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A Criminal Mind By Brian Kurtz

by | Brian Kurtz, In the Magazine

I have many conversations about how much we can learn from gangsters (and not because they are O.G.’s or “Original Gangsters”).

And not because they are “gangstas” either.

I’m talking about the most notorious bad guys ever…REAL gangsters. Black hats of the highest order.

Guys who you would never want to break bread with…or have them break your legs.

And not to take advice from them either.

But…in the words of Rod Serling (not a gangster but simply in honor of Halloween), “submitted for your approval.”

There is a lot we can learn from the criminal mind…in terms of marketing…and life.

This sounds like blasphemy from the guy that has told you to sell with complete integrity, to always be congruent with your voice, to always “overdeliver”…and to always treat your customers like family.

At least many bad guys have close-knit families.

Now to be sure, I am not telling you to be like Al, Frank Vito et. al. below…but I invite you into an exploration of their criminal minds, in their own words, to pull something out that will be useful in your marketing or your life (which are basically the same thing).

Remember…marketing isn’t everything…it’s the only thing.

On the surface, this thesis sounds like something not worth exploring…but the criminal mind is deep…and don’t be so sure that you are not using your criminal mind while selling your products or services already.

And I am not doing you a disservice by saying that.

Of course the first step is that you must understand where these quotes are coming from—it’s kind of a dark place for sure. And you probably don’t look all that great dressed in an orange jumpsuit.

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So…I am not telling you to break the law or to do anything that risks your reputation or your sense of honesty or decency.

That will be our starting point for this discussion.

Then clear your mind and let the non-criminal part of this post enter your thinking.

Al Capone

 A Criminal Mind By Brian Kurtz

Al’s advice here is an implied threat when you know he is the one saying it (i.e. it’s about him putting a contract out on you if you are unkind to him in case you missed the subtlety).

And I wouldn’t recommend this phrasing for you.

But here’s another spin on the same notion from one of our online family members, Gerald S. (i.e. not Al Capone):

“Do not mistake courtesy for weakness”.

Being courteous doesn’t mean you have to be anyone’s lap dog or that you need to get taken advantage of all the time…nor do you need to put a semi-automatic machine gun to anyone’s head who mistakes your courtesy for weakness.

In my book Overdeliver, and at least in three different blog posts over the years, I talk about the power of 100-0…but based on Al’s “advice” above, at some point, I guess, enough is enough.

That line gets crossed at different times for different folks—that is, at some point you realize people are just “takers” and you need to write them off.

We all have different breaking points.

We then write off people at different stages in our relationship with them, and there are different ways of writing them off too (i.e. the Capone way vs. the Gerald S. way).

Personally, I would rather err on the side of over delivering courtesy while not gearing up to show how strong I am when I extend too much courtesy.

It takes a lot for me to eliminate someone from my life (and when I rarely do, I don’t mean eliminate them the Al Capone way).

Read “The five ways we get paid” for a more in depth study on this concept in addition to “The power of 100-0.”

And “The thin line between confidence and arrogance.”

There are tips and hints in all of those posts on how to over deliver without getting taken advantage of—or at least get taken advantage of with a smile…without resorting to violence.

Ultimately, I may have more in common with Al Capone than I thought, but none of the ways to get paid include robbing a bank or tax evasion…

Goodfellas 

 A Criminal Mind By Brian Kurtz

I think the Goodfellas meaning here is not what I got out of it…because it is excellent advice.

Please take this advice from me and not from them.

If you take it from them, I’m afraid you might get the wrong idea in one of two ways:

1. Decreasing the size of your circle keeps your “cone of silence” to a select few and keeps your secrets…well…secrets. That may be valuable to them but not the best reason to keep the circle small.

2. Decreasing the size of your circle might mean they decreased it in some not-so-nice ways themselves (use your imagination how the Goodfellas did it). And then you increase the value of “who is left” because they are now deathly afraid of you. Just saying.

However, I get something much more practical (and non-violent) from this quote:

In the words of the top coach for entrepreneurs in the world, Dan Sullivan, as you grow in your business and your life, there comes a time when you may need to find some new (and a smaller circle of) friends.

That is, friends who served you at a different level in your career might not be keeping up with you as you gain new knowledge and begin hanging out with a different crowd (for all the right reasons).

It’s a hard thing to accept but it’s important to take inventory of your “circles” and weigh them in terms of value over size.

