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Give a Little

Make your prospects an offer they can't refuse--a little something for nothing.

Often, it's not what you sell that determines success in advertising, but rather what you offer. There's a big difference. The offer encompasses not only your product or service, but also what you bundle with it at "no additional cost" just to get prospects to say yes. Think of the ubiquitous line in direct-response TV commercials-"But wait, that's not all you get . . ."-and you have it in a nutshell.

Such offer advertising has no more deft practitioner than David Oreck, purveyor of and chief spokesman for that 8-pound dirt-sucker known as the Oreck Vacuum Cleaner. And the ad shown here is the embodiment of Oreck's offer packaging. The headline reads "You can buy this iron for $130. Or you can have it free." This is followed by an explanatory subhead beseeching you to "Try my amazing 8-lb. vacuum free of charge for 30 days, and my $130 Cordless Iron is your gift."

You get the picture. Just for agreeing to let the Oreck into your home to slurp up dust bunnies for a month, you get the cool-looking iron. But wait, that's not all. Along with the Oreck XL vac, Oreck throws in a little hand vac "strong enough to pick up a 16-lb. bowling ball." Hey, where do I sign up?

Oreck understands what motivates the American consumer. Whether it's the result of nurture or nature, we will capitulate to whomever offers us the best deal. That's why the old pitch "buy one, get one free" still holds such marketing sway. I doubt Oreck will ever tender that particular offer, but his offer packaging is a lesson for all looking to beef up leads and sales.

So your takeaway from this example is simple: Always try to include a free offer in your promotions. It needn't be pricey; it just needs to have the perception of being pricey. For example, merely providing valuable information can get phones ringing and mice clicking. A provocatively titled free booklet containing "50 Little-Known Secrets for (fill in the blank)" can be a solid inducement for just the cost of the paper it's printed on. Or want to make an offer with zero out-of-pocket cost? Take a lesson from my golf teacher's pitch: He says, buy seven lessons and get an eighth one free.

You get the idea. We're all more likely to buy if you give us something, anything, for nothing.


Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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This article was originally published in the June 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Give a Little.

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