Marketing Bootcamp

3 Ways to Make an Offer Your Prospects Can't Refuse

Your offer is the center of your sales piece, which should never simply be an advertisement for your company. Direct mail is capable of so much more than getting your company name out there.

A good sales piece should draw your prospects in, keep them interested and make them an offer they can’t refuse. Here's how to do that:

1. Benefits (not features). One of the greatest rules for writing ad copy that works is that you want to “sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

So how do you create a sales piece that really sells? Step one is to avoid focusing on the features of the product or service -- how shiny it is, how cool it looks, or what that red button does.

Related: Want to Write Better Sales Proposals? Follow These 5 Steps.

You love all those features and you put a lot of effort into building them in, but the fact is people don’t buy features, they buy benefits -- whiter teeth, a slimmer waist, more money. This goes for whether you’re mailing to consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B).

Let’s say you’ve developed a new piece of exercise equipment. You spent a fortune on research and development to get the gear system just right. You could go on for pages about all these exciting (to you) technical details, but put those in the sales piece and you’ll turn it into a snooze fest.

Instead, talk about how prospects will enjoy their workout so much, they’ll look forward to it each day, and they’ll lose twice as much weight in half the time and all their friends will ask them what their secret is.

Let’s be honest. Most people don’t care about how much work you put into designing the product. They want to know how your product or service will benefit them. So you have to paint a very clear picture of how much better their lives will be as a result of buying what you’re selling.

2. Minimize perceived risk. Purchasing from a direct-mail solicitation may cause a bit of uncertainty for some -- or at least that’s the way it may appear to potential buyers. The problem is perceived risk, and it can make a promising sale simply disappear. You can reduce or eliminate the perceived risk by taking it on your own shoulders.

One way, of course, is to offer a guarantee. Most buyers expect a guarantee period of 30, 60 or 90 days. But if you extend your guarantee even longer, you’ll find that it works even better. 

Another option is to use risk reversal, where you take on the risk and the customer feels risk-free in buying your product.

For example, if you sell a diet system or supplement, you could let people begin participating in the weight-loss program at no cost, and they only pay you after they've lost 10 pounds. If your sales material made that point clear, it would totally eliminate the risk from the customers' point of view.

Of course, with offers like this, you have to be careful to only deal with people who are serious.

Related: 4 Secrets for Navigating the New Sales World

3. Testimonials. If you’re like me, you’ve become addicted to reading people’s comments before buying anything on Amazon. We want validation that we’re making the right decision, and what could be more sincere than the spontaneous assessments of people who have already bought and used the product?

One of the reasons testimonials can be more effective than you simply talking up your own business is that they seem more authentic, and therefore trustworthy.

If prospects know nothing about you, they require a good deal of selling on your part to convince them that you deserve their business. Testimonials can be an important part of that sales process by making prospects feel more at home with you.

Use testimonials in all your written sales materials. If you have video testimonials, put them on your website, and extract quotes to use in your written materials.

Use a variety of testimonials from different customers and clients, and keep updating them. If you use the same testimonial for 20 years, it may look as though that’s your only testimonial. In general, the more testimonials you have, and the more you change them out, the more it looks like you’re a growing company that is continuing to get new satisfied customers.

Bonus! Perceived value. Have you ever wondered if it’s better to give a discount based on the dollar-amount off the usual price (for example, $50 off) or a percentage off (30 percent off)? Which gets a better response?

A 2008 study conducted by online retailer Evo analyzed the promotions with its existing customers using an A/B split-email campaign. The ads were the same except that one offered 15 percent off the total sale, while the other offered $50 off.

The results of the test were quite clear. The $50 off coupon generated 170 percent more revenue than the 15 percent off coupon, and its conversion rate was 72 percent higher. The authors of the study believed the $50 off coupon had a higher perceived value. They also concluded that the $50 off did better because it didn’t require buyers to do any math. Customers saw immediately what their discount was.

A great way of testing if a dollar or percentage discount is right for you is with A/B testing. An A/B split on a small segment of your list will help you determine which offer to use when you roll out to a larger mailing.

Related: 10 Secrets to Building Trust and Credibility With Your Customers