Your direct mail package and your sales copy are all carefully designed to bring your prospects to the critical moment where they will pull the trigger and place the order. You don’t want to lose them at this point. Your goal is to get them to ACT NOW!
But that’s just when many marketers make a mistake that actually LOWERS response to the offer. In their efforts to make it “easier” on prospects (according to their idea of what that means), they offer too many ordering options – and end up driving prospects away.
It’s ironic, because you think you’re doing the right thing. You want to make people happy. So you offer several different package deals with different price points, several payment programs, a variety of payment options – and you end up with twenty different choices.
You’ve missed a very important fact: When you’ve gotten someone interested in your product and ready to order, you want to make it easy on them. Give them too many options and they start thinking too hard. Maybe they’re in a hurry and don’t have the time to plow through all that information. Or it’s just too confusing. They end up putting the whole thing aside, and who knows if they’ll ever pick it up again.
This is not just commonsense. It’s backed up by psychological research. Social psychologists Sheena Iyengar, PhD, a management professor at Columbia University Business School, and Mark Lepper, PhD, a psychology professor at Stanford University, did the pioneer research in this field. Dr. Iyengar recently gave several TED talks on their findings.
In one study that we can all relate to, Dr. Iyengar set up jam-tasting stands at an upscale food shop. One stand offered six different flavors of jam to taste, and the other offered 24. It turned out that more people stopped at the stand with more offerings, but people were six times more likely to buy jam at the stand that only offered six types to choose from. Essentially, when the choice got too complicated, people chose not to choose at all. When the choice was easier to deal with, people were more willing to act on their preferences.
And what about all those choices on the toothpaste aisle! Fluoride. Whitening. 2X whitening. Breath freshener. Tartar control. Gel. Paste. Fresh mint. Peppermint. Spearmint. And every combination thereof. Do we really like that?
Research by social psychologist Alexander Chernev, PhD, of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management says we don’t. When offered too many variants of a particular brand of toothpaste, subjects tended to simply switch to another brand altogether that just offered one option.
These same principles hold true for you as a direct mail marketer. Maybe more so. Your customer hasn’t walked into your store looking for something to buy. You have come into your prospect’s home. You have gotten prospects to read your sales piece, but their decision to buy your product is still tentative until they actually place the order. If you demand more of their attention to make a complicated choice, when they really have no basis on which to make it, they could easily lose interest, or even get annoyed, and you’ve lost a sale you were just about to make.
One of the most successful mailings I ever sent was for a client who was a hard-nosed newsletter writer. He wasn’t flexible about anything. He only accepted two kinds of credit cards (Visa and Mastercard), he didn’t take checks, and he would ONLY sell to people who agreed to sign up for automatic renewal billing every quarter. He didn’t accept monthly billing, or even annual billing. It had to be quarterly. Once prospects decided to try his newsletter, their only choice was which of two credit cards to use. That was it. And people signed up like gangbusters. There were no barriers between their decision to buy, and actually buying. It was one simple step to completing the deal.
What You Can Do
I recommend you take the same approach with your direct mail campaigns for mail order products. Your aim is simply to get people to try your product – not sell them everything in your inventory. Pick your most popular, attractive product – the one that currently has the most sales, and feature that. As far as ordering options, identify the one that most of your customers use now, and narrow your choices down to the ones most likely to be used.
If you are selling some kind of service, or you are a medical professional, select one procedure for an introductory special. Make it the most common procedure that many people start with.
Of course, if you have a store and you want people to come in, they will have access to your entire inventory when they get there. Maybe your best bet there is simply to offer something like a 20% off coupon that they can use on anything they like.
The takeaway here is, once prospects have made the decision to buy, let there be no more complicated decisions for them to make. Always make it easy for prospects to place the order.