17 offers to reduce price and increase urgency

direct response offerspart 2 of a 4-part series

Last time, we established that there are three things you must do to create effective direct response advertising:

  1. Make an offer.
  2. Provide sufficient information to allow your prospect to accept your offer.
  3. Provide an easy means of responding to your offer.

We kicked off by listing a few classic offers and offers that reduce perceived risk.

We’ll continue by looking at offers that reduce the price and increase the urgency.

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Merry Christmas from the Legal Department

Santa Clause bustedIn my line of work, I have to deal with lawyers quite a bit. And I suppose they’re necessary.

But they’re really an uptight bunch. And sometimes they just go too far.

Take this message from the legal department of one of my clients, for example …


Whereas, on or about the penultimate night to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”) a general dearth of Daily Living Activities by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to, noxious vermin.

A variety of hosiery, e.g., stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed in a workmanlike manner by and about the chimney upon the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a.k.a. St. Nicholas a.k.a. Santa Claus (hereinafter “Claus”) would arrive at sometime thereafter.

The minor residents of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were experiencing involuntary nocturnal hallucinations, wherein visions of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear.

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14 offers to raise response and lower risk

direct response offerspart 1 of a 4-part series

There are three things you must do in order to create effective direct response advertising:

  1. Make an offer.
  2. Provide sufficient information to allow your prospect to accept your offer.
  3. Provide an easy means of responding to your offer.

One way or another, everything hinges on your offer.

Whole books could (and should) be written about offers and offer strategy, but I’ll forgo erudite lectures here and just give you a bare bones and practical list of offers that have proven to be winners over the years.

Just remember that most good offers are really combinations of two or more individual offers, so all of these are mix and match.

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B2B vs. consumer marketing: 14 selling tips

business to business selling tipsIn a previous post, we looked at 5 differences between business buyers and ordinary consumers.

And I suggested that perhaps these differences are not such big differences after all.

Now let’s move on with some practical tips for how to create better B2B selling messages. Then we’ll again discuss whether selling to the business market is as different as some people suggest.

1. Turn your features into bottom-line benefits. Show how your gizmo will turn a good business into a better business with money or time saved, greater profits, more competitiveness, higher efficiency, etc. And whenever possible, be specific. Instead of saying, “The Gizmo Widget can save you money,” say, “In the first year, the Gizmo Widget can cut printing costs for the average business by $23,687.” Dig for specifics in every benefit you offer.

2. Target benefits for different levels. The motivations of users, influencers, buyers, and decision-makers are all different. Let’s say you’re selling a seminar on how to increase the efficiency of the office. The president of the company may want to increase overall productivity. A department head may want ideas for dealing with difficult employees. A secretary may want to learn how to stand out and get promoted. Know who you’re talking to and speak to that person’s needs. If you can’t do it in one message, do it in several different ones.

3. List all the features. Include product specifications, prices, add-ons, options, future compatibility, and all the details. Often the final decision comes down to tiny differences between you and your competitor. And you can give yourself an edge by listing features your competitor simply doesn’t talk about.

4. Send a “keeper.” Depending on the buying cycle of your typical customer, it could be months or years before a promotion pays off. So if your brochure, fact kit, sample, or other information is easy to file away for future reference, it will continue to sell until your prospect is ready to act. An important caveat: Don’t use long buying cycles as an excuse to avoid making a strong, urgent offer with a clear call to action.

5. Make your mail look important and personal. This can help you get past secretaries and the mailroom. Often, plain outer envelopes are best. For fulfillment, put “Here is the information you requested” or something similar on the outside. Invitation formats also work. Product samples, a message to the secretary with benefits for her or him, and dimensional packages have proved successful for many businesses.

6. Mail to different job titles. You can use versioned copy, each version addressing the concerns of a different level within a company. You can encourage pass-alongs of one complete piece, such as a brochure or fact kit. Or you can address your piece to two or three people to guarantee that at least one person will read it.

7. Lead with your offer. You can get away with a certain degree of creative indulgence in consumer marketing, but with few exceptions, business selling should be the model of directness. Create a strong offer and build your message around it. Make it clear, simple, and to-the-point.

8. Use testimonials and success stories. They can have a profound effect on the risk-averse business buyer. Testimonials show that others trust and use your products and services, so they are therefore less risky. Success stories can accomplish the same thing, but with the added benefit of dramatizing and proving your promises.

9. Feature your guarantee. A solid guarantee reduces the perceived feelings of risk and makes it easier for you to capture that first sale. It helps you build long-term trust and almost always increases response.

10. Generate leads first to qualify prospects. Especially when you have a product or service that requires a significant investment of time and resources, or which is complex or expensive. A good lead program will help your sales team identify the best prospects faster and cut their per customer costs. If you don’t have a sales force, you can still use the same technique in the form of a two-step (or more) direct sell – the first ad or mail piece gets an inquiry and the follow-up asks for the order.

11. Use more letters. They are your sales people in the mail, your personal contact. Often you don’t even need brochures. One simple and nearly foolproof technique I often use for my clients is to create a 1 or 2-page letter, mailed in a business envelope with a reply card or fax-back sheet and maybe a toll-free number. With a simple package like this you can generate inquiries for free information, sales calls, demonstrations, seminars, anything. Letters are personal, cheap, fast, flexible, and easy to produce. And they work.

12. Try self-mailers. They encourage pass-alongs to decision makers. They’re easier and more self-contained than multi-piece mailers, although not as personal. Self-mailers are a way to dramatically cut costs if you’re used to mailing larger packages or more elaborate brochures. Sometimes, their economy can outperform everything else, including personal letters.

