The Only Marketing Advice Gary Bencivenga Says He May Give on His Deathbed

“If I were on my deathbed about to wheeze my last breath,” says Gary, “and you asked me to

sum up in a single sentence the most important marketing secret I could bequeath to

you before I kick the bucket (or bedpan), here is what I would whisper in your ear,

hopefully without giving you anything contagious.

It’s a 9-word sentence I first read in the book Reality in Advertising by

copywriting genius Rosser Reeves. This one sentence made fortunes for Reeves’

clients, as well as my own, and for scores of other marketers wise enough to apply it


This was how Gary Bencivenga, one of the top-three copywriters still alive today, began his controversial blog post.

And then dropped the bombshell…

“A gifted product is mightier than a gifted pen.”

Many marketers argue the customer should be the preoccupation of the copywriter. But Gary says it’s the product that determines whether the ad will be a winner or not. The product must engage your attention as a copywriter.

And when you look deep enough, the wisdom of his statement begins to emerge.

Also, in Ghana there’s this saying that…

“A good product sells itself.”

It implies, once a product has its own inherent qualities that customers want, then the marketer’s job is easy. It’s merely researching and telling the whole truth about the excellent product, how it solves customers’ problems.

It’s the secret that propels journey of any copywriter into stardom. He doesn’t have to fake qualities which don’t exist; he merely tells the facts as they are – creating a smooth transition from one benefit to another.

Above all, the copywriter makes those benefits the product offers come alive.

Gary, master of metaphors, illustrated his point with an equestrian metaphor in this fashion…

“You are a jockey. If you want to win more races, by all

means hone your craft. But even more important, learn how to spot and get yourself

assigned to faster horses. That’s a big part of building your reputation and career


You want your name associated with winners, not losers! Cultivating a jockey’s

eye for winners and then campaigning to ride them is one of the most rewarding

skills you can develop…While you can’t carry a flawed product—or a slow horse—on your back to glory, great products, like champion race horses, will put you in the winner’s circle consistently.”

As marketers, our job is not to invent product qualities.

At best, we are to guide manufacturers into making great product, based on our understanding of the market; products that customers will crave for. Our main duty is to communicate the benefits of the product to customers…in plain and simple language.

Once you have selected your winning product, consider all angles of it. Saturate yourself with the product information.

If you can, strive to know the product more than its maker!

Gather at least three times more information than you need for creating your copy. The reserve material is a source of inspiration.

It will boost your confidence. It’ll ignite your creative powers.

But where should you start from?

Start by asking all possible questions about the product.

Here are 10 question Gary suggests copywriters should use to reveal all the benefits of a product.

These are the starting point of any assignment.

  1. Why is this product made the way it is?
  2. What consumer problems, desires, and needs is it designed for?
  3. What’s special about it—why does it fulfill a consumer’s needs better than the competition?
  1. Who says so besides you?
  2. What are your strongest proof elements to make your case believable?
  3. What are all the product’s best features and how does each translate into a consumer benefit?
  1. If you had unlimited funds, how would you improve this product?
  2. Who are its heavy users—the 20 percent who generate 80 percent of sales?
  3. What irresistible offers might trigger an explosion in sales?
  4. What premiums can be tossed into the mix to press your prospects’ hot


If you have a great  product to market, then you will find that you copy almost writes itself.

It flows.

It’s like running water. You only need to direct its course to the desired destination.

And it will get there.

Never invent features and benefits for any product when they don’t exit. That’s not your job as a copywriter.

Instead, identify a winning product and sing its praises.


Because when you do, you’ll realise your yoke is easy and your burden is light.





How a Guy Used Direct Mail Techniques from His Mum to Land His Dream Job

This story appeared in the January 2013 edition of the No B.S. Marketing Letter of Glazer-Kennedy Inside Circle.

Tyler Hershberger is a graduate from college with a degree in graphic arts and video production. He gets a job with sales section of a dance studio. Later he decides to find a job in his field of specialty. He doesn’t want to join the teeming applicants online. At this point, he approaches his copywriter mum Nina Hershberger for help. Nina deploys her knowledge from Dan Kennedy’s 3-step Mailing Programme to her son’s aid.

This new job hunting process starts with a compilation of the contact information of the CEOs or the owners of 100 companies Tyler would like to work in. After this he goes ahead with the multi-step mailing process as follows:

1st mail: file folder mailing, with cover letter, fake job interview form customised with each company’s logo at the top and a very visual resume.

2nd mail: one week after the first. It contains inscription ‘X-RAY FILM – DO NOT FOLD’ on 6×9” envelop. The contents are fake piece of X-Ray film with clever headline and illustration, newsletter-format cover letter, duplicate resume

3rd mail: fake handwritten, yellow legal pad piece.

4th mail: ‘How many mailings will it take?’

5th mail: a letter from his dog, with photo of dog clipped with paper clip.

And the result? Two companies take Tyler out for lunch; 5 companies invite him for interviews and he receives calls from others too. Finally he lands a lucrative accounts executive job with a production company with clients worldwide.

What lessons can we learn from Tyler’s story?

  1. First he doesn’t send his resume online like other job seekers. He uses direct mail to distinguish himself from the masses. He makes sure he gets attention.
  2. He chooses his dream companies and mails to them without their asking.
  3. Both Tyler and his mum did some research.
  4. They applied the multi-step mailing sequence as Dan Kennedy teaches.
  5. They applied creativity every step of the way.

Dan argues that what Tyler and his mum did was essentially B2B marketing. Indeed, he says all job-hunting is B2B marketing. Dan further argues that their story proves that traditional direct mail still outperforms online approach. He concludes on the point that it’s necessary to violate industrial norms, common practices and rules to get a head start. Many writers and businesses people seem to share Dan’s last point about rules. They say some rules unnecessarily cripple creativity.

Dear reader, what do you have to say about the post? It’s freedom of expression. Share thoughts now.