Yet, as we have seen from our 40-40-20 rule, the offer is responsible for more of our success or failure (40% of either) than the whole creative area, which only accounts for 20%.
The main reason offers are so important is that the public has been thoroughly conditioned to offers by every other marketing avenue and through all advertising mediums. The public expects an offer. They have probably already heard about your product from mass media exposure, word of mouth, shelf exposure, or whatever. Up to now, they have failed to respond to whatever exposure they have had. With nothing different, why should they act now?
Direct mail and direct marketing efforts, via other media, have the assignment to sell. If you want to make a sale, you’d better make your leader or viewer take action now. The method that works best has proven to be an offer. Offers are many things: sale price, limited time offer, discount, 2 for 1, 1 free with 12, a free booklet, more information, prepaid shipping, coupon good against purchase, limited availability and so on. The types of offers are almost limitless.
Upon learning of the offer the reader is more apt to follow human instincts and take advantage of a good deal. However, this requires that the urge to action more than offsets an equally important human instinct to do nothing-procrastinate and not buy. One of the main reasons people procrastinate is because they are unsure of themselves. They are afraid of making decisions. Even worse, they are afraid of making the wrong decision.
By taking advantage of an offer, they may be saying to themselves: “I may be making a poor decision, but the fabulous offer more than justifies the risk.” In short, it could psychologically cover a list of sins.
The problem with offers is that they are expensive! This is not true. The real problem with offers is that they are perceived to be expensive. Too many marketers feel they can’t afford an offer. The truth is offers can cost you almost nothing.
Obvious offers that cost essentially nothing are the empty seat on a plane, vacant cabin on a cruise, giving away merchandise that you can’t sell, distributing literature that you’ve already printed too much of, discounting merchandise that is priced too high anyway, and leftover samples. I’m sure you can think of several in your own business. The trouble is, you’ve never perceived these useless items as potential candidates for an offer.
Notice the word “perceived.” That is the key to anyone who has ever been responsible for developing offers. An offer does not have to be perceived as valuable. An offer does have to be perceived as needed.
There are lots of things I need that really have no value-information heads that list. Information comes on top because it has a low cost-a few printed pages. That is why booklets are so popular. The problem is that most booklets have the wrong title, as they are usually already printed.
Let’s take a hypothetical case of the World Widget Company selling a piece of equipment to businesses. Which of these titles is most appealing?
- The World Widget Company (You’d be surprised how many booklets just have a name!)
- A Catalog Of Widgets
- The World’s Largest Widget Selection
- 10 Ways Widgets Can Improve Your Business
- How To Get More Widgets For Less Money
As you have probably surmised, titles #1 and #2 are rather lifeless. There is not much motivation to pick up a pen and send for something. The last three titles seem to have more impact, yet each is different. The catalog appeals to those who are already using widgets or have made a commitment to use them. It offers selection. The fourth headline might appeal to those who are just starting to think about widgets. And the last headline is for those already purchasing widgets-like everybody, they are looking for a deal.
The skillful development of the offer means you mail different headlines to different markets, or encompass two or more to a universal audience to make sure you reach as many situations as possible.
Offers work because they are carefully thought out and give the strongest impact to the broadest possible audience. They deserve at least twice as much attention as copy and graphics. If marketers gave half as much attention to offers as they give to copy and graphics, most would enjoy far greater response.