Message & Media: Make Your Best Offer
Offers are the secret weapon of direct marketers for generating response. An offer is not just a discount, free shipping or free gift. It's a package of elements that work together to encourage action, differentiate you from the competition, build your brand, answer buying objections and encourage fence-sitters to jump off the fence.
While offers first claimed fame in direct mail, today they're used in all types of direct marketing media—digital included. Savvy email marketers and landing page gurus know the value of strategically sound offers. They are the reason we hit submit and clickthrough to learn more.
So, what's an offer? It's everything you are willing to give in exchange for a response—whether that's a click, call or visit to your store. Remember: It's more than your product, price or a free gift. It's the proposition you make to your customer, donor or client that motivates him or her to take action. It's the answer to, "What's in it for me?"
Here's a list of offer elements to use in various combinations to create your own offer packages. Pick and choose the elements that address your marketing challenges.
• Product: While your product or service is what you are ultimately selling, it takes more than a list of product features and benefits to stand apart from your competition. That's where your offer comes in, so keep reading.
• Pricing: How you position your pricing is part of your offer and can differentiate you from the competition. Examples include discounts and quantity, wholesale, direct from the manufacturer, premium and value-added pricing, to name a few.
• Payment and Terms: If you offer the wrong payment options and/or terms—or don't communicate what you do offer in the way of payment and terms—it can make a huge difference in response. Which of these have strongest appeal to your audience and their cash flow requirements? PayPal, cash, credit, debit, check, money order or electronic transfer of funds? Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually?
• Trial: Trial offers overcome the objection, "I don't believe it—this sounds too good to be true!" How can you use a free trial, free sample, free swatch, free demo or free preview to bump response?
• Guarantee: A strong guarantee is a must when prospecting. First-time tryers look for it as reassurance. A strong guarantee also differentiates you from your competition. Keep it simple and straightforward. Here's a great example from Lands' End: "Guaranteed. Period."
• Premium/Free Gift: A free gift or premium creates involvement and adds perceived value to your offer. Just make sure it's related to your end sale. Here's what I mean: Offering five free golf balls doesn't necessarily generate qualified leads for financial service buyers, but it does identify golfers. If you're trying to generate leads for insurance or financial planning, golf balls are not the right premium to offer. More Tips: Mention the dollar value of a free gift ($9.95 retail) to maximize its impact. Add intrigue by offering a mystery or surprise free gift.
• Deadline: Deadlines create urgency. They motivate procrastinators and fence-sitters. Call attention to a deadline by giving it a name and providing an incentive, e.g., "Early Bird Deadline—Save additional 20%." Try a "Fast 50" offer that gives the first 50 to respond a special incentive.
• Free Information: While this is probably the No. 1 B-to-B lead generation offer, offering free information can be dangerous. And boring. Here's why: Does anyone really need more information? Information lacks value; it's too general. What your customers really want are tips, solutions and ideas to help solve their problems or make informed buying decisions. Consider repackaging your free information offer with a new name that promises a benefit. For more ideas, read my column entitled The Kit Factor.
• Yes/No: Marketers who use a Yes/No option often find that when they give prospects the chance to respond, "No, I'm not interested at this time, but please send me updates," they increase both overall response and "Yes" responses. And once a rental name responds yes or no by mail, email or phone, you own the name and don't have to rent it again.
• Response Options: Even the options you give for responding are part of your offer. They provide convenience. These options now include mail, email, QR Codes with landing pages, texting, phone, fax (yes, some people still do use fax), walk-in, blow-in bingo cards and more. The key is not to confuse your customer by providing too many choices.
• Bundling: Long before telecommunication marketers inundated us with bundled services, catalog and e-commerce marketers used bundling to increase average order size and profitably sell lower-priced, lower-margin items. Test offering a variety of bundles at different price points. You may be surprised by which is your best seller.
• Gift-Giving: If you offer gift-giving services and promote them only once or twice a year during peak gift-giving seasons, you're missing an opportunity. Add a tab to your website, a mention in your catalog, a tent card at your cash register or a reminder in outgoing invoices that you offer gift wrap, gift cards and other special gift-giving services.
• Continuity/Loyalty-Building Offers: Loyalty building/frequent buyer programs are now used by myriad marketers from dry cleaners, pizza parlors and coffee purveyors to airlines, skin care product websites and automotive service centers.
• Customer Service: Your offer (everything you're willing to give in exchange for response) includes how your phone is answered, the menus callers have to maneuver to place an order or get answers to questions, the demeanor of the customer reps they talk to and the ease with which they can use your website shopping cart. Don't overlook the value of the service you offer, it can be a deal maker or breaker!