13. Nix the jargon. There is language in every field you should tune into, including buzzwords, business concepts, and hot industry topics. However, there’s a difference between speaking someone’s language and hiding behind it. Clear communication works best in every situation. Say what you have to say in simple, straightforward prose.

14. Make responding easy. Provide a toll-free number or business reply card. Explain your billing and shipping policies. Allow fax-back or Internet orders. Do anything that makes it easy for someone to say, “yes” to your offer. Inertia is one of your worst enemies, and you have to combat it actively.

Is B2B really all that different from consumer selling?

Now take a second look at those 14 hints. Anything sound familiar? Let’s see …

When you take a hard look at the details, all those dreaded differences just evaporate. From the standpoint of creating sales messages, B2B just isn’t that much different from consumer marketing.

It’s a mistake to think that you can take a purely consumer approach to the business market. But it’s a greater mistake to think that the business market is a world unto itself and that the people in it stop being human when they clock in at work.

Never forget that business is business. But it’s more important to remember that people are people. Even when they’re on-the-job.

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Ugly direct mail works and here’s why

ugly direct mailEveryone likes pretty things. In nearly every situation, people prefer pretty over ugly.

Pretty people tend to earn more. Pretty houses are worth more. Pretty almost always beats ugly, except when it comes to direct mail.

In the world of direct mail marketing, ugly has a big advantage.

To the right is an example of what most people would call an “ugly” direct mail piece. It’s a simple solicitation about refinancing my house. And I’ve received it three or more times now.

The envelope is a standard white Monarch with a canceled stamp and what appears to be a handwritten address.

The letter inside is a short handwritten note with a business card stapled to the top. The letter is personalized with my name.

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How to “spurf up” great customer testimonials

gather customer testimonialsCustomer testimonials boost the selling power of nearly any direct marketing effort.

However, only about 1 out of 10 clients I’ve worked with makes an effort to consistently collect testimonials and keep them on file.

Why? Probably because it’s a hassle. Also, most businesses don’t have a reliable system for collecting testimonials. They just cross their fingers and wait for the random “thank you” message to drift in.

Well, that’s just not good enough. So I’m going to give you a simple way to gather solid testimonials from your customers.

But first …

A word about good customer testimonials

Testimonials work best when they are believable, specific, and enthusiastic. How do you achieve this ideal? You use real testimonials from real people.

Now I know that some marketers believe that you should write your own testimonials. But that’s a slippery slope.

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B2B vs. consumer marketing: 5 key differences

b2b marketingWhen business-to-business marketers call my office, they always ask the same thing: “Do you have B2B experience?”

They ask it like they’re looking for a white-haired wizard with a pointy black hat and a big gnarly cane, some spell-weaving Merlin who understands the strange and ancient ways of the “business buyer.”

I reply in two parts. First, I assure them. “Yes, I’ve worked successfully with a tremendous number of business marketers.”

Second, I shock them. “But you know, there really isn’t that much difference between B2B and consumer marketing, at least from the standpoint of creating offers, writing copy, and designing ads and direct mail.”

“No difference?” they sputter, “But … but … but ….”

Having had my fun, I then smooth their ruffled feathers and explain what seems to be shameless heresy.

You see, I admit that there are certainly vital differences between B2B and consumer marketing, but in my experience, the differences too often overshadow the similarities. And this can lead to some truly bad selling messages.

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15 copywriting formulas that sell like gangbusters

copywriting formulasIt seems like people in direct marketing are crazy about formulas.

I suppose that’s because we are focused on what works, rather than what’s cool or pretty. And a good formula gets us to where we want to go a lot faster.

In the world of copywriting, there are plenty of arcane formulas. Some are useful. Some are absurd. But all of them are interesting.

I’ve collected copywriting formulas over the years and would like to share 15 of the very best.

The first you’ll recognize because it’s the most famous. But I’m guessing many of the others are new to you. I’ve even thrown in one of my own for good measure.

I’ll admit that I don’t put a lot of faith in rigid formulas, since they are often of little use in actually writing copy. But they are quite good at analyzing copy after it is written.

So here are 15 of my favorite copywriting formulas:

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Is it time for a BIG direct mail piece?

large format direct mailAh, the good old days.

Just a few years ago, I could count on receiving a mailbox-full of direct mail nearly every day, including the crown jewel of direct marketing, the BIG direct mail piece.

Thick #10′s, fat 6×9′s, and beefy 9×12′s once stood atop the mountain of attention-grabbing communication.

But then came hard days for the publishing industry, higher postal and printing costs, the rise of electronic media, and a faltering economy that dried up the stream of direct mail.

Today, the mail delivers anemic postcards, cheap fliers, and the occasional #10 envelope with a short letter inside. And it’s made many wonder if direct mail has gone the way of the dinosaur.

Industry pundits have been sounding the death knell for direct mail. Though, those pundits have generally been young and directly involved with social media, email, and other electronic media. They’ve had no love for, or experience with, traditional media and shed no tears for its assumed extinction.

But as I’ve been saying for some time, the reports of direct mail’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

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Dazzle your clients with Google search hacks

Dazzle Your Clients and Double Your IncomeThis is an excerpt from my just published free report, 12 Astonishingly Simple Ways to Dazzle Your Clients & Double Your Income.

I encourage you to download it now and share it with your friends.


Before I write a single word for any direct marketing project, I ask a lot of questions. A LOT of questions.

In fact, I use a checklist to gather basic information. And I recommend you do the same.

However, even if you’ve asked lots of questions, there is no substitute for digging deeper and learning about your client’s company, products, customers, and competitors.

Clients can’t be fully objective, so you can often discover facts and ideas that your client can’t see or doesn’t think are important.

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