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Using offers to raise response (first published October 2001)

In business-to-consumer mailings, everyone uses offers. I’m sure you’re familiar with the kind of thing I’m talking about: get a free calendar, save £10, win a holiday.

But in business-to-business, some marketeers are a little wary. “Our customers are too sophisticated; they’ll see what we’re trying to do” is a common reason given for not running an offer.

Well, it’s true that businesspeople are clever and complex creatures, but they also love an offer. After all, businesspeople are consumers, too, and they respond to offers addressed to them at home, don’t they?

So if you’re not already using offers to lift response on your mailings, now would be an excellent time to start testing.

Six tips for successful offers

  1. Always limit your offer. Either by time, which is probably the most common way, or by quantity. You could say, “Reply by 31st October 2001 and you’ll save 10%.” Or “Remember, you must reply by 31st October 2001 to claim your free pen.” For quantity closes, you could try “The first 100 people to reply will each get a free clock.” Or “Reply today: if you’re one of the lucky 50, you’ll be spending a day driving a Formula 1 racing car.”
  2. Make the offer fit the action required. Offering a gift worth £100 for a buying decision valued at £50 looks odd. Your respondent is likely to think “What’s the catch?”
  3. If you’re offering a saving on the full price, try and express it as both a percentage saving and a cash amount: different things appeal to different people.
  4. Always repeat your offer. In a mailpack you’ve got the outer, the letter and the brochure and you may also have a reply envelope. These are all opportunities to reinforce the message that they could get FREE STUFF for replying. But couch the offer in varying language so you don’t simply repeat yourself.
  5. Consider putting your offer in your main headline. Lots of very successful subscription promotions lead on the offer, for example, a headline might say “Get £100 of copywriting vouchers when you subscribe to Sunfish Monthly”.
  6. Test your offers. Do people respond better to the offer of free stuff when they order at full price, or do they like the idea of a discount?

Whatever you decide to do, just bear in mind that businesspeople are just the same as consumers (which is what they are half the time, after all). Everyone likes getting a good deal and everyone wants something for nothing.

And they really work

One of the best offers I ever ran was a pocket calculator that we bought in for £3.00 as an incentive on a £550 reference book. We had librarians falling over themselves to place their orders and saw a big uplift in response. For a calculator!

These people must have owned at least two calculators each already. But it was free. (And let’s remember that ‘free’ is one of the best words any copywriter has at his or her fingertips.)

Categories: Maslen on Marketing.

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