One of the keys to successful marketing is learning to craft strong and compelling offers. In terms of importance, it’s second only to the list you choose to send to. So let’s talk about offers.
What is an offer, anyway?
Your offer is the proposition you make to your potential customer in your direct marketing. It’s the deal you’re hoping to make with him or her. Simply put, your offer is the way you say to your customer, “Hey customer, if you do this, we’ll give you that.” “This” might be sending in $39.95, filling out a form, or providing your email. “That” might be two velvet-covered widgets for the price of one, a no-obligation consultation, or a free information kit.
The offer has one primary purpose: To get a response. The offer exists to provoke your customer to action and ultimately to make the cash register go “cha-ching!” A strong offer can also help you generate new leads for future sales.
Advertisements that include an offer tend to work better—get a more immediate response, that is—than ads without offers. Magazines are a prime example of this concept. Even though people are very familiar with magazines, they rarely seek out a subscription without being asked first. That’s why most magazine companies will enclose multiple easy-return postcards that offer a free “trial issue” without expecting payment right away.
Types of Offers
The type of offer you make will depend on a few different things—what you’re selling, how your specific business or service works, and what your overall marketing goals are. Once you present the customer with an offer, you’ll want them to take some sort of action. That can include one or more of the following:
- They’ll buy something right away, either by immediate purchase, by placing an order, or by signing up for your service.
- Perhaps they can’t buy right now, but they’re definitely interested in a potential purchase sometime in the near future. They’ll express their interest by giving you permission to stay in touch.
- You’ll have more people coming into your place of business to either purchase or check out what you have to offer. This increased traffic builds upon itself over time.
There are two basic types of offers—the soft offer and the hard offer.
Soft offers work best when you want to generate new leads. They work well with larger purchases or transactions that require a lot of trust. A soft offer requires low commitment on the part of the potential customer.
The biggest downside to a soft offer: while they have a high response rate, they also have a lower return rate. Many people who respond to soft offers are just tire-kickers.
Soft offers are effective, though, because they help you fill your pipeline with interested prospects. Soft offers will help you develop a database for future direct marketing campaigns and will help you find more leads. Soft offers are also good if you’re new to the business and you simply want to create a “buzz” about your product or service in the general market.
One popular, often used example of a soft offer is the free gift. To get the free gift, the prospect must sign up for a mailing list, newsletter, or somehow provide a point of contact (email, mailing address, etc.) that you can use to send them this free gift. By requesting the free gift, they have just given you permission to contact them again in some form or fashion. And a smart marketer will contact them again—and soon. You’ll want your company name, product, or service fresh to stay on their minds until (and after) they purchase something from you.
Tip sheets, reports, booklets, e-books, information kits, and other informational products work well to fulfill a soft offer. The customer feels like they’re being given something of value, and at the same time, they’re also entering into a relationship with you.
In my company, we use the soft offer technique with our line of solar generators. We offer anyone interested an in-depth information kit that includes just about everything you would want to know before buying a generator. This way we gain trust with our potential client base before they decide to make a sizeable purchase. It’s a win-win for the customer and us both.
Hard offers are more direct, and ask for a bigger commitment from the potential customer. A hard offer may ask the prospect to spend money immediately, to agree to a meeting with a sales representative, or to attend a sales presentation. Hard offers are successfully used with mail-order products and items with a lower price point.
Because they’re more intense in nature, hard offers produce less response than soft offers, but those who do respond are more likely to buy right away. A hard offer can be the perfect marketing strategy for your business if you only want to spend your time and resources focusing on the most serious of prospects.
In short, remember: A soft offer leads to greater quantity of leads, while a hard offer usually leads to greater quality of sales.
Getting the most out of your offer
First, you need to make sure your offer is clear and compelling. Confusing and wordy offers will only turn your customers off or cause them to become distracted. A sloppy or poorly written offer can tarnish your company name, doing you harm in the long term. Before writing any offer, take the time to determine your target audience and what their potential needs are.
For many products, the best offer is a combination of the hard and soft offer. For example you might offer them a free half-hour phone consultation or the option of receiving a free report from your company. Chances are, most people responding will request the report. Only a small percentage will take you up on the offer of a free consultation. But, those who do will be more serious about making a purchase.
No matter what, you must test your offer. Don’t just choose one offer to test. Instead, send out a series of various offers to different subsets on your mailing list. See what attracts the greatest response. Once you determine the “winner,” you should test it with your entire mailing list. If the offer is a powerful one, you’ll see dramatic profit increases. And if it’s not powerful enough … just try another.