These are my book notes on “No B.S. Direct Marketing” by the author and direct-response marketing legend and copywriting genius Dan S. Kennedy.

You can find my notes on “The Ultimate Marketing Plan” by Dan here.

Let’s dive in.


  • Author: Dan S. Kennedy
  • Title: No B.S. Direct Marketing
  • Subtitle: The Ultimate No Holds Back Kick Butt Take No Prisoners Direct Marketing For Non-Direct Marketing Businesses
  • First published: 2006
  • Type: non-fiction
  • Genre: business education / marketing
  • Author’s website:
  • Rating: 5/5
  • Recommended: Yes

This is ‘the bible’ for transforming ordinary business marketing into exceptionally powerful, reliably effective, accurately accountable, and sustainable marketing - for any business.
- Dan S. Kennedy

Table Of Contents Of The Book

  • Preface - The End of Advertising and Marketing as You Know It
  • Section 1 - Foundation
    • Chapter 1 - The Big Switch: Why Direct Marketing for NON-Direct Marketing Businesses?
    • Chapter 2 - An Offer They Can’t Refuse
    • Chapter 3 - Make Them Obey Orders
    • Chapter 4 - No Freeloaders
    • Chapter 5 - No Holes in the Bucket
    • Chapter 6 - Shouting Louder
    • Chapter 7 - Tux, Tails, and Top Hat or Coveralls and Work Boots?
    • Chapter 8 - Money in the Bank
    • Chapter 9 - No Chocolate Cake for You!
    • Chapter 10 - The Results Triangle
    • Chapter 11 - The Secret to Infinitely Higher Response: The Dale Carnegie Secret on Steroids
    • Chapter 12 - Direct-Response Digital Marketing
      Chapter 13 - How to Create Business Equity and Competitive Advantage with Lists
    • Chapter 14 - Why and How to Build a Sales Funnel
  • Section 2 - Application
    • Chapter 15 - You Can Attract Your Ideal Customers, Clients, or Patients: Why Settle for Anything Else?
    • Chapter 16 - They All Laughed When I Stopped Selling My Products - Until I Became a Top Agent and Transformed My Entire Industry
    • Chapter 17 - An Optometrist Who Achieved Unexpected Success with Direct-Response Marketing
    • Chapter 18 - My Pink Lawyer’s Road to Success Is Paved in Pink
  • Section 3 - Resources
    • Direct Marketing Businesses to Study
  • About the Author
  • Index

Key Concepts & Ideas

In the first edition of this book, back in 2006, before the recession, before the explosion of social media and the importance given it as a marketing medium, before all sorts of new media demanding business owners’ attention, I wrote:

Most small-business advertising and marketing stinks.

I said: monstrous sums are wasted and opportunities lost.

My position hadn’t changed by the time of the second edition in 2013.

As more and more and more ways to deliver advertising and marketing messages have been created and popularized, the effectiveness of it has declined and the intelligence governing it has sunken to new lows.

Now, as I write this, 11 years after the first edition, business people are more the “advertising victims” than ever:

Confused and overwhelmed and hollered at, told that they must do this, that, the other thing, more and more - just to get the same results.

Or less.

I am here to mute the noise.

To guide you to clarity about a relatively short list of fundamental principles and strategies that can prevent you being lost in a deep, dense forest of media demanding your attention, time, and money.

Modeling can be a powerful, efficient, and profitable strategy.

The Money Pyramid

The Money Pyramid - Dan S. Kennedy

  • 1% are rich
  • 4% are prosperous
  • 15% make a good living

That’s just the top 20%.

Let’s take a look at the majority of people, the other 80%:

  • 60% struggle financially
  • 20% are broke

Which of these groups of business owners should you pay closest attention to and emulate?

Which group’s thinking, business practices, and behaviour should you avoid like the plague?

The answer is obvious.

Why Not Model What The “Big Boys” Are Doing?

Just about every thing you see BIG business doing is wrong for you.

