How to Create Irresistible Offers
By Bob Bly
Experienced direct marketers know this. Business people who are not direct
marketers find it hard to believe.
But it's true.
Your offer - what people get when they respond to your promotion, and what
they have to do to get it - can make an enormous difference in response,
even if all other factors - product, copy, graphics, list - stay the same.
In fact, I have seen a simple change in offer increase response to a mailing
10% ... 25% ... 100% ... and a few times as much as 900%! (Though that's
Years ago I had a client who sold utility software for IBM mainframe
He would send out a letter with a technical description of the software and
its function, and offer to send the software on magnetic tape for a "free
30-day trial," which was (and still is) an industry-standard offer.
One day he changed one word in his offer, and response to all his mailings
Can you guess what word he changed? He changed "trial" to "use," so instead
of a free 30-day trial, he said, "use this software free for 30 days."
He was amazed that such a trivial difference could boost his response. He
asked his customers why the difference would matter.
The IT (Information Technology) professionals who were his buyers explained
to him that the word "trial" had a negative connotation. It meant coming in
late at night, taking systems offline, interrupting service, extra work, and
possibly losing files. So "trial" was, for some, a turn-off.
But everyone who buys a product wants to use it, so "free use" was immensely
appealing to this audience. That's why it increased response.
Armed with this knowledge, my client made "use it free for 30 days" his
standard offer in all promotions.
But then he changed yet another word, and again saw response lift, this time
Do you know what word he changed this time? He changed "30" to "60,"
doubling the length of the free use period.
Again he asked IT professionals why this made a difference to them.
"The typical 30-day trial is not enough time," they told him. What happened
was this: it would take a week for the software to get from the mailroom to
their desk. It would sit in the pile in their in-box for another week.
Then they would open the package, be intimidated by the manual, and put it
aside for another week. By the time they were finally ready to trial the
software, only a week was left in the 30-day trial period.
Fearing they would miss the deadline and be billed for software they didn't
want, they would return it immediately rather than risk being late, and
therefore never try it or buy it.
By changing the trial period from 30 to 60 days, a margin of an extra month
was built in. The prospects had plenty of time to trial the software, decide
whether they liked it, and if so, buy it. Response rates and sales increased
What can we conclude from this story?
1. Offers make a difference. The offer is important - not a trivial
2. You never know which offer will pull best - or why.
3. Therefore, you should test different offers to find the one that will
maximize your response.
By the way, although changes in offer increased response in this instance by
about 25% total, I have seen cases where response has increased up to
In one such example, a car rental company tested two different offers. The
first offer was a free upgrade, e.g., you would get a midsize car for the
price of a compact.
The second offer was a discount on rental costs if you prepurchased your car
rental in advance.
I told the auto company that the prepurchase offer would bomb (who rents
cars in advance?) and the upgrade (a tested and proven offer) would win.
But I was wrong: the prepurchase offer generated 10 times the revenue of the
upgrade offer - an increase of 900%!
About the Author:
BOB BLY is an independent copywriter and consultant with more than 25 years
of experience in business-to-business, high-tech, industrial, and direct
marketing. He has written copy for over 100 clients including Network
Solutions, ITT Fluid Technology, Medical Economics, Intuit, Business & Legal
Reports, and Brooklyn Union Gas...and has won numerous industry awards. Bob
is the author of more than 70 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to
Direct Marketing (Alpha Books) and The Copywriter’s Handbook (Henry Holt &
Co.). Visit: www.BobBlyMarketingBooks.com