Academy of Wayward Authors: Adopting the SPEAR Approach in Your Direct Email Marketing

Dean Jackson is considered a leader in the third wave of direct marketers. He is behind the nine-word email and other marketing standards. He also coined the concept of SPEAR:

Short Personal Expecting a Reply.

Dean was an early adopter of using lead magnets. Way before the Internet, he was doing it with direct mail. He continues using direct mail and digital methods to run some of the most successful advertising campaigns. Dean is also the guy behind the idea of having a system that addresses customers who take longer to buy.

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Tip of the SPEAR

His classic application of SPEAR inspired me to attend a three-day small group in Celebration, Florida.

Hey Joe,

A few of us are getting together next month for a three-day intensive work group on the eight profit activators. If you are interested in joining us, just hit reply and let me know.


That was it.

After I replied, he said he had me on the list and that his assistant would follow up with the event details and the hotel: no sales page or fancy automation.

A real live person emailed me to help me get my reservation and pay for the event.

At the event, we discussed this tactic.

Dean believes that this method gets better results.


You start with a simple ask. Am I interested?

“Yes, I am.”

“Good, I’ve got you down to be there.”

Incremental commitment. Nothing huge. No credit card needed to come out of my wallet.

Now his assistant emails and makes booking the room and paying for the session super easy.

I was told the event would be a laid-back environment with six to ten people talking through Dean’s eight profit activators. However, it ended up being an amazing event with eight people. I met peers with whom I continued to meet and developed a personal relationship with Dean.

Now, the question is, can you have this level of attention when selling a big-ticket item? The summit cost $5,000 plus travel.

But what about when selling a $3.99 ebook?

This is a good question.

Frankly, selling a single book cannot justify any customer acquisition in today’s marketing environment.

Most advertising courses use the idea of read-through to make their ROI and CPC palatable. This is because they focus on direct response. They spend X to get Y.

This perpetuates the idea that if you just get your copy right and have good creatives, you can turn your business into a money-making machine.

Instead, if you see that you need to invest in building the asset of an audience, you should focus less on the transaction and more on the relationship. All relationships are based on personal trust and interaction. Therefore, why not focus more on SPEAR?

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Whenever possible, send short, personal emails that leave the recipient with an open-ended question that makes them feel they need to reply.

My most common example is your first email to someone who downloaded a reader magnet. You should ask them what they need to finish reading before they start reading your book next.

Recipients will email you back and tell you what they are reading or what is going on in their lives that is getting in the way of reading.

Their answers provide data about comparable authors and a topic to speak with them about if you have also read the book.

Finally, their reply validates your email address with their email provider as someone they want to see emails from.

While this sounds like a lot of work and a distraction from writing, it should not be ignored. This is how you build a wide bridge network and a community that wants to buy your books.

Read: Why You Should Transition Your Audience From Rented to Owned Land