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B-to-B Insights : Make an Offer

The six key components of effective B-to-B offers

August 2008 By Robert W. Bly
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How important is the offer in B-to-B marketing?

Answer: Very. I have seen numerous tests in which a simple change of offer has increased the response rate by 25 percent to 900 percent-dramatically improving return on marketing dollars. The best of these B-to-B offers share six common characteristics, and to lift your response rates, your offers should, too.

1. Be unique. The best offers are fresh. When copywriter Bill Jayme wrote the direct mail package that launched New York magazine, he proposed a sweepstakes. Sweepstakes had long been used to sell magazine subscriptions, but none had ever offered Jayme's prize: dinner at Gracie Mansion with New York City's mayor.

Most investment newsletters offer free special reports as premiums. The Sovereign Society, with its newsletter on offshore investing, offered something different: a free Swiss bank account.

Business magazines often offer either discounted subscription rates or standard premiums like special reports, tote bags or calculators. Advertising Age had a successful control where the premium was a ceramic coffee mug. Coffee mugs are nothing special. But this one was imprinted with a mock-up of an Advertising  Age cover. If the subscriber was Jan Smith, the headline on the mock issue of Advertising Age was personalized to read: "Jan Smith Wins 'Marketing Genius' Award."

2. Have a high degree of desirability.
An unusual offer only works if it's something people want.

A publisher was selling a loose-leaf service on how to manage Novell NetWare local area networks. Response rates doubled when a new direct mail promotion offered a disk with free software-a collection of utilities for Novell networks.

The 100 percent increase in orders confirmed that these software programs were tools network administrators wanted. The outer envelope teaser read: "Yours FREE!--5 Powerful Programs to Help You Manage Your Novell NetWare Network More Efficiently and Easily--See Inside for Details on This Special Time-Limited Offer."

3. Have a high perceived value, especially in relation to fulfillment cost. Free software has traditionally worked well as a premium; it has a high perceived value in relation to the cost of goods. You know that purchased in a store or online, software packages can easily sell for $49 to $300 or more. Yet a CD with code on it can be duplicated for about $1.

In a promotion tied in with its sponsorship of the Olympics, IBM offered a special IBM Olympic pin as a premium. In reality, the item probably only cost and was worth a buck or so. But the mailer copy hinted that the item could become a collectible, creating an impression of potentially high value.
 

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