  And you’re jumping from formula to formula, you’ll always be second-guessing yourself.

The best thing you can do is figure out what works with you, and follow your own plan through thick and thin.

And always make your advertising itself valuable!

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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