How to use the ingenious “yes/maybe” offer

yes maybe offerA few years ago, Inside Direct Mail ran an article on offers and interviewed me about one of the most clever offers ever devised: the yes/maybe offer.

If you can be a fan of an offer, then I’m a fan of yes/maybe. It’s an offer you often see with subscriptions, but I’ve used it for many different products and services.

What is the yes/maybe offer? Here’s how I describe it in my list of proven offers:

Yes/Maybe – This is another way of making a low-commitment or no-obligation offer. You’re happy to get the “maybe” response, which could be for a free trial, product information, introductory offer, etc. And if you get some “yes” responses, that’s gravy.

In other words, the yes/maybe offer lets you make an offer for those who are ready to say “yes” and for those who might want more information before making a decision. “Yes” might mean a purchase while “maybe” could be an information kit. Or both could lead to more information.

Here’s the text from that interview:

When does the yes/maybe offer work best?
The yes/maybe offer works well when you want to generate inquiries or sales leads. There are several variations. If your yes is a direct sales offer, your maybe can be an offer for information. Or if your yes is an inquiry offer that requires a certain degree of commitment, such as an estimate or consultation, your maybe can be a softer inquiry offer with less commitment.

One variation I’ve used quite a bit is a yes/maybe where both options are essentially the same, but worded differently. For example:

Yes. I want to beautify my home with the EZ Deck system. Please send my FREE EZ Deck Planner and Information Guide which will help me design a professional looking deck in about 30 minutes.

Maybe. I’m not sure if EZ Deck is for me. Please send additional FREE information, including a side-by-side comparison of the leading deck systems so I can decide which is best for my home.

Either choice results in the same information kit being mailed out, but the yes/maybe helps qualify the responses and pulls in more people who haven’t made a decision.

Caveat: People put off making decisions. So if you give them a maybe, you should expect lots of people to choose this option. Depending on the offer, you may significantly decrease your yes responses. So you should actually want the maybe responses and be prepared to follow up on them.

Why do you think that the yes/maybe offer works so well?
For any given offer, people run the spectrum from more to less ready to buy. So yes/maybe gives people who are ready to buy a chance to respond and it allows those who are not ready to buy a chance to identify themselves and take the next step.

It gives the marketing department a list of interested people who are ready for more information or it gives the sales department a list of people to contact.

How long would you recommend retaining a “maybe” who hasn’t converted to a “yes”?
That depends on the product, sales cycle, and experience of the company. Like anything else, you have to test and see what your results are. It’s foolish to throw away maybe responses without trying to convert them. However, it’s also foolish to continue sending information or calling if the maybe database isn’t producing sales.

Are there any dangers of using a yes/maybe offer?
The primary danger is being overwhelmed with tire kickers, brochure collectors, fence sitters, and other people who consume mass quantities of marketing materials without ever buying anything.

Another danger is not having a plan to follow up effectively. You must always have a plan for how you want to convert maybe to yes and have all the elements in place before you make the offer.

Do you have an example of a time that you have used a yes/maybe offer?
I’ve used yes/maybe many times with great success. Here’s one example of an inquiry offer for a specialized mailing list of apparel buyers. The yes/maybe on the reply card read like this:

YES! I want to know which apparel buyers are actively looking for my products. Please send a FREE estimate for my personalized Apparel Buyer List. If I order by July 1, I’ll get 1,000 FREE buyer contacts with a minimum order of 5,000. That’s a savings of $100! Plus, I’ll get a FREE copy of The Fashion Industry Guide to Direct Mail Success. I understand that I am only asking for an estimate. There is no cost or obligation.

Maybe. I would like to think about it before I get an estimate. But please send a FREE copy of The Fashion Industry Guide to Direct Mail Success as soon as it’s published.

Additional thoughts on the yes/maybe offer:
Any time you get an inquiry, follow up fast. People often request information on impulse. So if you make them wait weeks or months to receive your information, they may not even remember asking for the information.

The whole idea is to keep the momentum going and move people along step-by-step from “maybe” to “yes.” Ideally, you should get your information out within one or two weeks. The faster, the better.

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4 Responses to “How to use the ingenious “yes/maybe” offer”

  1. Justin from Direct Response on October 6th, 2010 11:15 am

    This is a great idea, haven’t seen this type of offer before!

    Appeals to both interested and ‘maybe later’ customers.

    Out of curiosity, have you ever split test this?

  2. Dean Rieck on October 6th, 2010 11:37 am

    You mean split test a yes/maybe against a simple yes offer? I’ve had test pieces with a yes/maybe boost response over a control that had just a simple yes option. Though, I don’t recall doing a clean test where the only factor was yes/maybe vs. yes. However, others have done this and have reported success.

  3. Justin from Direct Response on October 7th, 2010 8:46 pm

    I meant a test with the yes/maybe against the yes by itself & then see the effect on the response rate of the yes offer.

    I really like the yes/maybe idea and am going to test it in one of my upcoming campaigns.


  4. Jeremy Reeves on November 3rd, 2010 10:47 am

    Dean… you just gave me an idea which I think is literally going to give me a 30-50% boost (guessing from previous experience) in conversion on a clients salesletter.

    Didn’t have to do directly with what you said, but the idea popped up as I was reading the article.

    Great article, too :)

    Jeremy Reeves

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