Marketing example: Anyone who tells you they have 100,000+ names on their list, you may want to ask “how did they get there?”

And what is the true value of that list (assuming they think that 100,000 names is something to brag about)?

I’ll take 10,000 engaged names rather than 100,000 casual (i.e. less engaged) names every time.

Frank Lucas (Played By Denzel Washington) 

 A Criminal Mind By Brian Kurtz

My guess is that Frank Lucas always identified the loudest one in the room, assumed they were the weakest one in the room and then did something to silence them (if you know what I mean).

But this is also wonderful advice.

Have you ever been at a mastermind meeting in a group discussion about something–and then someone who seems to know everything rather than trying to learn something–takes up all the oxygen letting you know how smart they are (and “loudly”)?

And when this happens, does it feel like rather than being in a room where everyone is getting smarter you find yourself in a room where someone is simply feeding their ego?

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If this has happened to you, take it in, and remember it when you raise your hand to participate.

Always ask: “Will what I say move the room?”

Some people can be the loudest and move the room…and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t share your genius when you get an opportunity.

But there’s always a risk of sharing loudly and too much, which can lead to not being heard at all.

While I will not send the loudest and most vocal person in the room a dead fish by mail (or messenger), I agree with Frank Lucas, the American Gangster, that being too loud (and too much) in a room can be a weakness.

Vito Corleone (Played By Marlon Brando)

 A Criminal Mind By Brian Kurtz

Vito is on to something here.

And while he never “hates his enemies,” he often had the “good judgment” to make them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

I went to The Google on “love your enemies” (a softer version of Vito’s quote)…and there is a lot to read there…from the Bible, philosophers and personal development gurus.

The King James Bible puts it simply:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

I accept the notion of wishing your enemies well…but also getting away from them as soon as you can…and moving on (if possible) at all costs.

I agree that you can’t hate them—you need to love them and wish them well—but I will add that hanging around them may not be the healthiest thing to do (while you are not hating them).

It’s not so easy all the time…but I believe dwelling on hate, dislike and holding grudges is wasted brain space and dwelling on your relatives and friends will be a much better use of time.

My variation of Vito’s quote: Love your enemies…but stay away from them as well.

A perfect example is when you are wronged in some way and someone presents legal proceedings against you…or worse, you are initiating those legal proceedings.

I talk about this in “How not to make your lawyer rich” which is an interesting read if you haven’t read it before.

Kevin Trudeau

 A Criminal Mind By Brian Kurtz

You might think that this guy, Kevin Trudeau, doesn’t belong with the likes of Al Capone or Vito Corleone…and you are correct in that assumption.

Trudeau is no traditional “gangster”…he’s actually a marketing genius…and it’s because of him I was able to launch (with my team at Boardroom) one of the most successful informercials in history.

The big difference is that Kevin is currently in jail (he’s due for parole in 2022)…and I am not.

However, I am never ashamed to give Kevin credit for the inspiration for how I launched The World’s Greatest Treasury of Health Secrets on TV.

If you don’t know the entire story, it’s quite interesting…and you can read about it in “How my insomnia led to $200 million in sales.”

And in “We’re in touch so you be in touch.”

I explain in those two posts how I got the “model” for how to sell a single book in a 28.5 minute infomercial (i.e. “long form direct mail on TV”)…but did it in a way that hugged the good stuff from Kevin’s TV spots and got rid of the bad stuff.

We emphasized credibility, proof elements (thanks Gary Bencivenga!), a generous and irresistible offer, and no misrepresentations of any of the material–but rather we represented it truthfully and with full transparency.

Criminal minds always have the best ideas…once you decriminalize them.

Warmly,

Brian

 A Criminal Mind By Brian Kurtz

 About Brian Kurtz

Brian Kurtz has overseen the mailing of approximately 1.3 billion pieces of third-class mail over the past 20 years…and over 2 billion pieces of promotions in all media over his career which spans almost 4 decades. He has marketed and sold newsletters and books via direct response television (infomercials) and using e-mail and the Internet in huge numbers. He has never met a medium he didn’t like and he has learned the ins and outs of every possible medium where direct marketing lives and thrives. He’s proud to have cut his teeth in the offline world of direct marketing and he is finding that the principles he’s followed over the past 40 years all apply online as well. He has written two books based on all of his experiences and study: Overdeliver: Build a business for a lifetime playing the long game in direct response marketing (www.OverdeliverBook.com) The Advertising Solution www.TheLegendsBook.com

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