Your direct mail campaign is made up of a number of elements. Of all of them, the one that is most important is the list you mail to. That alone accounts for 40% of the success of the campaign. If you try to sell grass-fed steaks to a group of vegetarians, you will not make any sales, no matter how good your sales piece is.
Now, what do you think are some other important elements?
It’s the copy, the design, and the timing of the mailing. So, what’s left?
The offer. The offer – which is what the prospect gets, and what the prospect has to give in order to get it – accounts for 20% of the success of a campaign. It could be something like “Buy at our introductory price, and receive 3 free gifts!” Or, “Buy 1, and receive a second one at 50% off.”
Whatever the details of the offer are, you need one that appeals to your prospects and encourages immediate action. It must be so good it’s irresistible, without being unbelievable.
So, let’s look at ways to create the best offer – the one that will boost sales.
Make Sure It’s There
This may sound too obvious, but your first task is to make sure you have an offer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received pieces of direct mail that just announce something without ever providing an offer.
Doctors do this a lot. They write to let people know they’ve opened an office, but they’re too proud to give people a reason to make an appointment. Unfortunately, just letting people know you’re available won’t get a response. You have to give people an incentive.
For example, telling people that you’re a great dentist and new patients get a free cleaning when they come in for a first appointment with x-rays – but only if they make the appointment within 30 days – is more likely to get the phone ringing.
Write the Offer First
Another mistake I see a lot of businesses make is that they write their whole sales piece, and then decide what the offer will be – almost like it’s an afterthought.
You don’t want something that determines 20% of the effectiveness of your campaign to be an afterthought. You want to make it your first thought. You should give it serious attention. The better the offer, the better the response. So make yours irresistible. Make it stand out; make it seem unique. It should appear to have high value and low risk.
Most mailers decide what the offer will be first, and then gear the sales piece around it. If the copywriter knows what the offer is, he can plan the whole piece for better results. The piece should build up to the offer, making the product sound essential to the prospect’s happiness, so that by the time the offer is presented, it sounds like a fantastic deal.
Earlier I said that it’s best to know what the offer is before writing the sales piece. However, once you have a piece that works, it’s time to test different offers to see which draws the best. In that case you would alter the piece as needed to accommodate the different offer.
Types of Offers
There’s no end to the types of offers you can present to prospects. For example, you can offer a free trial, a special reduced price plus bonuses, or a two for one sale.
The offer must be something people want, something that has perceived value, and the price should be special and enticing. In addition, if you’re making an offer to previous buyers of your product or service, it can be very effective to offer a reward for loyalty.
Sometimes the offer may not involve getting people to buy anything. It could just get people to call for free information. Or call for a free estimate. Just as long as the offer makes sense for what you’re trying to accomplish with the sales piece, and it gets you the results you want, it’s a good one.
Magic words in offers are always “Free,” “Sale,” “Discount,” etc.
You should avoid confusing offers or multiple offers where the prospect has to choose between a series of options. If prospects have to think too hard, they’ll put the sales piece aside and ultimately forget it, or they’ll just toss it outright. Make it easy on prospects to make a decision.
Related to that, make all aspects of the offer clear. For example, if the free trial ends in 30 days, after which buyers are put automatically on autobill, that must be spelled out. You can soften it by saying they can cancel at any time.
Different types of offers may work better for different uses: If you just want to get a lot of people responding in a hurry, a free offer may work best. If you want to get more qualified buyers, but you want to get them quickly, then offer them low price. If your goal is to get even more highly qualified buyers, with an ultimate aim of getting high lifetime value, then a higher priced offer might be best. You would get fewer buyers, but they would be more likely to give you the great lifetime value you’re looking for.
Things That Support the Offer
In a sense, the whole sales piece supports the offer, but there are specific parts that make it easier for people to understand the offer, and then respond to it.
First, you can use cues to get the prospect’s attention. For example, you might use a picture of a coupon. Prospects may never cut it out and mail it in, but just seeing it plants the idea of buying, and that they’re getting a special deal.
Another really important way to support the offer is to provide a guarantee. Highlight the guarantee in the sales copy. Use expressions like: iron-clad, money-back, unconditional, no questions asked. People are afraid of losing money. Make them feel comfortable that they’re not really taking a risk.
Also, give people a reason to respond right away. Stress that this is a limited time offer with a strict deadline. Prospects must act now or lose out. These expressions are part of a critical part of the offer, which is the call to action. Tell people what they must do, when they must do it. Take an active role in guiding people’s behavior.
Finally, make it easy for people by giving them multiple, simple ways to pay. Clearly list them: Pay by credit card, PayPal, Check, and they can call, fax, or mail in their response (in some cases, you can drive them online).
Finally, it helps to just offer a phone line people can call if they have questions. Your good customer service rep should be able to convert them to buyers.
And of course . . .
Test everything. Don’t assume that a free trial will work better than a $1 trial. Find out whether a bonus gift works better than a sale price. Or if using both in combination yields the best results for you.
You can’t know without testing. So test your offer, and keep testing it. It’s the only way to make sure that your offer is pulling its weight.