Making an Offer They Can't Refuse

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Many catalogers deploy offers to entice their customers. However, most of these offers do not achieve the intended response. Offers fail for various reasons, but most often it's because either they weren't created with a sound plan or not everyone on the team understood the reasoning behind the offer.


What constitutes an offer? An offer is what you are willing to give in order to motivate someone to respond. Use these questions to help plan and execute offers that will motivate customers and prospects:


Is there a sound reason to create an offer? Or have you created an offer just for the sake of creating an offer? The latter is a big mistake. You may be giving something away when it's unnecessary. It makes sense for a cataloger to create a general offer to all recipients only when it's a part of the brand or merchandise concept.


For instance, Current Cards motivates customers with the concept of "the more you buy, the more you save." Offers also are associated with a single product like "buy two and save." Other than examples like this, an offer should be created only to solve a problem or to create an opportunity.


Typically, you can spot the problems and opportunities in your database, assuming you can identify and reach those segments. However, offers should be tested and re-tested before rolling out to a larger segment. Problems and opportunities to test include:


· Increasing the average order for those customers or prospects that are spending below break-even.


· Increasing response for prospect lists that have not achieved needed response.


· Reactivating older customers.


· Thanking and encouraging first-time buyers to return.


· Thanking and rewarding good customers.


Have you considered all the components? A typical offer includes both a message and a promotion. Sometimes a message alone will achieve the intended response. For example, when reactivating customers a simple "We Miss You" might work just as well as a promotion. Why not test a message verses a message/promotion against your control?


Deadlines and qualifiers (i.e., setting a spending level) are other components to consider when constructing an offer. Give customers a reason to respond right away with a short deadline, not allowing them to delay their decision. And make that deadline readily apparent so customers have a sense of urgency. Include a qualifier to maintain an acceptable average order value. But be careful not to set the qualifier too high, as in some cases it's been known to hurt response. Most of all, keep it simple.


Does your creative complement the offer? This is where most offers are wasted. Your creative team needs to understand the importance of your offers so that it can present them properly. Consider the following:


· Always place your offer on the front cover.


· Keep your message short and to the point, using as few words as possible.


· Use words and phrases that will enhance the brand and get noticed. The word "free" works for all audiences and should be "louder" than other words (i.e., bold, all caps, bigger type). More importantly, speak to your audience appropriately, making the offer as relevant as possible.


· • Keep it noticeable and memorable. A beautifully presented offer can be too pleasing to the eye and will not get noticed. A memorable offer is one that stands apart from everything else. Have you repeated your offer? Never assume that just because you presented your offer once that readers have seen it. Because many offers are intended for a specific audience, catalogers will create cover versions. This makes it tough to repeat offers throughout a catalog. At the very least, present it on the cover, the back cover and/or the inside front spread.


If you have a general offer that goes to all customers, repeat the offer in several places throughout your catalog. If it's applicable to a specific product, repeat it there as well.


Have you taken full advantage of specific product offers? Many products come with built-in offers like:


· A free add-on such as a recipe book.


· The more you buy, the more you save.


· A special price if bundled with another product.


· Special payment plans.


Never hide these product offers in the creative presentation. It's best if they are placed in an attention-getting violator or call-out and repeated in the copy or near the price. If you can, demonstrate the savings and make it as visual as possible. This technique increases the response to product offers.


Is your plan for testing offers manageable and, more importantly, trackable? It makes no sense to test an offer if you cannot collect the results. Catalogers often test so many offers to so many segments that the testing scheme becomes unmanageable in the print production stage. It's crucial that all team members understand not only why you are testing offers, but also all components of the offer, including the segment it's going to, the offer's timing and the message, promotion, deadline and qualifier. It's also important to ensure that the offer is operationally feasible and that you can afford to roll it out.


So, how do your offers measure up? If you can answer these questions, you can construct offers that will make your customers take notice. Whether it's a discount, promotion or just a simple message, find the offer that works and hammer it home to your customers. Keep it simple for them and measurable for you. With the right planning, preparation and execution, you'll have an offer they can't refuse.


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