Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.

This website is a compilation of Ray's 10 years on the Web.

Baker's Dozen INDEX

13 Thoughtful Questions
About your Marketing Offer
The Most Important Things to Know About Direct Marketing Offers

An offer is mandatory in Direct Response Marketing. Not optional - mandatory.

Why? Because your audience is not waiting for you to arrive. Whatever your product/service, those that can buy what you sell are already happy with someone else. Without what you bring to their table. At least they think they're happy. Your first job is get them to consider you.

An offer is that ... a consideration. Nothing more. It S T O P S your marketplace long enough for you to close in.

An offer can be just about anything. Worked and presented in scores of different ways. For many reasons. i.e., there are almost no rules about an offer ... except you must have one. Still, there are several important ideas as you consider, create and present your offer.

Here are my thoughts ... in fact, 13 Thoughtful Questions About your Marketing Offer;

1. What is the motivation to move a prospect to a customer?

Frequently the "extra", the incentive, the bonus, that "thing" over and above the product is what gets attention. It's the excitement part of the package.

Let's use an example most everyone has seen and heard; Sports Illustrated, the slick all sports magazine. The circulation is 2 million, plus or minus. It is thick with stories and pictures every week. It covers all the major USA sports at the college and professional levels, with special features on special events tossed in. The sports nut finds it "must" reading.

Well, although this all sounds grand - they still have to fight for subscriptions. SI has found by dangling an especially appealing Offer out front their sales go up. Most often it's a premium of some sort ... they've offered everything from footballs to designer telephones.

And, they always find a way to work in their annual special edition swim suit issue. Which, of course, has nothing to do with sports - it a photo issue of beautiful young ladies in skimpy costumes posed on a gorgeous beach. A "regular" issue, and different. Yet, since the SI audience is male, the swim suit issue does provide motivation.

Find an Offer to motivate your audience in your direction and you'll enjoy more marketing success.

2. Should you relate your Offer to your campaign objectives?

This question has a strong and absolute answer; YES!

Before you establish your offer you already know your objectives. What this particular campaign has as goals. What will be measured. How will it get you from where you are to where you need to be.

So, "yes", your Offer must relate in some fashion to your focus, your direction, your objectives. Meaning, if you are a pharmaceutical manufacturer making an open appeal to your end marketplace, you don't offer playoff basketball tickets to an audience of young mothers. Who are much more interested in health and safety issues at their kids school. A useful, informative, educational booklet will be much better.

On the other side, you just might offer playoff basketball tickets to your medical doctor audience - those you wish to influence to recommend your drug to these same mothers.

3. What about relating your Offer to your product and service?

When your Offer relates to your product or service, you can expect a higher quality response. Because the two ... your product and the offer ... go together. They make sense one with the other.

Yes, sometimes you can get away with a far out Offer. In by gone days the savings & loan industry in the States offered books, shot guns and rifles, toaster ovens and television sets to consumers who dropped large chunks of cash into their bank. Incentives they called it. And, for the most part, it worked. Of course these guys are all out of business today.

The broader the appeal of your Offer the more action you will generate. i.e. ...

  • Offer money - the appeal is universal, which is why coupons work
  • Offer a calculator, a desk clock or similar business device - nearly universal ... almost everyone uses these tools
  • Offer cookbooks - almost universal, nearly everyone uses
  • Offer golf balls - limited, less than 40% of all people play golf
  • Offer a popular business book - limited for two reasons;
    • The audience may already own it, as it on the best seller list, and
    • It could be an insult - you may be implying your audience needs the message.

So, carefully pick your Offer. Your audience expects something that makes sense with your product.

4. Is there value in making the most attractive Offer you can make?

The quick - and correct - answer is "yes".

This does not mean you give away the store. It does mean you consider what it will take to get your prospect to lean your way. Something of real, or perceived, value most often works.

Here are a few ideas of value Offers;

... a premium related to your service, i.e. a calculator from your bank
... a free booklet - "7 Things You Need to Know About ___ "
... free 7 day trial of your product
... buy two - get one free, a limited time offer
... supplies for 90 days when you buy the copier
... a volume discount, the more you buy the more you save philosophy
... the 6th night free when you spend 5 nights in my hotel
... money back guarantee if it rains during the golf tournament
... a weekly newsletter when you buy season tickets
... free shipping when you order before "X" date

Well, you get the idea. Create the best possible offer and your response will go up.

