It’s Not Always About The Money

Brian Kurtz is the Executive Vice President of Boardroom, Inc., and the host of the upcoming Titans of Direct Response event in September (which I strongly recommend to you, if you do any sort of direct marketing or copywriting. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime event, and you can get more details when you click here.)

I was blessed to know Gene Schwartz…and not just casually, either. Gene was my friend, mentor and business partner…and I learned so many lessons from him. Those of you who don’t know who I am talking about, Eugene “Gene” Schwartz was one of the most successful and prolific direct response copywriters who ever lived.


His classic book, Breakthrough Advertising, may be the most important book ever written on copy and creative.

It was important enough for Marty (Edelston) and I to re-publish it as a “Boardroom Book” when we saw a live bid on eBay for an out-of-print copy at $950.

Actually, calling it a book about “copy and creative” does it a disservice… it is the most timeless book ever written on human behavior as well.

The fact that not one word has been changed from its 1966 version proves that point.

During the 1980's, Gene wrote many of Boardroom’s most successful direct mail packages–and he also wrote some of the biggest winners for Rodale Books (publishers of more health books than anyone at that time).

And here’s the kicker: Boardroom and Rodale never paid him a dime for any of those landmark packages.

Here’s how that came to pass…

Gene had his own company called “Instant Improvement” which published health books on many esoteric and eclectic topics which were sold with some of the most famous direct mail packages ever written.

Classic headlines included “How To Rub Your Stomach Away” and “The Tao of Sexology.”

But I digress…

Instant Improvement was a small but mighty company…and Gene got there because he understood that without being able to mail the best lists of other health book buyers, he didn’t have a business.

His house list was quite small–while Boardroom and Rodale had the most responsive and largest lists in the category of health book buyers.

Since Boardroom and Rodale needed world class copy and Instant Improvement needed world class lists, these three direct marketing leaders comprised the most powerful group of allies since World War II…(excuse the hyperbole…but it was a huge alliance).

Gene exchanged copy for names…even though he could have commanded the highest fees of any copywriter at that time.

This amazing relationship led to millions of books sold and also a much more efficient way to get the best health information distributed to as many people as possible.

Boardroom and Rodale were able to mail millions of names using Gene Schwartz controls for years…even after his death…and Gene was able to mail millions of Boardroom and Rodale names “on exchange” at an acceptable return on investment for his much smaller books…

But there was nothing “small” about Gene Schwartz…I never met a man who played larger.

He traded his talent for the asset he needed most at the time…and money was a by-product, not the starting point…

And that brings me to this quote:

“Reciprocation is about you, then me, then you, then me…and be the first to give service, information, concessions”

-Dr. Robert Cialdini

Understanding how to be a true partner with those you work with leads to exponential growth and true business building…

…which beats a series of “revenue events” by a mile.

When I say that I was a close friend to Gene Schwartz, it makes me proud; when I say I was his partner to help build three multi-million dollar businesses, businesses that had as their mission to disseminate the most useful and life-saving health information to consumers, I know I made a real difference in the world.

And of course this also means I’m just old…but as Marty used to say, “I like getting old because now I know so much.”

Thank you, Gene, for being one of the wisest entrepreneurs I ever met. And for writing my favorite book about human behavior (and copywriting)…


Brian Kurtz is the Executive Vice President of Boardroom, Inc. and the founder of the Titans of Direct Response event.