Big companies have different objectives, agendas, and constituencies to satisfy, and CEO egos to salve, as well as different resources and depth of resources than you do.

If you study them at all, you must time travel to examine what they did in their journey from start to small and ultimately to big, not what they do now.

​[…] It’s also worth noting that, very often, the bigger a company grows, the dumber it gets.

​This is the result of having more and more people in it spending somebody’s money other than their own and being safely distanced by bureaucracy from direct and immediate financial consequences from their decisions and from where rubber meets road.

[..] These people are insulated from reality and very vulnerable to charlatanism prevalent inside ad agencies, social media agencies, and other shovel sellers.

In the great Gold Rush, more money was made by the sellers of shovels - mules, mining equipment, and tools, and maps - than by those actually searching for the gold.

It’s dressed up differently today, but the truth is unchanged.

Big Company’s Agenda For Advertising And Marketing Vs Your Agenda

  • Please/appease its board of directors (most of whom know zip about advertising and marketing but have lots of opinions)
  • Please/appease its stockholders
  • Look good and appropriate to Wall Street
  • Look good and appropriate to the media
  • Build brand identity
  • Win awards for advertising
  • Sell something

Your Agenda

  • Sell something. Now.

I am busier than I wish to be.

I tell you this not to brag, but to impress on you the extremely high value of the information in this book.

I know how to produce RESULTS.

​Not brand awareness, visibility, likes, followers, or other fools’ metrics.

Results. Money.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can have as positive and dramatic impact on your prosperity as crossing the great divide to being a direct marketer - regardless of your particular products or services, other deliverables, or size of business.

This book is not about doing better marketing.

It is about a total conversion to entirely different marketing.

Most of what you see done in advertising and marketing is being done by people who don’t know what they are doing.

The Ten Commandments of Direct Marketing

  • Rule #1 - There Will Always Be an Offer or Offers
  • Rule #2 - There Will Be a Reason to Respond Right Now
  • Rule #3 - You Will Give Clear Instructions
  • Rule #4 - There Will Be Tracking, Measurement, and Accountability
  • Rule #5 - Only No-Cost Brand-Building
  • Rule #6 - There Will Be Follow-Up
  • Rule #7 - There Will Be Strong Copy
  • Rule #8 - It Will Look Like Mail-Order Advertising
  • Rule #9 - Results Rule. Period.
  • Rule #10 - You Will Be a Tough-Minded Disciplinarian and Put Your Business on a Strict Direct Marketing Diet

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Dan Kennedy’s Results Triangle

Dan Kennedy's Results Triangle

  • Market
  • Message
  • Media

An Offer They Can’t Refuse - The Godfather’s Offer

A key distinguishing characteristic of direct marketing and direct-response advertising from all other marketing and advertising is the presentation of a very specific offer or offers.

Ideally, yours is a Godfather’s Offer - an offer that the appropriate prospect or customer for you can’t refuse!

  1. Make your every communication actually ask somebody to do something, and
  2. Inject new disciplines of selling and accountability into all your communication with prospects, customers, and the marketplace at large.

A lot of print ads and TV commercials and brochures now include websites or Facebook sites where you can go like ‘em, etc., but present no offer as a compelling reason to go there.

All this is undisciplined.

Applying Direct (-Response) Marketing Changes

Only direct marketing imposes discipline, by always making an offer or offers, so response to those offers can be tracked and measured, injecting factual accountability.

Fire all the wimps. Demand real performance.

So your task is to incorporate a direct offer each and every time you put out a message, of any kind, by any means.

You Want To Hold Marketing And Advertising Accountable. Always.

In short, you have a fundamental governance decision to make.

Will you let yourself be persuaded or bullied into wasting money on marketing that cannot be directly held accountable for results and return on investment?

Or will you insist on accountability?

“Shined Shoes Save Lives”

My speaking colleague of some 40 events or so, the late General Norman Schwarzkopf, famous for Desert Storm, said, “Shined shoes save lives.”

