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Famous Last Words : About Offers

March 2012 By Denny Hatch
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"Success in direct mail," wrote the legendary guru Ed Mayer many years ago, "is 40 percent lists, 40 percent offer and 20 percent everything else."

On the Internet, lists count the least. Names are so cheap, you can blitz the world practically for free.

For example, a 2010 study revealed that to sell $100 worth of Viagra, a spam provider needs to send 12.5 million messages. In direct mail, 12.5 million messages at 60¢ each would cost $7.5 million. In a medium where lists are basically free, who needs arithmetic and ROI?

A more reasonable ratio for Internet direct marketing success would be more like 70 percent offer, 10 percent lists and 20 percent everything else. So let's talk offers.

If you want a response to a marketing effort, you must make an offer. No offer, no response.

If the offer is not clear—or difficult choices must be made—the mailing, email or ad will be set aside for later consideration, and you have lost the order.

To further make my point, here are some takeaways from direct marketing greats:

  • "Nothing is more profitable than the right offer powerfully stated to the right person at the right time." —Gary Kauffman
  • "If you want to dramatically increase your response, dramatically improve your offer." —Axel Andersson
  • "It's the offer, stupid! If you do not get the results you need or response is flagging, check the offer first." —Bob Hacker
  • "The right offer should be so attractive that only a lunatic would say no." —Claude Hopkins
  • "The offer should be so clear and simple that an idiot can understand it." —Malcolm Decker
  • "A special discount to customers as compared to outsiders will increase response by more than the discount." —Dick Benson

Maxwell Sackheim on Offers
Give the prospect a chance to make a deal with you—not tomorrow or next week, but RIGHT AWAY.

Make it easier to say yes than say no.
It must be a bargain in one form or another.

Max Sackheim

When you make an offer in any medium—broadcast, print, direct mail or Internet—always, always, always have a reply mechanism—order form, 800 number or clickthrough. Quite simply: No reply mechanism, no reply.

Walter Weintz, circulation director for Reader's Digest in the 1950s, created the famous "penny mailing," in which two shiny new pennies showed through a second window in the carrier envelope.


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