5. Should you test your Offer?

Is grass green? Of course you should test your Offer! Most of the time.

When not? Test your Offer only if your product/service will be the same next time. If you have a revolving door continuing evolution industry, sometimes you just "do". As by the time you test and get results, you're moving on anyway.

It's also difficult to test for Valentine's Day. In fact, it's probably impossible. Ditto Mother's Day. Halloween. And many other one day events. You either do whatever you're doing, or you do not.

Yet, testing is still a sound way to learn what will earn you the best results. I recall a program with a sales organization who sold copiers. The Offer for a 1:1 appointment and a free product demo was a desk size clock/calendar. It worked to get the sales reps in countless offices for "show and tell".

One day the sales manager said he wanted a new premium. Not that the current had stopped working - the sales force was bored with it. They are the ones who really wanted a new premium. We tested a couple of options - and went back to the clock/calendar. Why? Because it still worked best to get high quality leads.

So, "yes", test. Most of the time it will prove beneficial.

6. What is "The Offer Chart"?

This is The Offer Chart


Unique, Different,
Unusual Product

Regular or "Commodity" Product







Now, let's explain.

Your company or organization is either well known and a leader in their field, or it is not. Not being known has nothing to do with quality - only with awareness. And a bit of image and positioning. The more you have of these factors the easier it is to move a prospect to a customer and make the sale.

Your product is either one of a kind, unusual, different ... or you have a ton of competition. Each presenting what you do, or similar. Meaning the road may be rough, even for the known.

Now, how much do these two factors matter to your Offer;

... your company awareness level, and
... your product, new and different, or older and established?

Well, they make a BIG difference. If you're a Fortune 1000 company, you're most likely large and well known. When you launch a truly new product you have a "sweetheart" deal. Your offer may be weak, because of who you are. And your different product. You've earned a reputation, it gives you position in the marketplace.

If you're a little guy, and unknown to your marketplace, even with a truly unique product, your audience is going to ask: "Who are these guys?" So, your offer must consider the elements of . . .

  • Timing
  • Specials
  • Pricing
  • Packaging

Why? Because those you're appealing to don't know you.

When your product has intense competition, and "everybody" sells what you sell, these same 4 elements are important. Even for known companies. And if you are unknown and selling a very regular and fairly common product line, you're in deep water. Because, not only are you unknown, I can get a name brand of the same thing and be more comfortable.

Consider The Offer Chart when you plan your Offer. Know where you fit.

7. Is it best to make your Offer 'Emotional' or 'Rational'?

The answer is "yes".

Sometimes you make an emotional appeal. Sometimes rational. And sometimes both!

Here is a chart with examples of each

Emotional &
Rational Chart

the Rational Side

the Emotional Side


Digital Camera
Home Refinance

Destination Holiday
Gold Credit Card
Family Car
New Eye Glasses


First time Credit Card
Clothes pins
Laundry Soap

Candy Bar

The study was done by Foote Cone Belding - and has been updated over the years. A similar chart is available for the business marketplace, too.

Here's what it says; Every product is either "high" or "low" on the involvement scale. And every product has more emotion or more rational factors to the decision. All products involve a little of both - yet, some are almost all emotion and a few are all rational. You see from the chart where this collection sits.

What is important is you recognize where your product and service fall. And then carefully consider your Offer. Should it be more rational, or more emotional?

The Family Car (High/Feel, close to Think line) was a surprise. Until I separated buying the car from paying for the car. Buying is emotional ... paying is rational.

Many of your decisions will be common sense. Some of it you'll learn by talking with your customers. No matter, you do need to know.

8. Is there a place for Specialties & Premiums as part of your Offer?

Another quick answer ... "yes"!

Why? Because they get attention. Never (well, almost never) will your offer get you the sale. The purpose of an Offer is to gain consideration. So you can take another step in the sales process. Advertising specialties and premiums do that ... they gain attention so your sales force can AFTO ... Ask For The Order.

Here are a few ways premiums and specialties are used in Marketing;

  • to build traffic at a trade show stand or retail store
  • to promote a special event, anniversary, grand opening and the like
  • to activate currently inactive customers
  • to move slow moving products
  • to introduce a new service, name change, new rep
  • to help you be remembered when it's time to buy
  • to say a simple "thank you for your business"

For these, and a score more reasons, specialties and premiums are important to consider when you plan your Offer.

