to Craft Stronger, More Compelling Offers
If you want to improve your direct mail response
rate, the answer may be as simple as making a better
For an example, I worked on a mailing recently that
offered free samples and the package pulled a 7.5
A manufacturer and wholesaler of skin-care products,
my client offered free samples to a targeted list of
licensed estheticians (high-end skin-care
professionals). These two factors, the offer and the
list, were far and away the most important reasons
for the client's success. The third and least
important factor was the copy. Sure, the copy played
a role and it had an impact. But without the offer
of a free sample, it's unlikely this mailing would
have produced much more than a handful of responses.
Crafting An Effective Offer
First, do your homework. I understand your business
may not be suited to offering a free sample. But
that doesn't mean you can't craft a stronger offer
that increases your response.
To craft an effective offer, you should first
consider the economics of your business. What is the
best offer you can afford to make? For example, you
run a high-end printing business. You know that the
top 20 percent of your customer base spends an
average of $42,000 a year with you. And because of
the high-quality nature of your work and your
outstanding customer service, these top-tier clients
stay on the books with you for an average of 10
years. When looked at in this light, it's obvious
you can afford to make a much more generous offer
when targeting companies that meet the same profile.
Maybe you'll decide to offer these prospects a
substantial discount on their first order, a
high-end premium, four-color printing for the same
price as black and white, free shipping on all
orders during the first 12 months, or some other
Get Creative With Your Offer
Allow me to continue with the above example and show
you how a little creativity can help you craft an
even more compelling and unique offer.
Let's say you feel that the offer of a first-order
discount would cheapen the high-end, high quality
image you've worked hard to establish for your
printing company. So you and your staff do some
brainstorming and come up with another idea. After
careful consideration of the $420,000 future income
stream each name on your targeted list is capable of
producing, you decide to do a test mailing of a very
special offer. An offer that, figuratively and
literally, drives home your corporate image as a
classy, one-of-a-kind organization.
An offer they'll never forget.
Because you have a world-class printing facility
with state-of-the-art presses and other impressive
features, your most effective sales approach is to
get the prospect to visit your offices and take a
tour. So your offer, coming from your top executive,
is a guided tour of your facilities.
But here's the kicker: You arrange for a limousine
service to provide each prospect with transportation
from their office to your facilities and back.
In addition, you let the prospect know that at the
conclusion of the tour the two of you will dine
together in your executive offices with lunch
ordered in from a fine restaurant. When lunch is
over, your CEO walks the prospect to their limo and
warmly sends them on their way. Class, all the way.
Another benefit of this approach is that any
marketing professional worth his or her fee will
easily be able to take a winning campaign of this
nature and generate local and national publicity
Now maybe your business doesn't lend itself to the
type of offer I just described. That doesn't matter.
The two key points I want you to take away from this
example are as follows:
1. Be a progressive, forward-thinking,
"big-picture" marketer. When calculating the ROI
of any marketing effort, don't focus solely on the
short-term profitability of making a sale. Look also
at the much more substantial and profitable outcome
of making a customer.
2. Be willing to experiment, to try something
new. Make every effort to make your offer fun,
unique, compelling. Ask yourself, "If I were
receiving this offer instead of sending it out, what
would motivate me to take action?"
Two Proven Business-To-Business Offers
Sometimes, particularly when you're mailing to a
larger universe of prospects, circumstances may
restrict how creative or generous you can be with
your offer. In this case, a good choice is an offer
of relevant and helpful information.
That said, I will offer a caveat: Way too many
business-to-business offers amount to nothing more
than "Call us for further information." The problem
with this is that it lacks any motivating force and
the prospect feels no need to take action.
Consequently, the only people likely to respond are
those folks who are already interested in buying the
product or using the service. The end result is that
"Call us for further information" will produce high
quality leads, but not nearly enough of them to make
your salespeople happy and your marketing program
On the other hand, offering a free premium, such as
a memory stick, will generate a high number of
leads, but at an increase in fulfillment costs and a
substantial drop-off in the quality of the leads.
Using one of the two offers detailed below can help
you solve this quantity/quality dilemma:
1. Today's business owners and executives are
overloaded with reading material. The paradox is
that they are always on the lookout for advice,
tips, pointers and information that can help them do
a better job of doing their job or running their
business. So create a special report, white paper or
The topic of your offering should obviously be a
subject of genuine interest to your targeted
prospects. It should offer relevant, helpful,
meaningful information, in a seemingly unbiased and
neutral way. A good editorial approach to take with
your booklet is to explain how to successfully
accomplish a certain end result, or how to select a
product that will help your prospects achieve that
result. Naturally, you want to slant your material
in such a way that the reader will favor your
approach or your product.
Once you've selected the topic and content approach
for your booklet, your next step is to give it a
title that will attract attention and generate
response. Think of your title as a headline for your
offer. Here are a few examples:
50 Cost-Saving Printing Trade Secrets
15 Ways To Improve Your Collection Efforts
The 6 Most Common Mistakes People Make When Leasing
Commercial Property. And How To Avoid Them.
2. A case study can make a great offer and a
powerfully effective marketing tool.
Essentially, a case study is a success story that
details how your company was able to help a specific
client achieve exceptional results. You can also
look at it as a lengthy and detailed testimonial,
written in the form of a magazine article.
A good format for a case study is as follows:
Problem: This is how things were before our
customer started using our product or service.
Solution: This is how we solved the problem.
Payoff: This is the documented payoff our
products/services have enabled the customer to
You want your case study to show the "how’s and
why’s" of a customer's situation and decision. For
example, how many products did they evaluate and
which other companies were among the "finalists"?
Why did the customer choose your product over the
others? Your case study should emphasize the
successful results your customer achieved with your
product or service. Plus, you'll want to be sure and
include numerous direct quotes from the principal
parties involved in the buying decision. Also, as
with the informational booklet, you'll need to give
your case study a good title.
Well-written case studies will build strong
credibility for your product or service and help
overcome the prospect's natural skepticism.
Plus, a case study has public relations value. Many
trade publications make extensive use of them,
either as full-length feature articles or as
Profitable direct mail marketing hinges on making
the right offer, to the right people, in the right
way. If your direct mail efforts are not as
successful as you think they should be, improving
your results may be as simple as improving your
Reprinted from Direct Magazine Dec. 5, 2007 issue (www.direcmag.com).
Ernest Nicastro can be reached at ENicastro@positiveresponse.com.
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