He meant that establishing and adhering absolutely to minor disciplines ensured soldiers could and would adhere to vital battlefield disciplines.

Norm believed that a person can’t be undisciplined about some things but disciplined about others any more than an alcoholic person committed to sobriety can occasionally have a few drinks.

You either are or you aren’t.

Your business is either run in a disciplined way, or it isn’t.

Two Types Of Offers

There are basically two types of offers.

  1. There is an offer requesting purchase
  2. There is the lead-generation offer

The lead-generation offer is asking only for a person to, in effect, raise their hand, to identify and register themselves as having interest in certain subject matter and information or goods or services, and to invite further communication from you.

Often, although not always, the lead-generation offer is free.

There are times and places for both kinds of offers, but no communication should be devoid of some offer.

Dan S. Kennedy On Lead Generation Offers

This is a more interesting kind of offer, because it can substantially reduce the waste factor in advertising, convert a sales culture to a marketing culture, and provide opportunity to build trust and create a relationship.

The Important Concept Of Threshold Resistance And “Information First Marketing”

All offers fall somewhere on a continuum between Low-Threshold Offer and High-Threshold Offer.

[…] The lowest threshold offer is for free information, to be sent by mail or FedEx, or accessed online.

This is the staple item of direct-response advertising, in virtually every category of business.

Dan S. Kennedy On Holes In Your Business Bucket

Here are some of the holes in business buckets, through which money leaks:

  1. As just described, the person who calls and asks questions, stays unknown, and gets no follow-up. Remember, you paid for that person. If you don’t capture his contact information so you can do follow-up marketing, you wasted your money.
  2. Little or no follow-up on leads obtained at trade or consumer shows.
  3. No follow-up on referrals.
  4. No immediate follow-up to new customers.
  5. No prevention or organized rescue efforts related to lost customers.

There are other holes.

I’ve just named five.

You have to find every hole in your business and plug it.

Holes In The Business Bucket

Dan S. Kennedy On Great Sales Copy

Most great sales copy is written backwards, from the customer’s interests, desires, frustrations, fears, thoughts, feeling and experiences, journeying to a revealing of a solution or fulfillment tied to your business.

Most ineffective copy starts, instead, with the company, product, or service, and its features, benefits, comparative superiority, and price.

Basic Direct-Marketing Tools List

Front-End/New Customer Acquisition

  • Lead Generation Magnets: books, reports, CDs, online videos, etc., that offer information of prime interest to your desired customers, clients, or patients that can be advertised and promoted, and when delivered, establish your authority, credibility, expertise, trusted advisor status, and promote your products, services, and business.
  • Direct-Marketing Websites that capture visitors’ contact information for follow-up and present your information, and that place people into well-controlled Sales Funnels
  • Main (Long-Form) Sales Letters that sell the core product/service or the sale event, i.e., appointment, in-store visit, etc.
  • Follow-Up System for Unconverted Leads: online and offline steps, put into a sequence.
  • In-Bound Call Script that includes capture of prospects’ contact information for follow-up.

Back-End/Customer Retention, Ascension, Repeat Business Nurture, Referrals Nurture

  • Online/offline sequences for each sales purpose - for example, cross- selling the buyer of Item #A into Item #B
  • Seasonal/holiday promotions
  • Customer newsletter or alternative, regularly delivered goodwill/relationship nurturing material
  • Referral stimulation campaigns: The book No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals co-authored with Shaun Buck delves into this in deep detail and helps you build a complete system for internal marketing, for multiplying customers by referrals.
  • Late or lost customer re-activation campaign
  • Catalog, offline and/or online, of all goods and services

Closing Thoughts

My book notes only cover small parts of the book.

So if you like what you read, please consider buying the book from the author.

Thank you for reading and stay awesome,

Tim for Online Business Dude

PS: Start Your Own, Profitable Online Business From Scratch, Step-by-Step, Today!

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