9. Should you talk Offer benefits (vs. product benefits)?

The answer is sometimes you talk Offer benefits only. And sometimes you talk a little of both ... the Offer and the product.

The more clearly you state the benefit of the Offer, the higher the response and the better the response quality. Because the potential buyer "sees" what she will gain by accepting your Offer.

Example; when a face-to-face presentation is necessary, the Offer may be all you talk about. As the sales rep will do all else. So, you "sell" the Offer and let the sales person take care of the product.

Opposite, if you're selling via mail, over the telephone, through the web, maybe with an E-mail and/or fax marketing message tossed in, then you must talk product benefits. Because your prospect will not become your customer until they understand the product. In this instance product benefits are more important than Offer benefits.

10. Should you make your guarantee part of your Offer?

Your guarantee IS part of your Offer!

It is part of the package - because today the customer expects total satisfaction. Which your guarantee will "guarantee". Your guarantee is not optional. And it must become a part of your Offer.

From Lee Iacocca;

"If you want to be the best, you have to separate yourself
from all the talk about quality. And put it in writing."

This thought is more than about quality - it is about everything in your package. It is what the customer really buys.

i.e., a set of door and window locks for your home. What does the customer buy - hardware in boxes? I think not. The customer really buys security. Safety. Peace of mind. I can sleep at night. My family will be safe. The product is the means to the end.

Know this as you create a solid, strong, believable guarantee. And include it as part of your Offer.

11. Will your Offer vary with your audience and geography?

Yes. No. Sometimes.

Without a doubt your Offer will vary with your audience. As you are well aware, all audiences are not alike. So your Offer must swing with the needs and interests of a particular group.

Young, old, male, female, highly educated or not, family or single, city or country, big income vs. small, SOHO business or 500 employees +, manufacturer or service organization ... each variable will affect response. Yet, everyone who falls into this big category could still be a prospect for what you sell.

Your Offer may, or may not, vary with geography. No doubt there are different types of people in different parts of any large country. And most smaller nations, too. Still, frequently a good Offer is a good Offer - and does not need to change.

As I'm writing this it is the season for the National Basketball Association playoffs. I'm watching the games from a small town in a large state. The local high school basketball coach is taking advantage of the timing to run a commercial about his upcoming summer camp. With a special early sign-up offer. It fits the geography. And is very local.

12. What about creative & your Offer ...
Does the copy & art really matter?

How you present your Offer can be as important as what it is.

So, "yes", the creative does matter. Especially the copy. The words. The text, which carry your message.

As you develop your creative approach, consider these questions;

a). Will the buyer feel important?
b). Will the buyer be happy?
c). Will the buyer be comfortable?
d). Will the buyer feel prosperous?
e). Will the buyer's work be easier?
f). Will the buyer feel secure?
g). Will the buyer enjoy some distinction?
h). Will the buyer "see" a good value, or even a bargain?

The way you state your offer can be as important as the offer itself.

13. When do you "sell" the product/service ...
When do you "sell" the Offer?

For traffic-building programs (people traffic to retail locations, a trade show, a grand opening ... things like that) you sell the Offer. Sometimes ALL you sell is the Offer ... and wait on the product until the prospect and the sales rep are face-to-face.

For lead generation programs, business-to-business and B-to-C, both inside and outside sales forces, you also sell the Offer first. Not the product or the service. Because, again, you know you need a "meeting". Which may be in person or over the phone - either way you hang the Offer out front.

In mail-order you sell the product first - and then the Offer. Frequently the Offer is prominent, seen, to get attention - yet, the sales process begins with the product. Why is it different? Because frequently the buyer makes a decision solo, based exclusively on what they have read. The Offer in mail-order is a true "extra", tossed in to cement the sale.

Fund Raising is a mix. Closer to mail-order in how it gains a response, a donor. Yet, the incentive, premium, the attention getter needs to be up front. The Offer, the reason to "give", must be seen, understood and accepted before any action is going to happen.

That's it for this Baker's Dozen . . . 13 Thoughtful Questions About your Marketing Offer. Feel free to use these thoughts in the way they best fit your needs. And the best of Direct Marketing to you.

Baker's Dozen INDEX

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